In September Sweden's largest newspaper Dagens Nyheter published an editorial of Swedish author Lena Andersson entitled: "With the secateurs at our defence". Her focus of interest seemingly revolved around the problems of killer slugs, but in reality she was referring to migrants in Sweden.
The editorial was translated by an Afro-Swedish scholar and was emailed to senior scholars in Europe and US to inform them of this new dangerous phase in Sweden. In the mail entitled, "A Letter from Sweden: Post-politics and the demonization of racial difference in the daily press", the author adds: “Sweden's particular brand of political exceptionalism is strong – so strong in fact, that even the most menacing rhetoric in the public arena can be expressed with any serious consequences, such as straightforward contestation. What scares me and many others, is that, to an increasingly high degree, hate-speech has become an acceptable form of discourse even in the respected daily press. Of course, I'm aware of that from an international perspective on backlash phenomena, this is not an unique situation; the difference is that resistance is so incredibly weak in Sweden. “
Published 8th of September, Dagens Nyheter, 2012
“With the secateurs at our defence”
"The violence against the murder slugs means giving up Herrenvolk mentality. Or entails a detrimental encouragement to brutality.
One can read the daily paper that one should put the killer slugs to death. It is the right thing to do. We must help each other to defend our tilled land, to form a citizen army, as it were. You couldn’t call me a lover of animals. The animals and me keep a distance of respect. I regard them as menacing, something that makes me one of them.
I have never myself witnessed the harm done by killer slugs, only read about it. I trust the daily paper, the experts and those infested with them. The best thing to do, you can read, is to cut their necks off with secateurs. I have no secateurs, so, egged on to schtotch every killer slug I see, I use the heel of my shoe. Their neutral name is Spanish forest slugs, but it is easier to justify putting them to death when the activity is self-defence and a resistance struggle against evil. The creepy-crawlies are described as invading swarms that spawn, and ruin our culture, and therefore should not have migrated here.
It is probably not a prejudice that killer slugs have different needs than humans. Their interests seem more single-minded, their inner lives less rich. Can they feel pain and fear? Considerations such as these, of course, determines how we handle them. Or maybe not. Most animals that we systematically put to death can feel pain and fear. And if we discover a human specimen which does not feel all the things that a human being is expected to feel, this person still continues to be embraced by the privileges that the species enjoy, by virtue of his or her group belonging.
Is it really a good thing that I stamp out slugs? The fact that I have done it because it says so in the daily paper definitely feels bad. And the fact that the media promote brutality and spree killing appears unsavoury. It can very well be the same cerebral paths that are activated and maintained no matter in what direction the brutality is pointed; so, instead of gripping the secateurs, maybe one should practice putting them away.
The 19th-century poet Heinrich Heine once wrote that in places where books are burnt, eventually become places where human beings are burnt as well. And where brutality against slugs is encouraged, other forms of violence are close by. (Books are burnt because they are regarded to be damaging.)
The emotional and verbal aggressiveness directed towards murder slugs is too great. I wonder what it expresses. Might it be the relief in being able – for once – to release the uninhibited loathing for those who destroy the order of society with impunity? Or is it an expression of what J M Coetzee’s fictive figure suggests in 'The lives of animals”… that man despises the animals for slaughtering because they allow themselves to be treated as such: ”Once upon a time we waged war upon the animals (…) It is only after the victory was an absolute fact, that we could afford to cultivate compassion. (…) Yet, there are still animals that we hate. Rats, for example. Rats have not capitulated. They strike back. (…) They will not win, but they are not losing either. Not to speak of insects and microbes. They can still defeat us.'
The murder slugs do not step aside either.
But one problem with showing murder slugs respect is that you cannot demand anything of them. They are not reasonable. They do not devour your garden because they have had an absent father, or grown up in poverty. You cannot alphabetise them, or get them to expand their parsimonious sphere of interest. The same thing goes for a small amount of human individuals. Yet, it is not socially acceptable to want to put them to death.
In general, humanity has shown a Herrenvolk mentality vis-à-vis other species. So, if we had the ambition to spare the murder slugs, we would soon be infuriated by their failure to show us their gratitude for their newly-won rights – that they did not respond by behaving like people, and give up ruining gardens. We would loathe them even more. There are two sides to Herrenvolk mentality. It may be expressed as superiority, or as contrived humility. Sometimes, humbleness is a form of reflected superiority.
In between them, there is a third state, equality. Equality does not mean wanting to socialise with each and everyone, or to like every one, but an attitude towards those one does not know or like. In the long run, such a relationship requires reciprocity in order not to turn into something twisted or self-effacing. Murder slugs disregard equality, both as a mental attitude, and as material practice.
Still, this is not an argument. Many people also show a disregard for equality. When we ransack ourselves regarding why we (no longer) exhort each other to bring out the secateurs (the guillotine) against people that ruin things for us, the answer is far from given. The philosopher Lars Bergström writes in his book ”Death, life and reality”… that: 'The claim that all human beings have a value that other creatures on earth do not, is as strange as claiming that people of a certain blood type should be better than other people.'
But what to do with the destructive swarms? A reservation camp, a public garden? Faced with the murder slugs, we ourselves behave as the murder slugs do. Maybe that is the most dignified and equal way to go about it. We oppose what we experience as a threat, and do not act as Coetzee’s submissive animals for slaughter.
All the same it feels wrong with this appeal to violent instincts.
Might it be the relief in being able – for once – to release the uninhibited loathing for those who destroy the order of society with impunity?
Lena Andersson is an author and freelance columnist in Dagens Nyheter."
Update: The text was "black immigrants", but it has been changed in "immigrants". (Thanks for the correction.)