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Headbanger's dole

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Thursday, Nov 8, 2007

A few weeks ago the Financial Times directed its pale-peach gaze at a problem that may be widely undiagnosed in America. Under the dry headline of “Swedes face scrutiny as welfare net starts to fray” comes the story of Roger Tullgren, an unfortunate sufferer of an addiction all too familiar to anyone who was in high school in the 1980s:


To say Roger Tullgren likes heavy metal would be an understatement. The committed headbanger used to take time off work whether his boss liked it or not, to go to gigs; he also listened to music the entire time he was at work. “My friends used to ask me to say anything – just one thing – that was not to do with heavy metal, and I couldn’t,” he admitted.
The situation got so bad that, with the backing of his boss, he consulted a psychologist who concluded that Mr Tullgren was not just an ardent rock fan but was in fact addicted to heavy metal – and signed an official diagnosis stating as much.


At one of my first jobs, at a market-research firm of all places, I worked with someone like this. He used to smoke weed in the parking lot and try to carve “Slayer” into his arm with an unfolded paper clip while we made our phone calls to unsuspecting households and asked anyone who answered their opinions about cat litter. (Most were for it.) Anytime he wasn’t talking about cat litter to strangers, he was listening to metal, and when he deigned to speak to co-workers, it was about metal. It never occurred to me that he was suffering inside. In Sweden, apparently, he would have had somewhere to turn:


as Mr Tullgren was suffering from a medical problem, he qualified for income support.
The government now pays 20 per cent of his salary and he is permitted to listen to heavy metal at work and go to any gigs he likes, as long as he makes up the time later. “For me, it’s great,” said the genial and tattooed rocker.


The article plays it straight, but presumably we are supposed to be outraged by this and chalk it up to the inevitable abuses built into any social welfare program—eventually, as conservatives argue, the logic of entitlement programs leads to untenable situations like this, where one can claim any kind of absurd preference as a grievance that state is expected to address and ameliorate. People like Tullgren are exceedingly useful to demagogues, and that probably goes a long way toward assuring that people such as him continue to lurk within the social safety net. It tends to be the enemies of a system


On a related note, it was startling to see that the New York Times has jumped on the Black Metal bandwagon with a piece about Norwegian band Enslaved. Have they no consideration for poor souls like Tullgren, who literally are enslaved?

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