Meetings No 20
A Congress is a Workplace
Atti Soenarso: Perhaps it is time to sharpen the tone.
Cover Story
All Under One Roof
Carin Kindbom: “The ‘all under one roof’ business approach is considered a key USP.”
While There’s Life, There’s Hope
Ever present words from the past.
Digital Mindset
AI and Robotics
Futurists: “Firms will need to strike a fine balance between AI and the human workforce.”
Safety and Security
CWT Global Forecast 2018
Security should be high on the planning agenda.
Brain Training
Sharp Brains on navigating brain training.
Business Events Must Adopt Olympic Safety Standards
Learn from previous Olympic events.
Clan vs State
The Clan Mentality is the Norm
Per Brinkemo on state and clan.
Sustainable Growth
The sustainability performance of 40 meeting and events cities.
Lunch With the Financial Times
An ­international “who’s who” of our time.
La Perle by Dragone
Emotions can be both a help and hindrance when creating a show.
AIME Launches Exhibitor Educational Series
Providing a deeper understanding of buyers.
Increasing Value of Meetings in Hamburg
Number of delegates visiting the city continues to grow.
60 Tips for a Stunningly Great Life
Robin Sharma on leadership.
Brain Check
Going Behind the Mind
Tomas Dalström on neuromarketing and digital vs. print advertising.
Where Event Design and Meetings Management Meet
Event quality is back on the table.
Van der Vijver
Locusts or Legacy?
Meeting designer Mike Van der Vijver: Bring the local community and the event community together.
Benny Andersson
On composition.
New Discovery on Memory Consolidation
Challenging a basic assumption about memory encoding.
The Saudi Arabian city of the future.
Obligations, Engagement and Legacy
Roger Kellerman: The word ‘obligation’ is high on the agenda.
New knowledge
Brain research
shows added value live events.
BTM World 2020
transitions to virtual.
post-pandemic momentum
Dubai Tourism forms Business Events Stakeholders committee,
host first meeting as industry resumes activity.
hotel news
Scandic expects
occupancy of 30-35 percent for September.
Covid developer
Scandic Hotels
launches the largest network of coworking spaces in the Nordic countries.
planned for 16-17 Sep
Update on GIAF
- New dates set for 5-6 November 2020.
Sands Expo and Convention Centre
is now a carbon neutral venue.
positive impact
The Hague webinar
celebrates partnerships and first anniversary of Ottawa MOU.
expanding network
ICCA Partners up
with Geneva International Associations Forum (GIAF).
Sponsored Content
Taiwan Ready to Reopen to the World
Over 80 events taking place in Taipei now.
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The Clan Mentality is the Norm – We Are the Ones Who Stick Out

Sweden was a clan society so long ago that we have lost track of everything it entails. It is therefore no great surprise that we find some international political events difficult to comprehend and are unable to adequately provide for immigrants from clan-based societies. Basically, all asylum seekers come from clan communities, writes author Per Brinkemo.

In the middle of my lecture on integration and the confrontation between the Somali clan communities and the strong state, a blond, blue-eyed woman stood up. “It’s so amazing to hear about the Somali clans and their oral tradition. I recognise almost all of it.” And then she began to yoik. The woman belonged to the Swedish indigenous people, the Sami, and yoik is their traditional form of song. A nomadic people. A clan-based people (‘sogaid’ is one of several words for the extended Sami family) with a strong colloquial tradition. A people intimately one with nature who cherish their culture and traditions.

But of our own indigenous people we are blissfully ignorant. We have lived under a state for so many centuries that we no longer understand. We find it difficult to interpret and understand people with other experiences than our own. Swedes are individualists, secularised, disconnected and foreign, not only to others but to each other. In our arrogance, being one with the state, we think we are normal. The norm for everything and everyone, and fail to see that it is we who are the odd ones out, we who stick out from both a global as well as historical perspective.

To most Swedes the word clan sounds strange and exotic – not to mention peculiar. From having been dormant for so long the word has sprung up again, mostly used by a younger generation of computer gamers (Clan Wars, Clash of Clans), but also in popular culture in films like Avatar and the dramatisation of Jean M Auel’s The Clan of the Cave Bear. But outside the romanticised world of computer games and films, clan stands for something much deeper and indigenous. Clan is, and always has been, a fundamental part of human history.

