Surfing aimlessly on the net I happened to stumble over Google Ngram Viewer, a remarkable tool from an impressive company. Google has scanned 5.2 million books in six languages, or 20 percent of all book ever published. An outstanding performance (in accordance with the thesis that the most superb things come from USA, together with some other things…)
After doing this Hercules job Google offers the gigantic database for everyone to use. I sat fascinated for a long while studying all kinds of worlds and expressions. As an example I copied this diagram, showing three names mentioned here earlier, and the frequency of their appearance in international literature (Swedish is not among the six languages, of course). It was to my satisfaction that Palme 25 years after his death still is mentioned more often than our previous foreign minister.
Our friend, the foreign minister Carl Bildt, seems to have worn out some of his Teflon coating. He is now, surprisingly, under attack for some sloppy formulations about the situation in Libya, thus reported to have said that the question which side to support is irrelevant and that the important thing is to maintain stability in the country.
One piquant aspect of Bildt’s slipping tongue is that his political rival and a former prime minister Goran Persson (Social Democrat) once made a similar mistake on an official visit to China. He there said that stability was important for China’s economic development. This was interpreted (but of course not meant) as a support for the dictatorship. Back home Persson was flooded by attacks about his blunder for weeks, with Carl Bildt among those whipping up severe condemnations.
“Hut gar hem” is a Swedish expression that I can’t find a precise translation for, but it roughly means that in the end you have to pay for the same things you once made others pay for. However, if this affair will leave any scratch marks on the steel nerd remains to be seen.
Our foreign minister Carl Bildt is an ambitious man who started his political career as a teenager (much like Bill Clinton). Back then he was a lonely conservative wolf fighting the hordes of radical youths in the 1960s. The prospects in those days for a conservative to ever become a member of the government in Sweden were infinitesimal. But Carl was a man of extraordinary self confidence and iron will, and one day some 20 years later he became Prime minister.
In his party he then had a young man called Fredrik Reinfeldt, whom he found a little too outspoken on the wrong issues, and whom he subsequently blocked from a career in the party for a while. Today Fredrik is prime minister – and Carl’s boss. That’s life!
Our man, Carl Bildt, is a typical Teflon politician who seldom gets tainted whatever happens. Journalists seem to avoid scrutinizing or pursuing him as if he was a bit sacred, much in the same way as they once respectfully treated his former father-in-law Gosta Bohman when he was finance minister.
During a period as businessman, before reentering the government, Carl was for instance a member of the board of Lundin Oil. This company was involved in oil affairs in Sudan and was allegedly cooperating with military forces accused with murdering local civilians who interfered with the company’s activities.
A CV like that would have been deadly poisonous for any other politician in Sweden, but not so for our Carl, characteristically christened “the steel nerd” by a clever female columnist years ago. Media made some vague efforts to create a scandal but nothing happened and they soon ran out of gas.
Today Bildt has to answer for the governments passivity in the case of the Egyptian uproars, and why Sweden have indirectly supported Mubarak by quietly accepting the active, military support given his regime by USA. By responding that the opposition party, the Social democrats, was a members of the same Socialist International as Mubarak’s party the discussion ended.
More chapters of The Bildt Saga are for sure expected, some of which will probably suite this webpage.