The Order of the Teaspoon was launched on the 17th of August 2006, in Stockholm, Sweden, in the presence of its spiritual originator, Amos Oz. The Order’s motto is “For tolerance, against fanaticism” and was inspired by the following words from Oz’s book “How to Cure a Fanatic”:
I believe that if one person is watching a huge calamity, let’s say a conflagration, a fire, there are always three principle options.
1. Run away, as far away and as fast as you can and let those who cannot run burn.
2. Write a very angry letter to the editor of your paper demanding that the responsible people be removed from office with disgrace. Or, for that matter, launch a demonstration.
3. Bring a bucket of water and throw it on the fire, and if you don’t have a bucket, bring a glass, and if you don’t have a glass, use a teaspoon, everyone has a teaspoon. And yes, I know a teaspoon is little and the fire is huge but there are millions of us and each one of us has a teaspoon. Now I would like to establish the Order of the Teaspoon. People who share my attitude, not the run away attitude, or the letter attitude, but the teaspoon attitude – I would like them to walk around wearing a little teaspoon on the lapel of their jackets, so that we know that we are in the same movement, in the same brotherhood, in the same order, The Order of the Teaspoon.
Swedes now wear miniature teaspoons on their lapels or around their necks to denote their membership in the same brotherhood as Amos Oz. Of the cost of the teaspoon, around 40 Euros, half goes to manufacturing the spoon (in real silver, created by well-known designer Lo Pettersson), and the other half goes to a fund that gives annual grants to projects and people who contribute to society in the spirit of the Order: For tolerance, against fanaticism.
The Order of the Teaspoon is the result of cooperation between Amos Oz, Swedish publisher Wahlström & Widstrand and the magazine Vi (founded in 1913 and owned by the Swedish cooperative movement). The magazine reported on the idea, published a long interview with Amos Oz, and distributed a free-of-charge Swedish translation of “How to Cure a Fanatic” to all its 40,000 subscribers.
The first big project of the Order was realised in the early Autumn of 2007 when the Swedish version of “How to Cure a Fanatic” – together with a specially prepared teacher’s guide – was distributed, free of charge, to all senior high school 2nd graders (17-18 years old) in Sweden – some 150,000 of them! An audio book was also produced, with a popular young Swedish actor reading the text. All this was made possible with the voluntary and enthusiastic support of several organisations and institutions. The initiative received a lot of attention in the Swedish media, not least because Amos Oz himself was in Sweden on the first day of distribution and was present at a Stockholm school when students opened their parcels containing the books.
This project has been most appreciated by both teachers and pupils. And because of the positive feed back another 150,000 2nd graders received the book during each of the years 2008 – 2011. More than 600 000 Swedish students will have been introduced to Amos’ book.
Each year since 2008, two who have helped in one way or another to put out the flames of fanaticism and kept the torch of tolerance burning are awarded with grants.
“We on the Blanket”, a group of young people who for the last few years have organized a picnic in a park in Gothenburg (Sweden’s second largest city), based on the idea that food and music will bring people from all walks of life and nationalities closer together was one of the Grants winners of the year of 2009. The five young persons who started the picnic in 2005 did this as a reaction when a girl with a veil was beaten to the ground by some boys at their school – and because they felt that the adult world, including school authorities, acted too meekly afterwards. The purpose of the picnic festival is to promote equality, tolerance and solidarity. In June 2009 more than 6 000 attended!
The projects that The Order of the Teaspoon run or plan to run have a strong emphasis on reaching young people. The number of reported so called hate crimes is increasing rapidly. The majority of those suspected of committing such crimes are young people, often under twenty years of age.
The Order is now considering various ways to initiate discussions on the subject – tolerance versus fanaticism – among different age levels. Part of the plan is to launch during the years 2011 – 2012 a new project aimed at 4th graders (10 year olds) around the country. The idea being that a seventeen year old who has been thinking and talking about the meaning of words like “human dignity” and “respect” and “tolerance” at an early age is less likely to adopt intolerant attitudes than one who has not.
The Order, legally a foundation, is overseen by a prestigious board of which Amos Oz is an honorary member.
If you would like to support the Order of the Teaspoon, you can buy a teaspoon pin to put on your dress/jacket/tie. The Order also offers the spoon as a necklace and earrings. If you are interested in purchasing a Teaspoon please fill out the order form here.
You can also contribute to the Order of the Teaspoon by a direct payment to its account, plusgiro number 40 89 48 -8. If you are outside of Sweden please use:
IBAN (International Bank Account Number): SE53 9500 0099 6026 0894 1031.
BIC (Bank International Code): NDEASESS