A conformist is a person who conforms, especially unquestioningly, to the usual practices or standards of a group or society. Needless to say it is much touted as a virtue in authoritarian societies so it comes as no surprise to see it being defended in academic papers in modern communist China, for example. Thus Guo Xiang and Wang Lian-ming of Tongju University, Shanghai, go to great lengths in defending the conformist mentality and the positive rôle it plays in the work of management and propagation (The Application of Conformist Mentality in the Construction and Management in Libraries and in High Institutions, Journal of Academic Library and Information Science, February 2010). The authors imply that this is not simply a de facto phenomenon but a natural one as well. If turning people into machines for the benefit of the state is what the Chinese communists have in mind (without saying so outright, of course) then I have to say that such a conformist mentality, which also underscores (for example) the foundation of modern karate (Patrick McCarthy, What is Koryu Uchinadi Kenpo-jutsu?, International Ryukyu Karate Research Society), is something essentially unnatural belonging to societies at war rather than at peace.
The Asch Conformity Experiments of the 1950's demonstrated that there is a tendency in individuals to follow the unspoken rules or behaviour of the social group to which they belong. Solomon Asch showed that not only will people typically go along with what they know to be wrong in a group in order to avoid facing ridicule, even though they know the majority is wrong, but that some of them will actually come to believe that what is wrong is right as a result of the peer pressure and not because of any logical reasoning. They will do this in order to avoid conflict. Thus Asch proved psychologically that conformity can be influenced by both a need to 'fit in' and a belief that other people are 'smarter or better informed' even though this belief is untested. Outside of laboratory experiments, where stimuli are more ambiguous or more difficult to judge, conformity can be even stronger. This is something that government social engineers are aware of and exploit to their advantage.
It has been a matter of some curiosity to me that two countries - Sweden and Finland - who share so much common history and culture, should have diverged in this respect. There are, of course, many factors, as one would expect, but I think by far the most important one is that Finns have at times accepted conflict as inevitable for their survival whereas Sweden - which has not been to war for nearly 200 years - has not. The Finns were occupied and oppressed by Czarist Russia and had to fight for their independence in 1917. Then they fought a civil war between whites and reds. And finally they were invaded by Stalinist Russia in 1939 on a territory-grab and had to fight bravely to maintain their independence, even though they did lose their beloved Vyborg and other lands. Many Swedes volunteered to help brave Finland defend itself against the communist Goliath in the Winter War as it came to be called. Finland has had to fight to survive in the modern world with a big imperialistic bully Marxist neighbour. Sweden has not. Instead, it decided to embrace Marxism.
Others, like famous Swedish expat author, Professor Lars Gustafsson, who lives in Texas, thinks it has more to do with size and likes to compare Sweden to Austria which has a similar conformist mentality. I don't agree. Finland is about the same size as Sweden, is far more libertarian and recognises the primacy of parents over the state when it comes to children and education (see Four Reasons Finland's Schools are Better Than Ours). The reason I think Sweden and Austria are alike is because of political factors - in the case of Austria, nazism (it was by far more nazi than Germany), and Sweden, communism (which are both Marxist ideologies). That aside, Gustafsson admits the unpleasantness of Swedish conformist pressure and how wonderful it is to be away from it in the USA where he doesn't have to worry about the Big Bother state and can get on with his university duties and writing (Roger Gathman, Lone Star Sweden: Lars Gustafsson).
