About the blog

This blog is about both scientific, societal/political, and yoga-related issues - individually and considered as different aspects of the same problem/solution. A longer description is found in the first blog entry, and all old posts are found in a structured way here. The blog is an extension of my main home pages and Twitter: @gunnarcedersund

Inspiring UN speech: the pen is mightier than the sword

politicsPosted by Jul 14, 2013 14:23
The United Nations was created shortly after the end of the 2nd world war, and in the beginning it was a relatively weak and non-influential entity. One of the key figures, perhaps *the* key figure, in making it into the kind of organisation that it is today is the former Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjöld. He is, I am proud to say, Swedish, and is one of the most important Swedish politicians to date. In the above speech, he had been at his post for some time, and was starting to show some results. For this reason, president Khrushchev from the Soviet Union was pushing him to resign, and shortly before this address he had just given an agitated speech to this end. However, mr Hammarskjöld responded that it was not the big and powerful who could dictate that, and as you see in the video, he got an enormous response from the rest of the congretation.


Even though many people would say that the UN is far too unimportant and uninfluential an organ - and would be right in saying so - it is still one of the most important organs we have, to balance international affairs, and to help us mature as a global community. The UN is therefore both the playing ground for the power hungry elite leaders and for the truly influential agents of change in our world. In other words, here you find the kind of people who are here as world catalysts, here you find the kind of people who can give speeches that changes the hearts of millions of people. Here you can find not only bureacracy and frustration - but inspiration and role models. In 1992, one such inspiring speech was given, by a little girl

This is one of my favourite speeches, and it was given at the UN earth summit in Rio. I have listened to this speech many times, and I am therefore happy to note that another speech by a new girl just has been delivered, just a few days ago.

This speech is a little bit longer, and in my view a little bit more uneven in quality (condensed version of video, transcript) but the peaks of the speech certainly reaches the hights of any other of my favourites. And their are some wonderful quotes. What about the following?

"They thought that the bullets would silence us, but they failed. And out of that [attempted] silence came thousands of voices. The terrorists thought they would change my aims and stop my ambitions. But nothing changed in my life except this: weakness, fear and hopelessness died. Strength, power and courage was born."

"Dear sisters and brothers, we realize the importance of light when we see darkness. We realize the importance of our voice when we are silenced. In the same way, when we were in Swat, the north of Pakistan, we realized the importance of pens and books when we saw the guns."

Also, don't miss that the you see Jan Eliasson glimpse by a few times. He is also Swedish, and is the vice Secretary General.

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An open letter to all people everywhere, as a response to internal conflicts in Burma

politicsPosted by Jul 04, 2013 23:45
There is currently a growing internal conflict in Burma, which has non-pleasant similarities to the leading-up phase to the genocide in Rwanda, which was stopped by the international community only after 800 000 people had been killed - by their own neighbours! Therefore, Avaaz is now doing a petition to raise awareness on this. As a part of this, more than 50 000 people in Burma has recently joined Avaaz, and a quick poll showed that many of them have been raised to have big prejudices regarding a minority in Burma (the Rohingyas) which they think should be expelled and that their citizenships should be revoked. Such thoughts are only possible if you only, or at least mostly, have talked to like-minded people, and Avaaz will therefore try to initiate a dialogue between these Burmese members and the rest of the members in the global network. I think that this is a wonderful initiative, on so many levels, and as a part of this, I have just sent this open letter: which I also publish here on the blog.

Picture from the Burma campaign at Avaaz.


Dear friend,

we have never met, but I guess that we have many things in common anyway. The reason why I believe that is that it is true for all human beings: we have much more in common than we have differences, and the most important things - our true value, our "core" as humans - are in my mind absolutely guaranteed to exist within all of us.

When this similarity between us is looked for, it reveals itself, and becomes more obvious and clear. And then you realize that all people - whether they be Swedish, German, Burmese, Rohingya, Chinese, etc - should be treated as a brother, and never, ever, as less than a human being.

It is also my understanding that a society works at its best when tolerance and love and brotherhood are the core-values from which decisions are taken. Then public institutions, politics, healthcare, etc work, because trust is the oil by which all such organisations are kept agile. Therefore, if you want to create a well-functioning society, it is my advise to look at all your neighbours from these brotherly eyes. When I look at how we have constructed a relatively well-functioning society in Sweden, I see that this has been the recipee. But you should of course create your own society, in your own wonderful and unique way. Today is an important turning-point, by which you will make that creation come true - for good or for bad!

