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TOPIC: Community Values
Watch: Documentary The Sweedish Theory of Love
With dry humor and swaths of statistical data, director Erik Gandini paints a portrait of the Swedish utopia that isn’t as rosy as it may at first appear.
THE NUCLEAR FAMILY IS NO MORE
Gandini’s film begins in one of the many sperm banks that provide single women the opportunity to become pregnant without the need for a partner. It’s becoming increasingly common for single woman in Sweden to long to start a family without wanting the burdens and semipermanence of romantic and sexual partnership. With financial selfsufficiency and gratifying solitude in one’s singleness, why not?
INDIVIDUALISM CAN LEAD TO LONELINESS
In the 1970s, the Swedish government promoted a manifesto titled “The Family of the Future,” calling for a shift away from traditional households toward personal independence. Today, that trend has resulted in a society in which 47.5 percent of households consist of a single adult with no children, while 1 in 10 deceased citizens of Stockholm are now laid to rest with no family or friends present at all.
CULTURAL INDIVIDUALISM SACRIFICES COMMUNITY VALUES
In the film, Gandini contrasts the sterile existence of “perfect” modern Sweden with that of a field hospital in Ethiopia and a doctor who long ago abandoned his cozy, lavish life in Sweden. As a doctor, he could be making a significant amount of money, pampering himself and those he loves. Instead he feels that living with those who desperately need medical attention, but cherish the social aspects of livin that they share together as part of the community, is invaluable. Gandini makes it seems as though many Swedes only leave their house for food or to partake in group activities like watching their kids play sports or joining a social weekend searching for missing persons.
HAPPINESS IS NOT HAVING A PROBLEM-FREE LIFE
At one point the film presents a chart depicting the types of worries people in certain areas of the globe deal with. Tellingly, there are no parts of this chart that depict a worry-free portion of society. Everyone has problems, but as the Polish sociologist Zygmunt Bauman states, this is not a problem. A key to happiness, and what makes life emotionally fuflling, is confronting and overcoming problems. Without some form of strife, we would all be somewhat miserable.
1. Prior to seeing THE SWEDISH THEORY OF LOVE, what was your opinion of Sweden as a country? Had you ever wanted to visit or even move there? Maybe you live there already!
2. Which value do you hold more strongly and why: individualism or community?
3. Is loneliness something that you or a loved one has ever struggled with?
4. What was your reaction to the single women looking to start families alone? Is this something you’ve considered for yourself?
5. Did any portion of the film speak to you more than others? If so, which section?
6. Have you ever felt compelled to work outside of your comfort zone in order to help those in need, like the doctor who moved to Ethiopia in the film?
7. Do you believe that socially-promoted individualism can actually lead to loneliness, or do you think there are unexplored factors that may play into the statistics found in the film?
8. Do you think there is a balance that can be struck between individualist ideologies and communal ideologies? What might they look like?
9. Many Swedes maintain their social lives by joining social group activities. Are there any groups or activities you partake in to maintain a healthy social life?
10. Overcoming challenges in one’s life is one key to happiness. What are your own personal keys to happiness?