On Poetry and Culture Shock


The world insists in shocking me. Those of you reading from outside Spain should know that people in Southern Spain are said to exaggerate a lot and that is considered a vaguely negative, humorous thing; the underlying thought is that people from more civilised, sophisticated countries, tell it like it is, or believe less is more. Spanish does not have a word to say "understatement".

I wonder is there is a word to say "understatement" in Swedish. The Swedes, in their wisdom, use the polite, discreet word that means "Hidden", instead of the blunter "illegal". That does not mean that unwanted foreigners are treated any better; if they go to the hospital, for example, the doctors are likely to call the police. There are 15,000 hidden people in Sweden. Out of these, 400 are children who have simply lost the will to live. These children one day refuse to do anything, get out of bed, eat. One such girl was on TV yesterday; she had a tube down her nose through which her mother injected a yellowish liquid food. If there is no place to go and the country you live in wants to kick you out, there aren't many options left but trying to see if you can let yourself die by sheer depression.

The small, understated word of the sophisticated, civilised, advanced Swedish society for this mass collective suicide is "apathetic children".

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