A Digital Addiction We Need to Replace

The use of screens affects all ages. In our home, there are as many smartphones as residents in the household. Adding the iPads and computers in our house, and it’s probably just the pets that do not stare into the ever-rewarding light at least once in half-an-hour while we think we share the experience of a cozy family evening.

The screen is the first thing many of us see when we wake up in the morning and the last before we fall asleep in the evening. Never have the differences in attitudes and lifestyles been as big as between the previous generations, writes Jean M Twenge in her latest book i-Gen: Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy -and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us (Atria Books, 2017).

Being a family man, I have read it with great interest. The book offers insights in explaining the following phenomena:

Today’s young, don’t drink alcohol, as we did. Today’s young do homework with episode 76 of Friends on their iPad or cell phone, they also have an ongoing chat on Snapchat and are talking to at least one person on Facetime. At the same time, they read fewer books and do not answer “out” on the question “where are you going?” as we did.

They know that we can find out where they are. Today’s youth is more tolerant of different ways of thinking but does not help to clean the entire homestead as often as we were forced to, under various threats may be added. Those who read I-Gen can add that millennials have sex later in life, take less responsibility for their finances, are more emotionally fragile. In summary, they become adults later than we did. The smartphone has changed everything, writes Jean M Twenge.

The millennials remain young longer because the phone satisfies the needs they otherwise would have to find in the physical reality which has more uncontrollable dangers and stress levels.

It may sound like a good thing given that the teenage brain matures late when it comes to making overall decisions. On the other hand, the brain may develop slower because of the protected life that comes with the use of smartphones.

Nevertheless, it stings to observe young people’s cell phone dependency. What about if the cell phones are the cigarettes of our time? In 2068 we would look back at the early 2000s with a horror of how we let children sleep with the phones under their pillows. How could we allow them to have cell phones in class despite apparent lack of concentration and learning?

In the US, the average teenager spends 4.5 hours a day with a cell phone, and half of them describe that they are dependent on their phones. Just between 2009 and 2014, the proportion of Swedish schoolchildren who spent at least three hours or more on the internet every day, according to Statistics Sweden, doubled.

The Swedish psychiatrist Anders Hansen writes in his book Hjärnstark (Fitnessförlaget, 2016) that the person who spends more than ten hours a week in front of the screen experiences the least happiness. Young people also spend time with their friends far less, feel more alone, and have problems sleeping. This rather depressing development began in 2007, the year when the iPhone was launched. Jean M Twenge blames the dramatic deterioration of the mental health of youngsters entirely on the phones.

On the radio, I hear a voice that explains mental health problems, believing that we meet our needs satisfactorily through the cell phone, but we chew empty carbohydrates that provide fast energy but no nutrition.

It may be time to realize that there is another kind of reward in life for those who manage to put away the phone and train their stamina and concentration. We need to give young people a chance to develop that ability.

Mikronationer – på besök i hemgjorda nationer by Johan Joelsson and Jonatan Jacobson

“Micronations – Visiting Homemade Nations”

This book has not yet been translated into English, but since the topic is of interest to all micronationalists, a short review may be of use to the community.

The book is beautifully bound, and the layout is also pleasing with two-column pages on quality paper. The preface is somewhat centered around micronationalism in Scandinavia, but also gives general information on what it takes to form a nation, i.g. The Montevideo Convention.

The following nations are covered in the book: The Principality of Sealand, Ladonia, the Kingdom of Elleore, the Principality of Seborga, Sweutschland, the Republic of Molossia and Elgaland-Vargaland. The book also contains a review from PoliNation, an international conference on micronations.

The author, who works as a freelance reporter, seems to have done his homework. He has done several interviews with leaders of mentioned countries, and also visited all of the micronations covered in the book. The presidents and kings of the various micronations come through as they are, not portrayed as mere nut jobs nor are they ridiculed.

The pictures are excellent, and add another layer of information to the text. I understand that the author wants to portray the vast variety of micronations in the world. That is, however,  also my main concern. The examples in the book are highly selective, and may not be representative of the micronational world as a whole.

Elgaland-Vargaland is more of a conceptual art project than a micronation, and Sweutschland is a techno dance music festival. These creative projects may not be considered to be micronations per se among the community, but they are great examples of how diverse the world of homemade nationalism is.

On the whole, this is a great introductory book for anyone interested in the somewhat obscure world of micronationalism. The book is not intended as a comprehensive work* on aspirant nations, but rather a taste of the high degree of individual freedom and creativity that can be found among the founding fathers of these nations.

* For a more in-depth book on contemporary and historical struggles for independence, I highly recommend Christopher F. Roth's encyclopedia Let's Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements and Aspirant Nations, from Abkhazia to Zanzibar (Litwin Books, 2015).

The Dystopian Future of The Handmaid’s Tale

The Handmaid’s Tale, now streaming on HBO, is very political. Even more so today considering the state of the world.

The story is set in America about a hundred years into the future and begins with a staged attack that kills the President and most of Congress. A Christian fundamentalist movement calling itself the Sons of Jacob launches a revolution and suspends the Constitution under the pretext of restoring law and order. A disease has made most women sterile, unable to procreate.

Things happen fast. The new, self-elected government take away women’s rights and freethinkers disappear without a trace. The new regime, the Republic of Gilead, moves quickly to consolidate its power and reorganize society into a militarized, hierarchical government of Old Testament-inspired social and religious fanaticism, turning the country into a theocratic dictatorship. Human rights are severely limited, and women’s rights are even more curtailed. Women are forbidden to walk alone, forbidden to read, and the few fertile women that are not married live their lives being breeders.

The show speaks to us on many levels. Extremists are on the verge of gaining power in several countries, not mentioning the ones already in power. We see radical Islam being dealt with by more radicalism; Buddhism and Hinduism with questionable motives, often supported by nationalistic leaders; militant atheists speaking with voices filled with even more ignorance than the ones they’re trying to oppose.

This show is a frightening look at a future we have to prevent from becoming a reality.

Master Photographer Lennart Nilsson Dead

A 14 weeks old baby. Credits: A Child is Born by Lennart Nilsson.

He became world famous with his pictures of the book “A Child is Born” which was released in 1965.

The book A Child is Born gave the world a whole new insight into the process from when an egg is fertilized until a child is developed. It took Nilsson a full twelve years to work on the images used for the book that was released for the first time in 1965.

As a pioneer of scientific photography, Lennart Nilsson worked tirelessly throughout his career, with a large number of prizes and books as a result. He was an accomplished artist and inspirational individual. He had an amazing career that has spanned decades.

Lennart Nilsson must have passed away on Saturday morning in the presence of his family at the age of 94.

In addition to his cutting-edge science, Lennart Nilsson was also a Court Photographer for the Royal Family of Sweden. He has documented the Royal Swedish Court since the 1940s. Among other things, Lennart Nilsson took the official wedding picture of King Carl XVI Gustaf and Queen Silvia.

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We believe that Nilsson’s photos of unborn babies were a milestone in the way we look at human life. The pro-choice movement cannot seriously look at these pictures and still claim that the lives of unborn babies are debatable.