Nationalism saved many from drugs — but unfortunately not all
What happens when a generation of parents puts political correctness before their children's best interests?
There was a lot of joy and community in the Stockholm suburb where I grew up. Still, as in many other “million program” areas, there was also social vulnerability, addiction, and misery. I came into contact with drugs early on, which were sold more or less openly in the schoolyard and, to an even greater extent, in the city centre. Many were, perhaps especially from the more socially marginalized homes, lured into the seductive dance of drugs.
I don’t know if I would have ended up there myself. I just know that I hung out with people in situations where drugs flowed heavily, and the opportunities to “join in” were numerous. But it never happened. I found other things to fill my life with; initially, a lot of sports, and then what may have been the most decisive; the nationalist commitment.
When I helped build our local Department of National Democratic Youth (NDU) in the early 2000s, it initially went very well. We had a “phone list” of over a hundred names, and we could quickly gather 30-40 young guys and girls to hand out flyers, put up posters, or just hang out. Many were still teenagers, and some were still in junior high or high school. When their commitment became known, there were often calls from “concerned” principals and teachers, but one person’s story has etched itself particularly profoundly in my memory.
Daniel was a reasonably tall 16-year-old. He came from the better parts of our suburb, from a relatively ordinary middle-class family, and had accompanied a friend to an NDU meeting. He quickly became very involved, and he talked about how many of his friends had started using drugs and that he wanted to get away from that group.
He was part of one of our action groups that, without the knowledge of the rest of the youth association or the party, was actively spying on drug dealers in the city centre and occasionally giving them a physical reprimand.
After months of commitment, he came to me and looked resigned. His parents had found out about his nationalist commitment when they found a bunch of stickers in his room and now demanded that he stop immediately if he didn’t want to be kicked out of the house. I told him that his parents could contact me, and a few days later, I got a phone call from his mother, and we arranged a meeting.
His mother was well-dressed and seemed to have some kind of office job. But I didn’t have the opportunity to chat with her because she was agitated and explained that I should stop leading her son astray and lure him into ruin immediately. I asked what she thought we stood for, but she was utterly uninterested in discussing politics. I also tried to explain how things looked in our suburb, how we constituted a healthy counterweight to drugs and vagrancy that was so common among the other young people. That’s when she said something that I would probably never forget:
Better that he does drugs than becomes a Nazi
I couldn’t believe my ears. Daniel disappeared from the nationalist movement, and I haven’t seen him since then.
But I was reminded of this story after talking to an old buddy from the suburb yesterday. My friend, who lived a hard life with addiction and periods of homelessness but has been sober for many years, had many thrilling and tragic stories to tell. We talked about old friends and characters and tried to figure out what everyone was doing now. Suddenly we started talking about Daniel, and my friend initially didn’t understand who I meant. When the penny finally dropped, he became earnest:
But don't you know? Daniel died several years ago. Heroin overdose.
Suddenly, it was as if the world stood still for what felt like an eternity but was probably just a few seconds. I didn’t know what to say. Feelings of sadness and anger fought within me while I tried to come up with something of value to respond. But I couldn’t.
“Oh damn,” was all I could get out.
“But at least he didn’t become a Nazi,” I thought.
This text was originally published in Swedish on October 10, 2018.