Those who rule Sweden (and a good many other countries, I hasten to add) today know all about group psychology and how to manipulate it. This is why ordinary Swedes are so quiet about the abuse of and cruelty against homeschoolers and the vicious attack on families, the out-of-control state kidnapping of children (like Domenic Johansson), the child-traficking, the indifference to the fall of communism in Eastern Europe and (in some quarters) mourning over the fall of Communist East Germany and much else besides. Sweden is one of the most conditioned contries in Western Europe that actually makes is very un-Western! It's a conformist state that has more in common with the former communist East Europe than with the democratic West. And such liberties as it does enjoy are very carefully packed right into a small box. It doesn't even matter which side of the so-called political 'spectrum' you belong to. Just before 'Conservative' Prime Minister Fredrick Reinfeldt was re-elected in 2010, he told The Citizen (Sweden's elections: conservative sweep in a socialist land?') with one breath that he wanted "a more efficient and less conformist state and society" and with the other said that he was not against the state which the socialists had set up. If he was truly against a conformist state and society, why did he ban homeschooling and force everyone to conform to a single school system of education with a uniform curriculum? Because he wants people to conform, like the rest of the Marxist establishment. So when Reinfeldt said, "We want individual life to flourish, with a much greater degree of freedom" (op.cit.), you have to understand that this is only within the socialist state's straightjacket. We are free to act and be who we are only within the state's chlostrophobic matchbox society.
You simply don't question the state in totalitarian Sweden because the people have been taught since infancy that the state will always take care of people's best interests. And superficially it seems that way, as it did in Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy and Communist Russia. But as the system unravels itself and the injustices start coming to light - as the people begin to see the unpleasant truth of what the state has hidden from their view, a stirring will take place. For Swedes not only surrendered many of their freedoms to the state but now their sovereignty too. Even the Swedish state is now a puppet. How so?
For the first time Sweden is under occupation though it does not yet know it. It ceased becoming a country when it signed the Lisbon Treaty in 2010. Today, like my own country Britain, it is a province of the European Union, which is little more than a revitalised Holy Roman Empire, in my view, but in neo-communist garb. Though nominally a state, Sweden is anything but one - its last vestiges of self-gonvernment will be eroded little by little as its masters in Brussels enact more and more laws. And this total absorption into a 21st century empire is something Swedes have no experience of. If she ever awakens from her slumber, it will be because she has sudddenly realised that she is no longer the master of her own destiny but the slave of an unelected bureaucratic élite in Belgium.
I think that one of the greatest awakenings that the average Swede needs is the realisation that conformism is not security and that all totalitarian régimes are dependent on it for their survival. Now I am not saying that all conformity is bad - of course it isn't. I am no anarchist. State and peer pressure that gets us to drive safely on the right side of the road, to avoid alcohol or drug abuse, and to take care of the disadvantaged, are good, positive things. Part of Sweden's problem is that the state is simply too big and too intrustive, as it is in all totalitarian states. At one point the Swedish state employed 75% of all citizens able to work! And though it is much less now (around 50%), it's still too big. And when your employer is the state, there is a strong motivation to conform, one reason why privatisation is a good thing...up to a point.
There are so many different things that influence conformity: group size (the whole nation is a pretty big 'group'), unanimity (these days if you don't conform you are typically shouted down as a 'fascist' or with some other shaming term of abuse), cohesion (the Swedish state wants everyone to be the same, which is why they hate homeschooling so much that they went to all the trouble of outlawing it even when only 50 families were doing it), status (when the state controls so much, then status is found in state-approval or -disapproval), prior commitment and public opinion (heavily controlled by the state through the media) and public opinion (which the state virtually has the monopoloy in shaping). What then come to be regarded as 'social norms' are, in reality, engineered and made to look 'democratic' and the 'spontaneous will' of the people.
This is not entirely the fault of the Swedish people because every nation's people are victims of their own history to some extent. Unlike Britain and the other Anglo-Saxon nations (USA, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, etc.), Sweden made the fateful decision in the early 1800's to become a copycat nation and imitate the imperialistic, totalitarian French Imperial ways of Napoléon. Unlike Norway, Finland and the Anglo-Saxon world, Sweden decided to follow the French system and do away with negative human rights. Thus the 'common good' became defined by the state instead of by a set of human rights, giving kings and governments unprecedented power. Thus most of continental Europe, including Sweden, follows the Corpus Juris system of law unlike the Anglo-Saxon world which follows Habeas Corpus which has enabled the Swedish state to get away with all its abuses against families like the Johanssons. Here the state has rights, not the individual, and the system is designed to protect the state above that of the ordinary citizen. The Swedish pseudo-democratic state decides what the citizen must do through a perverted vox populi , the tyrannical majority of the people, which is itself manipulated. With no charter guaranteeing human rights to check any abuses or individual liberties, the state can pretty much do as it pleases and justify itself by claiming it has the 'consensus' of the people. The logic is circular but to the uncritical mind the system seems to be 'democratic' whilst making a mockery of any kind of libertarian vox populi.
