lørdag 29. juni 2013

Who do you think you are?

Generally I am happy and content with my Scandinavian and Northern Norwegian culture, although there are things that I'd be more than happy to throw away. The prime example here is the renowned Jante law. This is a set of rules that describe the ugliest and most ingrained part of Scandi culture. It basically tells the individual to submit to the general consensus and never ever try to stand out or attempt to "be something".

This law looks like this:
  1. You're not to think you are anything special.
  2. You're not to think you are as good as us.
  3. You're not to think you are smarter than us.
  4. You're not to convince yourself that you are better than us.
  5. You're not to think you know more than us.
  6. You're not to think you are more important than us.
  7. You're not to think you are good at anything.
  8. You're not to laugh at us.
  9. You're not to think anyone cares about you.
  10. You're not to think you can teach us anything.

Pretty depressing stuff. The "us" in this law describes the majority of people, the masses. Even though this was written in 1933, the concept of the law is very much alive today. People don't think about the law, but it hides deep within the national psyche. Although I agree with and sometimes like how most Norwegians are humble in their efforts, this Jante culture is easily destructive.

Most of the time I like to think of myself as a person who has thrown this pattern of thought in the trash. Unfortunately, I caught myself in a most unfortunate way yesterday(which is also why I am inspired to write this. I read an article in a local newspaper about two young girls who spent a considerable amount of money on a 9 week trip to South America to mix studying and cultural experienses. Suddenly I found myself thinking thoughts like "What a waste. They could have saved the money and worked while finding out what they really wanted to study. They probably were study loan leeches who had joined many programs before and never decided..." WAIT.

I was "us". Ashamed, I had to admit to myself that I was thinking in the exact pattern of the Jante law. "Who were these girls to brag about their experiense in the news? Who do they think they are?" (See law 1, 4, 6 and 10)

What was the problem, I thought. These girls had said in the article that they loved their trip and had gained so much personcal experiense from it, they were happy. No, I was the problem. More specifically, my thoughts were and they stopped me from being happy for these girls who had an amazing experiense. The more I thought about this, it annoyed me. It looks like I still have more work to do with myself. 

In an earlier post I wrote a little piece on how your thoughts are the beginning of everything. Your thoughts lead to what you say, what you say leads to action, your actions lead to your habits, your habits to your character, and in the end, your character is your fate. Eventually, I intend to rid myself of this silly thought pattern. It all starts in the mind...

3 kommentarer:

  1. The village animal.

  2. Janteloven is a strange beast. It took me a year (perhaps more) to comprehend it, since it is such a foreign concept to Americans.

    A lot of Norwegians deny it exists, but I agree with you that it sits at the very core of society. It's more a societal pressure than anything else and likely one that will never be abated entirely, even if you were to leave Norway. (I believe a large percentage of Norwegians who emigrate do so to get away from Janteloven.)

    To me, the societal pressure is similar to if an American man decided to wear a dress in public. There's nothing saying he cannot do so, nor is there any real reason he shouldn't. However, it is not accepted tradition that men wear dresses and therefore adolescent and adult males generally don't wear dresses except as Halloween costumes. Those who *do* wear dresses are seen as living on the fringe of society or must either cope with ridicule or move to places more tolerant of alternative lifestyles, such as San Francisco.