Many of the world’s communities are ruled by a clan system. In places like Yemen, Afghanistan, Libya and Sudan, the clan system is the unquestionable organisational form of society. The clan system also lives on in Central Asia, the Caucasus, the Middle East and Africa. Even in relatively well-developed democracies such as India, Taiwan and the Philippines, the clan system still plays a significant role. It impacts people’s daily lives, their values and worldly views. The degree of clan influence varies between different countries and communities. Egypt and China are countries that are partly characterised by a clan system. In Libya and Somalia, the clan system permeates everything.

Sweden was once a clan society (dynasties). Norway, Denmark, England, Germany and Italy likewise. Scotland was one of the last western countries to abandon the clan system. It was in 1745 after the English had crushed the clan system with the brutal ethnic cleansing of the highland clans. It has been so long since Europe (with the exception of southern Italy and Albania) left the clan system – in Sweden it was during a drawn-out process between the 14th and 17th centuries – that we have lost the ability to understand what it is and what it entails. So much so that we find some international political events difficult to comprehend and are unable to adequately provide for immigrants from clan-based societies. Basically, all asylum seekers in Sweden come from strong clan societies.

Clan is the preliminary stage of a state-run society and is primarily based on blood ties. When there is no state whatsoever (Somalia), or when there is one but highly untrustworthy (Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan), people are forced to seek security elsewhere. Humanity has a strong tendency to seek security, protection and identity through blood ties. The saying blood is thicker than water should not be taken lightly. People in clan communities can often rattle off their ancestors 10, 20, 30 generations back in time. A common ancestor, real or fictitious, unites groups of people in societies that are either stateless or where people do not trust the state.

Clan communities automatically become collectivistic. In such societies, the desires of the individual take second place to the family, the clan and the collective. Judicially, clan societies do not judge individuals. They judge collectively. In clan societies, the offender is not punished. Clan law in its most pronounced form is based on compensation. If somebody kills another person, the killer’s clan must compensate the victim’s family. If for some reason the killer’s clan refuses, the victim’s family is entitled to claim blood vengeance. A life for a life, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. This means that as a member of a clan you are an inseparable and tangible part of a larger “we”.

On the values scale, clan societies are conservative – particularly regarding gender roles, child-rearing and sexuality.

It is in clan societies that honour culture arises. Honour does not stem from religion. As already mentioned, clan societies put bloodlines first. A new-born child must be able to enter the family line. It is not only the man who has to be certain that the child is his. This is an issue for the whole family and the reason for the huge fixation on the woman’s sexuality and virginity.

Another common feature of clan communities is the oral tradition. Stories with a moral to them, wisdom and proverbs, are handed down by word of mouth from one generation to the next. In cultures with an oral tradition, the spoken word weighs heavier than the written word. Going from an oral tradition to an extreme ‘paper society’ like Sweden has done is guaranteed to meet obstacles along the way. It usually takes time for oral language to take psychological command over the written word.

Some time ago I published a book entitled Between Clan and State – Somalis in Sweden. In it I show what it means to move from a clan-based society, with no experience of bureaucracy, public authorities and institutions, to a strong state like Sweden. I write about the initial difficulty of navigating among government authorities and the risk involved in not daring to extend trust from the structures of the clan community to something as abstract as a state. I write that it takes time for clan-based people to put their trust in systems intended for everyone, not just for certain groups in society. People from clan communities also find it difficult to understand that laws can extend into what they consider to be their private sphere, particularly regarding child-rearing, gender roles and sexuality.

For too long, we in Sweden have been oblivious to our own social system and the ones that many immigrants come from. We are not even aware of our own indigenous Sami people. For example, how many people know that Sami has far more words than Swedish to describe family relationships? In stateless societies, or societies with weak or corrupt states, the family is far more important than in a state-run society like Sweden. This we must learn so that we can meet and understand immigrants – as well as our own indigenous population.

Per Brinkemo is a journalist and the author of Between Clan and State – Somalis in Sweden, and Dumped, about an abandoned Somali boy.