Good luck!

Your friend,
Gunnar from Sweden

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Progress is found in the small things

politicsPosted by Jun 29, 2013 16:23

This clip is from the Hobbit, part 1, and in the clip Gandalf talks about how one keeps the "darkness at bay". He says that it is not a great power that is needed, but an attention to small things: the small acts of kindness, the small steps towards a more humane world. This blog post says more on this theme.


The most powerful tool we have at our disposal - in some sense one could say: the only tool we have at our disposal - is our awareness. To what do we give our awareness, and what is the perspective from which we view it?

When wanting to bring about change in a society it is therefore important to have a look at what we are giving our joint awareness to. That is to some extent reflected in our public debate, and in our news organisations. Just a quick look at this, shows that we could develop miles from where we are today - and that we should do that! Take for instance the headlines saying what is the main news of today, and why you should buy the news paper today. These headlines are usually speaking to our most primitive and un-evolved sides, to our fears, and to our prejudices. The most famous headline in Sweden is probably the following one

which is from 1970, and which says that a count has murdered a nigger with a hunting rifle. Apart from being factually inacurate, this was also for 1970 a very offensive way of saying this, which only is meant to tickle our most base instincts: those centered around fear, sensationalism, intrigue, and gossip.

This issue raises the natural follow-up question of what kind of news we instead could focus upon, that would be more sound, helpful, and which instead would help us to evolve, either as individuals or as a society. Here I want to point to a new magazine that started a few years ago: good news magazine. Therein they are only publishing good news. I am following their facebook profile, and I must say that they now have managed to find a steady stream of news that are not only good, but also of a bigger and more structural nature: e.g. when a big law has been passed that helps protect nature, or that goes against prejudices and prosecutions. With this said, I, however, also want to point out that some of the most important developments - as I see it - are small, and of a completely different character compared to the fear-inducing sensationalism ("ordinary headache might be a symptom of cancer"; or "somewhere somebody was raped - be afraid, it could happen to you!"). I find examples of such news every time I go to Konsum Lägerhyddan, the local environmental-friendly supermarket that lies just outside my window. For instance today, I saw the following new bread, which is both ecological and super-tasty
and their new section which is devoted to vegan and often also raw-food groceries is constantly growing
and today in that section I at last saw a thing that I have been looking for for years: a custard sauce that is done without any preservatives or artificial substances.

These are examples of things that to me are so much more important indicators of what is happening in our society right now. However, if such things should make the headlines, we collectively need to decide that we are looking for a completely new kind of news: small, but undeniable and important, steps of progress.

There is much more to say on this topic, and I will for sure come back to it. One thing I would like to dig out in a future post is some facts that say that if you want to talk about things like war, and rapes, and violence, etc - you should do so in a more zoomed-out fashion, where you are looking at the true overall trends; and that these very often show that the amount of violance and wars are going down steadily, world-wide, and have been doing so for a very long time. That would instead then show that we have less to fear, not more.

However, I for now instead want to end by a little yoga-generalization to our everyday lives, and to the processes in our minds that guide them. In my view and experience, it is so much more important to pay attention to the incremental changes, than to the dramatic events. If you want to get from A to B, where B is a seemingly far-off place, the only way to get there is by taking all the small small steps that lie in between. If you go in the right direction more often than wrong, there is no chance that you can fail to get to B. And if you find yourself at B, the only way you could have gotten there is by taking all of those steps. Therefore, the only question one really needs to contemplate is the following: "this current thought that I just started thinking, does it feel slightly worse or slightly better than the one I was thinking a few seconds ago?". Then you will get wherever it is that you want to come, without worrying about it one second. Or, in the words of Neale Donald Walsh:

"It is to the small incremental changes that you should pay attention. Then the big 'miracles' will take care of themselves. "

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Are we starting to make coffee places into what they used to be: agents of change?

politicsPosted by Apr 17, 2013 00:35

Vincent Van Gogh's painting "Cafe Terrace at Night" is my favourite painting of a coffee place. The warm colors of the 'Cafe' looks so incredibly inviting - and depicting just the kind of cosy feeling that the Swedish word 'fika' means to me ('fika' is a non-translatable word that is associated to the act of having tea or coffee; this is similarly non-translatable as the South american concept of 'mate': you have to be from there to fully "get" it).


