The culture war issues have never been unimportant, something unexpected is written in an editorial at the leading Swedish liberal daily Dagens Nyheter. Left-wing activists and liberals always snort at issues that deal with people’s everyday lives. Now comes a nuanced analysis, which, however, misses the fact that compromises in the cultural war’s substantive issues are constantly being offered by conservatives.
In his latest column, Andreas Johansson Heinö writes: “Anyone who believes that the culture war is unimportant has not understood anything”.
Debates about statues, pronouns, Christmas, national flags and drag queens at story times with children are not trivial symbols, but on the contrary incredibly central.
Heinö writes: “Well, of course it’s about symbols. But they are symbols of something that is important in its own right. A debate about story time in a library is really a debate about which values should be normative in public. A debate about prayer calls is really a debate about how visible minorities can be without the majority feeling threatened.”
Can the battle issues of the culture war be other than digital?
So, it is only for the left to accept that the cultural conflicts exist. Heinö believes that the harsh tone is partly due to that they are black/white, digital – yes or no. Compromises are easier in economic matters where you can let everyone win something. That is why there is no class war in politics today.
Heinö calls for moderating voices in culture war issues, but most mainstream parties in the middle have ducked the debates. Therefore, the Sweden Democrats and, as he writes, “populist delusions about irreconcilable contradictions between the cultural elite and popular culture” have come to define the culture war.
He adds: “Even on the left, radical movements have had a disproportionate influence on the agenda, not infrequently with authorities or publicly funded institutions as a platform.”
The conclusion is that the substantive issues in the culture war are not polarizing, but become so when the voices in the middle avoid balancing different perspectives, as is done in economic distribution issues.
Conservatives willing to compromise, but not the left
I don’t think Heinö is completely way off track. There are, of course, intermediate positions. And I want to claim that the Sweden Democrats or European conservatives are not radical at all, when it comes to the substantive issues.
For example, rejecting veils in schools and for those in public service is not, after all, banning veils. It is showing willingness to compromise that creates respect, both for those who are not Muslims and do not want to be reminded that you meet a Muslim when you have a case with the religiously neutral welfare state, and Muslims who want to wear the veil. The compromise is that women can wear the veil when they do not fulfill any publicly funded task.
But this compromise thinking is considered by the cultural elite, not least many liberals, as extremism bordering on fascism. And because the cultural elite dominates the media and authorities, the conservative compromise is presented as extremism. Although objectively speaking, it is the cultural left who are extremists and are not willing to compromise.
The same goes for children’s story times in public libraries with drag queens. No Sweden Democrat wants to ban the phenomenon, but they do not want it to take place in schools and publicly funded activities. The parents who want that kind of story time should go to associations and events that are voluntary and not paid for by tax money. Behold, another compromise from conservatives. But what do the cultural elite say? TERRIBLE that someone is against drag queens everywhere! Again, it is the cultural elite that is totalitarian and completely lacks respect for the lives and livelihoods of others.
Like so many in the establishment, Andreas Johansson Heinö also lives in a narrow opinion bubble – without realizing it. He considers himself to be tolerant and open but writes in a newspaper that is totalitarian in its condemnation of those with whom one disagrees.
Hence the culture war.
Stop trying to force things on people they don’t want
It is not conservatives who have “delusions” or are “irreconcilable”. It is the cultural left and liberals that wants to be dominant and demands that others obey their subjective opinions of what is right and proper. No one wants to ban drag queens, but story times being paid for by tax money is anything but tolerant. It is driving a certain lifestyle down the throats of others, who have no obligation to be interested in it.
The culture war is happening because the left wants to control how others should live and what they should think. It is anything but a democratic mindset.
Here, Heinö has a large and important task in educating the cultural left that cultural issues are matters of facts, where you can compromise. And that it is conservatives who have so far shown a willingness to do so, while the left resorts to totalitarian thinking and want to force their fixed ideas on others – as the left has so often done throughout history.