In Sweden, despite the mythology of the almost-egalitarian welfare capitalist state, apparently the rich are getting richer and the poor poorer. It is the way of the world, and despite never having been to Sweden I feel a sense of disappointment.
The idea of the existence of a stable, well ordered nation populated by reasonable (if slightly dull) people, dressed in cardigans and listening to too much euro-pop exists for us like some kind of promised land. So much so that the countries of Scandinavia are touted as role models by those selling us the idea of an independent Scotland. We can be like them too if we vote for independence.
Perhaps we can, and I hope that Sweden finds its way back to the principles that gave birth to their national identity- something about being ‘humble towards life, and humble towards success’ (a quote from a recent TV programme about Sweden.)
The Swedes have a word that has no direct translation into English- one of those that I reckon we should borrow. it is this one; Lagom;
The Lexin Swedish-English dictionary defines lagom as “enough, sufficient, adequate, just right”. Lagom is also widely translated as “in moderation“, “in balance”, “perfect-simple”, “optimal” and “suitable” (in matter of amounts). Whereas words like “sufficient” and “average” suggest some degree of abstinence, scarcity, or failure, lagom carries the connotation of appropriateness, although not necessarily perfection. The archetypical Swedish proverb “Lagom är bäst“, literally “The right amount is best”, is translated as “Enough is as good as a feast” in the Lexin dictionary. That same proverb is translated as “There is virtue in moderation” in Prismas Stora Engelska Ordbok (1995).
Enough is as good as a feast. I like that.
Knowing when enough is enough is the trick though.