Today I have had many chance encounters, meaningful encounters - and many of them happened around lunch. It started with me going to Babettes kafferi, for an early lunch. The reason for my early lunch was that I was thereafter going to a TED-lunch at Valla, and that I wanted to still have the chance to enjoy some nice time and test Babettes' nice new "soup of the week".

And...while sitting there at Babettes, I think I met 4-5 different people I know from different non-connected places. All really nice people, and all completely unexpected. The most unexpected of these encounters was probably connected to meeting my economist from work. First of all, I didn't expect to meet him at Babettes at all, at least not at that hour (Babettes is not that close to where we work). However, what really made me surprised was the reason why he was there: to join a weekly cultural lunch that he is a part of. It turned out that he is a wannabe writer, and that he meets every week with other cultural people - many writers, but also artists, musicians, etc - to support, talk to, and inspire each other in their work. That was such a supergreat idea, that I decided to join this little club then and there!

That whole segement of the day also made me realize a big potential of coffee places like Babettes, which undoubtedly attracts the type of people that I like: that such places can become physical vortexes that attracts not only people, but also new types of ideas and meeting-forms that nobody has thought of before. Just the simple act of bringing people of a creative and open-minded vibration together in the same place is like creating a network that is more and more interconnected, and where these new interconnections means that more and more new constellations and sub-networks must form. It is a sort of illustration of one of the "slogans" from research into complex systems "add edges and energy into a network, and the network is bound to organize itself, to self-organize!" :)

Finally, all of the above things have also made me think of my father. First of all, he loved to go to coffee places, and even though he died before Babettes opened, I know that he would have loved it. Second, he was also a wannabe writer, and actually did finish one book: about the history of our local chess club (see picture below). And, these two things are actually coming together, because the early beginnings of the local chess club in Linköping (which occurred around 100 years ago) occurred at a local coffee place. This was actually the case for many other associations and political parties at the time: their home and localities were quite often situated at coffee places. Perhaps this could return now again, but in an updated form? This brings me on to the final point, that also concerns my father. He, together with my mother, started to write a book about coffee places in Linköping. This book I am now, together with my whole family, in the process of completing. And I have just realized that a new chapter of this book should be about precisely this topic: how coffee places have and can be used to change the society for the better.

This is the front of a book about the history of the local chess club here in Linköping, called Linköpings allmänna schacksällskap (LASS). The book was written by my father, and writing it made him realize that writing books would be a wonderful way to make a living.

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Connecting Europe through screens, learning from Iceland's handling of banks

politicsPosted by Apr 02, 2013 19:07
Three inspiring short samples from the News flow of today:

I) Connect cities and people in Europe through large screens

This is a new project and vision, created by three Belgian guys about having large-scale screens situated in all major cities in Europe, which are being connected 2-by-2 so that people in different parts of Europe can talk to each other, have meetings, concerts, discussions, etc etc across Europe. It's a short video, so please have a look, and - if you like it - click on like and thus support the project. I love the idea of connecting people through technology in new ways, and therefore say: Let's first implement and test this in Europe, then expand it to the world! Could you imagine to be connected to citiies and people that you have prejudies about, US and Iran, cities in Africa, to see for yourself the situation in Greece with your own eye, etc etc. The potential and possibilites are endless.

II) Learning from Icelands handling of the banks

In 2008, Iceland had, just like many other countries have today, a big big banking crises. However, unlike most other countries, they did not listen to the austerity, emergency-loan, privatization strategy of IMF and the rest of the gang, but simply let the banks go bankrupt, and instead cared for the citizen. This has led to a situation where a) the relationship between politicians and the general public is better than before (compared to e.g. in Greece, where it is worse than ever!) b) The economy quickly recovered after just 2-3 hard years, and it is now on the plus side again, c) Many of the most intelligent people, who previously worked within the banking sector, have now started up new businesses, and they have e.g. a growing and fluorishing IT-sector, which they did not have before. d) etc etc.

In other words - this is a stunning example of how one also can do, to face a crises. I think that we would do so well, to spread awareness of this strategy, and bring some hope and variation of options into the current crises mentality. Things might actually go well, if we just use the current energy to some working solution.

