On Christmas Eve in Sweden, every year, the main state television shows a half hour animated show called “The Story of Karl-Bertil Jonssons Christmas Eve.” This show would never air in the United States. It is not overtly socialist or communist. It simply implies attitudes Americans would never have.
In the story, a rich 14-year-old boy, Karl-Bertil, works nights at the post office to make some pocket money for himself. His hero is Robin Hood. So Karl-Bertil looks up every person making more than a certain amount of money (you can do this in Sweden), and steals their Christmas packages. He then dresses up as Santa and goes to the poor section of the city (where people were very very poor) and gives away the rich people’s presents. The poor are ecstatic.
Then his parents find out about his scheme. And his father drags Karl-Bertil around town to apologize to all the rich people. They find the first one playing pool surrounded by servants. He does not look very nice.
But he loves Karl-Bertil. He hates the presents his relatives send, he says. And this happens all over town, the rich hailing Karl-Bertil for stealing from them to give to the poor.
It is a charming story (shown in England, I think, as Christopher’s Christmas Mission – it is on YouTube). But it is also so Swedish. Karl-Bertil is rich but works hard. The poor are sad but not bitter and certainly never judged. And while the rich live lavishly, they are generous and forgiving and good-hearted.
In America, Karl-Bertil would not work. The poor would either be sentimentalized or condemned. And the rich could be idolized. Or they could be demonized.
I’ve got it. This show is the Swedish welfare state wrapped up in a Christmas special!