This story about community integrity struck a chord with me. I have written several blogs about the U.S. problem with community responsibility versus individualism, and this example of cultural community integrity in Sweden seemed an excellent way of demonstrating how one culture has somehow evolved to address it, albeit in a simple way.

      The story cites an Argentine engineer entered a metro station in Stockholm, capital of Sweden. However, it could have been anyone from anywhere where a sense of community responsibility is not a prevalent trait.

      The engineer noticed that there was, among many normal and common turnstiles, one that gave free passage.

      He asked the ticket seller why that turnstile was permanently free to pass without any security agent nearby to stop the free entry being abused.

      The lady ticket seller explained that the entrance was intended for people who, for any reason, did not have money to pay for their ticket. It didn’t matter whether they had just forgotten their wallet, or actually didn’t have the money to pay.

      Incredulous, and accustomed to the Argentine way, the engineer could not help but ask the question that, for him, was obvious: “What if the person had money, but simply did not want to pay?”

      The saleswoman narrowed her blue eyes and, with a smile of overwhelming purity, she answered: “But why would I do that?”

      Unable to come up with an answer, the engineer paid for his ticket, and went through the turnstile, followed by a crowd that also paid for their tickets.

      The free passage remained empty.

      It may seem like a simple incident but the implications for the culture are enormous.

      Honesty is one of the most liberating values that a people can have. A society that has managed to turn that value into something that appears completely natural to its citizens is nothing short of amazing. It is certainly an anomaly in most of today’s world. Can you imagine trying that concept of a free turnstile on the London Underground or the New York City Subway? The stampede would probably result in many people being crushed to death.

      Despite my obvious cynicism, it’s worth considering what our societies would look like if we managed to cultivate that Swedish sense of honesty and community responsibility. More relevant, is to try and think how would we actually do that. I am assuming here that the concept of community honesty is a good, if “pie-in-the-sky” idea.

      The only possible way would be through the education of our children – we adults are a lost cause in this sense.

      We would have to start as young as possible. Cultivate the values of community responsibility and honesty, and transmit it to our children, our grandchildren, our students, and to society at large.

      The “Catch 22” is that we adults would have to do the changing since we control the education process. Your world changes when you change. However, if Sweden has managed to do it, it means it’s not impossible, merely improbable.

      I have often written on the demise of “Civics” courses in the U.S. education system. That seems to me an excellent place to start. Re-institute “Civics” as a requirement at all levels of public education. Even our future politicians might learn something, but I digress.

      Let’s not reward fraudulent practices, bad deals, corruption…by, for example, allowing such actions to be a path to the Presidency of the United States! If we could educate our future generations to treat honesty and good faith as normal, and as a community habit, we wouldn’t have to worry about future Trumps. They would never survive the public disdain and ridicule.

      Now there’s a thought!

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