III) Brave icelandic woman, MP and Wikileaks-supporter to go to the US

The last story is another inspirational story from Iceland, i.e. from a country that has approx 300 000 inhabitants! It is about a woman who is member of parliament, and involved in the Wikileaks and internet debates that are ongoing all over the world, but which leads to perhaps the worst developments within the US. Their cyber-surveillance and laws diminishing the rights of ordinary citizen are being worsened in a rapid tempo. Therefore, she will go to the US, to raise some awareness and to see, in her own words:

"once and for all, if the fear that has been spread around is real on not. Fear is not a good thing to carry in life :)"

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Two facebook-posts on immigration and the economic crisis

politicsPosted by Mar 26, 2013 22:36
In the last days, I have been wanting to write quite a few things here at the blog, but I have somehow never gotten around to it (I will give part of the reason for this in the next blog post). However, I did post two slightly longer posts on facebook. These are in Swedish, but a short English summary is as follows:

* In the first post I further expand on the immigration issue, by taking a look at some commonly circulating argument for why it is logical and right to investigate people with a foreign-looking appearance: (i) one is after all much more likely to find illegal immigrants in those groups ii) these people they are after are after all in the country illegally. In short the counter-arguments are that a) looking for people based on such a broad description as ethnic origin is not the same as using a signalement, which b) leads to sweeping prejustices of entire segments of our society, which is the very definition of racism; c) there is no big reason to kick on persons (here illegal immigrants) already lying down, d) even if they are here illegally, they are still under the protection of human rights, which applies to all human beings, and which Sweden has promised to uphold.

* In the second post I make some comments on the ongoing economic crisis. First, the recent handlings, e.g. in Cyprus, makes it clear that no promises by politicians are sacred, that no prior experience holds, that there isn't really any plan for getting us out of here, etc. Second, one of the main underlying causes to this crisis is the fractional reserve banking system and its current operation at extremely low levels of money kept in the bank. This leads to an extremely unstable system, which only works in good times - but which is horrible in crises. This is not the only problem (another problem is that speculations are done by the same agencies and with the same money as the society-supporting function of savings and borrowings), but it is an important one, and it is surprisingly seldom mentioned in the public and powerful societies, which has the power to change things. Therefore, it is positive to note that the Swedish central bank leader brought up these issues with quite an emphasis in his recent address at an internation economic convention.

If you can read Swedish and are interested, please use the links above to read more. If you are interested in economy, you may also be interested in the following facebook group on alternative economies.

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More on structural problems and illegal immigrants: two important documentaries

politicsPosted by Mar 20, 2013 02:12
I have just written a long post on my facebook page, after having listened to a program on how illegal immigrants, in this case children, are living their life in Sweden. It is incredible listening, well-done investigative journalism, and almost impossible not to want to act afterwards. I have always believed in the yoga/pratyahara principle of observation transformation. Look at a problem, and truly see it, and it will transform you and itself in front of your eyes. Let's let a deep contemplation of this problem transform us into joyful action-oriented people! On this issue, much improvement can be done, and let's use all our available tools to do it!

And...regarding this: a very important action is to just get involved in what the structural problems in our global society are. An overview of some of the most important of these can be found in this important and easy-to-understand documentary, which I also watched earlier today.

And if you can read Swedish, the facebook post and links to more information and suggestions for actions can be found here.

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Perspectives on the ongoing immigration debates

politicsPosted by Mar 18, 2013 20:02

This is a picture from Villa Serrana, where I have spent the last few days. Villa Serrana is a little village in Uruguay, where there does not seem to be any internet. In any case, I have spent these days in the wonderful company of cows, hens, beautiful nature, a beautiful woman, and a calming detoxification of the rapid information flow that comes with the internet. This has been wonderful, but now I am back in Montevideo again, and – after reading up on some of the latest news – I feel the urge to put my own thoughts into the mix regarding some of the recent news in Sweden that has concerned illegal immigrants. I will do that by zooming out a little bit from the details, by comparing to the situation here in Argentina/Uruguay where there is still free immigration, and by reflecting on the whole “can we actually afford this?” question.

Picture by me, March 2013.