I think it is really impossible for a Swede to see what is going on until he steps out of the system by going and living in a country where there is true liberty - or at the very least, more liberty. One homeschooling father who fled to Finland as a homeschooling refugee from Sweden and has been there a year, had this to say about his experience:
(Misha Hammarnejd, 28 February 2011).
"Living outside Swedish fascism for a year now, it is totally evident why it is possible for the Swedish state to regulate individuals/parents the way they do (in the School Law and in other areas). In Sweden, many areas of parental/civic responsibility - either in legislation and/or practice - is removed from the parents/citizens and trasferred to the kommuns (municipalities).
"For example, a few years ago, it became the kommun's (not the parents') responsibility, viâ the schools, to ensure that all children are able to swim! ... The result is that parents/citizens became increasingly incapable of taking responsibility in the areas where the authorities take them.
"This incapability will 'prove' itself over time, thus justifying the authorities taking even more responsibilities from the parents/citizens. This becomes a vicious cycle where ultimately, parents/citizens take no responsibility at all"
(Misha Hammarnejd, 28 February 2011).
Social engineers learned long ago that it is easier to control a child than an adult so why not turn all the adults into children and create the ultimate nanny state by socially and emotionally retarding the individual by taking away more and more of his personal responsibility and liberty and giving it to the state? Once the majority of citizens have been 'nannified' it becomes progressively easier to deny the human rights that by nature belong to adults and claim that people just aren't mature enough to take care of themselves - only the state can. But by what leap of the imagination are we supposed to believe that the state is any maturer than its citizens (the 50% not employed by the state, that is)? And does not the behaviour of, for example, Gotland Social Services in the Domenic Johansson case (and many, many others) demonstrate not merely nasty behaviour but infantile nasty behaviour? These are the actions of people whose thoughts are under the control of a system, who have not been allowed to grow up, and who remind me - shockingly - of the children employed by the Maoist Pol Pot régime in Cambodia (Kampuchea) who were the state's main spies and guards at the forced labour camps established around the country where the intelligentsia and bourgoisie were (when they were not murdered) turned into slave farmers. If you have not seen the movie and want an insight into what I am talking about, see The Killing Fields. We are far from Pol Pot's Cambiodia in Sweden, of course, but we are frighteningly pointed in that direction. The mentality is the same as is the control and the demand for conformity to the state's will over its citizens.
Someone must wake up to this trend sooner or later. However, I don't think Sweden has much time because the way this system is evolving, it is heading towards a new version of communism known misleadingly as the 'Third Way' of Europeism. Swedes have not been taught the truth about communism and believe it is a totally different species from fascism - it absolutely isn't. Indeed, fascism was inspired by communism because they are such close political cousins - they're almost twins. Sweden is not, as the Economist write on 26 June 2008, "once home to a system that seems to modern eyes as distant as communism, it is now more-or-less capitalist country" (Sweden: Potential Turbulence), it's still communism but with a layer of capitalism added on top, like China. It's simply a mutant of communism made to appear free and capitalistic, and they can no more co-exist than a piranha can with a goldfish.
I hate to repeat what has now become a cliché in politics but it is truly time - and long past time - for 'change' in Sweden. You can't add 'freedom' and 'less conformism' to the little box - you have to get rid of the little box and allow people to breathe again! I wish Reinfeld would live up to his political rhetoric, not on the economic front, but on the social. Let the people go, let people choose the way they want to educate their children, and get the state of the backs of families. Allow people their responsibility so they can grow and mature as nature intended them to.