Friday, July 29, 2011

"Jante laws" and terrorism in Norway

Jante laws (pron. YAN-teh) are a typically Scandinavian code of behavior, from a Danish novel but widely recognized in all the Scandinavia countries ... here's what Wikipedia says: "The Danish-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose in his novel A fugitive crosses his tracks (En flyktning krysser sitt spor, 1933, English translation published in the USA in 1936) identified the Jante Law as a series of rules. Sandemose's novel portrays the small Danish town Jante (modelled upon his native town Nykøbing Mors as it was at the beginning of the 20th century, but typical of all small towns and communities), where nobody is anonymous." The Jante laws are also in force, naturally, in Lake Wobegon. Small towns everywhere, I suspect.

Snippets from July 28 article "In Norway, Consensus Cuts 2 Ways" by Steven Erlanger and Michael Schwirtz in the New York Times, which quotes the Jante laws rather perceptively ...
“When you are confronted with multicultural immigration, something happens,” said Grete Brochmann, a sociologist at the University of Oslo. “That’s the core of the matter right now, and it’s a great challenge to the Norwegian model.”

Norway’s leaders, from the royal family on down, have all praised the country’s solidarity, democracy, equality and tolerance, and all vow that these values will not change. Virtuous, peaceful, generous, consensual — this is the Norwegian self-image, aided by the oil wealth that props up one of the most comprehensive social welfare systems in the world.


For all its virtues, the emphasis on consensus here can also promote small-mindedness, smugness and political correctness. That is especially true when newcomers have different notions on certain values, including gender equality and secularism, even in an officially Christian country, that Norwegians hold dear.

“We’re a lucky society for many reasons, and not just oil,” said Ms. Brochmann, citing Norway’s distance from both the euro and the American financial crisis and its strong and transparent democracy.

“But many of these aspects of this consensus society have another side,” she said. “This is also a society of conformism,” she said, citing the “Janteloven,” or Jante law, based on small-town Scandinavian norms that govern group behavior, promoting collectivism and discouraging individual initiative and ambition in a world where no one is anonymous.
Text of Jante laws below, in Danish and English, courtesy of my cousin Lise in Copenhagen:

1. Du skal ikke tro, at du er noget.
2. Du skal ikke tro, at du er lige så meget som os.
3. Du skal ikke tro, at du er klogere end os.
4. Du skal ikke bilde dig ind, at du er bedre end os.
5. Du skal ikke tro, at du ved mere end os.
6. Du skal ikke tro, at du er mere end os.
7. Du skal ikke tro, at du duer til noget.
8. Du skal ikke le ad os.
9. Du skal ikke tro, at nogen bryder sig om dig.
10. Du skal ikke tro, at du kan lære os noget.

Jante law

1. Do not think that you are something.
2. Do not think that you are equal to us.
3. Do not think that you are smarter than us.
4. Do not delude yourself into thinking that you're better than us.
5. Do not think that you know more than us.
6. Do not think that you are more than us.
7. Do not believe you are worth something.
8. You must not laugh at us.
9. Do not think that anybody cares about you.

10. Do not think you can teach us something.

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