Let’s just start with a short little recap of what has happened in the news lately, regarding immigration in Sweden. Ever since the nationalistic and anti-immigration profiled party Sverigedemokraterna (SD) entered the Swedish parliament, in 2010, Sweden has followed in the footsteps of the other European countries where this has happened: first there was a widespread condemnation by all conventional parties, then a slow acceptance of the new state-of-affairs but not any actual “debating the issues”, a continued growth of SD, which has then finally made some of the other parties copy aspects of their profile, and also they become more immigration-hostile. This is sort of where we are today, since some few months back. And this change of policy puts the associated ministers in the spotlight, since they are the ones who have to carry these policies through, and answer to critique that follows. First the minister of justice, Beatrice Ask, was in focus in the recent debate article “Bästa Beatrice”, which argued against REVA, a political project to increase the hunting-down of illegal immigrants by increasing the number of public checks of ordinary citizen going about their ordinary lives. This article makes use of personal stories in a beautiful and compelling fashion, and in just a few days it became one of the most read articles ever written in Sweden. The second minister in spot light is the migration minister, Tobias Billström. He was found saying that the people hiding illegal immigrants are not the nice blue-eyed friendly women you think they are, but typically landsmen of the immigrants – a racist statement by definition.

Although I think that these recent statements and events are interesting and important reflections of where we are, I do feel a strong reluctancy to go into mobs of condemnation of individual statements and persons - because this easily leads to a worse and more afraid-of-doing-wrong public discourse - and I will therefore try to deal with the bigger picture. I will do that by first comparing a little bit with the situation in Argentina and Uruguay, where I am currently enjoying life. As I wrote earlier, these countries are much younger and more alive democracies, and they are also in a completely different situation regarding immigration: in Argentina it is spelled-out in the constitution that immigration is free for all, and it still seems to be the case that anybody can become an Argentinian citizen within less than a year. Sweden also had a free immigration until the 1970s, where after it was abolished, and now the current consensus is that we couldn’t possibly afford it. Even with this being the case, there is still (at least in Uruguay, which is very similar to Argentina in many ways) a public unemployment benefit for all, without the checks and expulsion strategies that we are increasingly introducing in Sweden.

The preamble to Argentinas constitution, picture from Wikipedia.

There are of course many complicating factors that I do not mention in this comparison (Argentina anyway has many undocumented immigrants, and the pressure to go to Sweden is probably much higher than to go to Argentina, etc), but it still puts the current debates in a different light. Is it really such an impossible thing to open the borders to Sweden? (e.g. Gustav Fridolin has argued that it would be possible) Where should the money be taken from? Many of the illegal immigrants are people who have been denied citizenship in Sweden, after a more or less careful asylum process; is it really ok to allow them to stay anyway? Won’t such a system create a shadow society, where people live with half-rights, and easily become exploited?

I do not have the answers to all of these things. But I do agree with the above mentioned debate article saying that “we know that a person never can be illegal, and that something needs to be done when uniforms spread insecurity, and the Law turns against its own citizen”. And when I read up on organisations like “No man is illegal”, they say things like: “a person has no more rights to live in a country just because he is born there”, and also these statements just seem so right to me. They just feel right. And, also when looking at the state today, I think that it has become so dysfunctional. Let's therefore just remind ourselves of another recent example on that, from the news today. Politicians and public institutions are today spending more money on media-training to face a nosy reporter working on a case than the same reporter has access to, when working on that case. I think that the only media-training you should get as a public employee is to “tell the truth, and if something you say is bad – we will help you fix the system you are working within” - and the current millions spent on media-training money should then be spent on that: fixing the system.

When being in nature, as this one I have just visited in Uruguay, it becomes apparent that all borders are artificial. Let us work towards a global society where these borders just are aids for administration, and where no man dies because of them. Picture by me.

So, to sum up. Regarding the specific situations of the two ministers Beatrice Ask and Tobias Billström, I think that it is high time for us to say "enough", and ask for their firing: if not now, then in the next election. However, these are just symptoms. Regarding the more important question of "can we afford a more humane politics?", I say: with such a dysfunctional state and public scrutiny system, with enormous amounts of money going into averting a dysfunctional economic system leading to a potential economic collapse, I think that we should take some time – if that is indeed necessary economically – to reduce the state, to make it more agile and functional again, and build up and support our own systems where people help each other directly. And with respect to the fears of a shadow society, I say: even though it may not be possible to now directly go back to a state of free immigration, and to grant instant asylum to all illegal immigrants, I think that the dangers with an institutionalized shadow society is of less importance than the vision of a society where all humans are being treated as humans. So, please, let us strengthen and support – not work against – empathy-driven organizations like “No man is illegal”, trying to help the most down-trodden of our fellow human beings. And then, let us deal with the global and structural inequalities that are truly at root of all of these issues. Once this is done, free movement between all countries will be the next logical step. Let us never stop imagining this being possible.

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