Death of a civilization

I have been thinking a lot about traditions lately. The Norwegian government made an amendment to the constitution a few months ago that put an end to state religion. At least in theory, but it remains to be seen if it really will be any different.

Tradition is a ritual, belief or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present, with origins in the past. (Thomas A. Green).

Norway, like many other western countries have changed dramatically in a short time. Many people have rejected religion and I believe they’re fooling themselves when they say that they are no longer religious, because they feel that science has all the answers. I believe in science too, but we have to realize that even scientists have agendas and even scientists sometimes cheat. In one sense science is, although we desperately need it, nothing more than modern religion.

Maybe it’s not a bad idea to have a look at the past while you are still moving forward. Norwegian culture and history is fast becoming something you only find in museums. Even rural Norway is getting a more and more urban lifestyle. It’s like an animal and a habitat you can only find in a zoo.

I went to one of those museums a couple of days ago. The West Telemark Museum has a nice collection of indoor and outdoor exhibitions.

photo of a Norwegian living room from about 1790
This is what the interior of a Norwegian house looked like 200 years ago. This is what brought us to where we are today, but we have broken the link to the past. (cell phone image)

I ask myself, what is going to happen next? This is probably a natural development. All civilizations have declined after a peak. Are we there yet?

On a personal level there’s been some drastic changes in my family as well. Both in my family and in my wife’s family the glue that joined the family together  seems to be gone. Not that we are not doing alright independently, but the fact that relatives aren’t more familiar to us than for example colleagues is rather sad.

picture of figure trolls from the souvenir shop
This is what you expect to find in the museum’s souvenir shop

I believe that our national traditions, what made our countries what they are, is a glue that have been holding these civilizations together. That glue seems to be weak now. My wife, for example,  grew up in the minority African American culture within the majority European American culture, and African American culture is just as old (Europeans began importing slaves into what is now the United States in 1619). The African American community has the same problem that other western communities all over the globe seem to have. The glue is weakened or is missing.  People from other cultures come and expect to find something they don’t have where they fled from. Whether they come from the Middle East, Southeast Asia or Africa they are not discovering the West we westerners think we live in. No, I am not against immigration, but I do believe it’s a bad idea to offer them no alternative tradition or religion.

photo of a solar system model kit from the souvenir shop
This is not what I expected to find in a museum of Norwegian traditions. Maybe a symbol of our confusion?

I am not sure the West is the West anymore. Where are the traditions and values that made us the West? It might sound overly negative, but I don’t think the West is a separate civilization  anymore. The alternative has been lost.

The really tragic thing about this is that we don’t seem to care.

If we hold on strongly to our own traditions while incorporating the best traditions of immigrants, we might create an alternative that will glue both the old and the new into one cohesive society.

It is perhaps the greatest self-deception in history if we think we have already accomplished that.


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