Trouble in Paradise 1

Norway is the best country in the world to live in. The UN have stated that and many newspapers across the globe have described my country as the closest thing we have to utopia. I love my country and I agree that there are many good things about it, but there are also problems in this paradise. I’m going to focus on that in this series.

The world came to my hometown Haugesund, in a way, in 1971 and 1972. The good citizens of this small town in Norway was brutally confronted with the reality outside in early 70’s. Most people who have grown up in Haugesund have probably heard about the Folkrock and Poetry Festival. I left my hometown 13 years ago and haven’t followed the cultural scene very closely since then. I was therefore surprised when I discovered a few days ago that this festival had been restarted 3 years ago, but this time on a small scale.

It was probably a bit overwhelming and disgusting for the respectable residents when the town was invaded by radical youths, undoubtedly inspired by Woodstock and the U.S. protests against the Vietnam War. All of a sudden over 12,000 youths gathered downtown in this town with a population of 30 000. It has been said that drugs came to Haugesund during these days when the country was preparing for EU referendum. These young, longhaired men and women also drank large amounts of alcohol, and it was so bad that the festival organizers asked the mayor to halt beer sales in Haugesund.

The american singer Loudin Wainwright III wasn’t booked for the festival, but he turned up unexpectedly, and of course they let him perform. This is from his album History from 1992:


The latter of the two festivals in the 70’s had an interesting slogan: “The power to destroy, the ability to create.” I think this slogan fits to most of society, and much of what I’ve blogged about in the past.

We live in a society with a high pressure to conform and act alike. We like to believe that everyone is equal in Norway, and everyone has the same opportunities. That has probably never been true, but maybe less true today than ever. The year when people like Ole Paus, Lillebjørn Nilsen, Finn Kalvik and Jan Eggum (famous radical singers that had just started their careers in early 70’s) helped create a small Woodstock in a Norwegian town, the low rises in Ramsdalen had been completed. My family was among the first to move in. It was a step up from the “the projects” (it was a Norwegian version of the projects, but not as bad). We were known as “the block kids” (we lived in a block of flats) and had a lower status than those who grew up in the houses surrounding these low rises, but that was about to change.

The generation before us had probably experienced more poverty and hunger than we did. We clung to this apartment on one unskilled manufacturer worker’s income. We were poor, but we still had a good time. The adults had to sacrifice a lot, though. I have heard some say that the class journey many have experienced will stop. Many young people today will find that they do worse than the previous generation. It has a lot to do with housing prices. I often ponder on what it takes to get today’s youth as well as parents, to protest. In the 60’s and 70’s music was inspiring and unifying, and to Americans no song did the job better than Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A-Changing.

I haven’t payed attention to what the youth of today are listening to, but had a quick listen to Spotify 100 Songs. One of the first of these 100 songs was Jason Derulo and Snoop Dogg raising the following questions in Wiggle:

Do you know what to do with your big, fat butt?

It’s not quite in the same spirit. The folkrock and poetry festival also has a different focus today, and among the artists who performed at this year’s festival were Anne Grete Preus and Mari Boine (among the most respected singers today) . The program also included a carpentry workshop for children with a guy who is doing these types of programs on a childrens TV-channel.

We’ve had a debate in Norway about whether or not children are harmed by not going away on holiday. Whoever started this debate clearly missed the target because many people can’t afford holidays these days. Besides, a holiday is hardly the biggest challenge Norwegian children face in our society today. Among other major discussions have been doctors right to let a colleague do a certain job (GPs do not have it, while hospital doctors can opt out, used in connection with abortion), whether we should use lifejackets at sea or not, the madness of Oslo wanting to host a sporting event that all other applicants believe is too expensive (the olympics), child welfare and the fact that it may take years to get the kids back even though there never was any basis to take the kids.

These are all symptoms, signs of a disease. We live in a sick society. I still believe in Norway. I do not think there are many other countries that have a greater opportunity to create something amazing, but will we manage it? Do we have an equal power to destroy? Maybe it’s destructive that we are doing well, but want more. Then the society we have may actually be lost. It’s not enough to have a good time. We want the same as the others. It’s never going to be perfect, because perfection doesn’t exist, but that won’t stop us from trying. I am not convinced that full equality is realistic.

Radicalism is currently equated with terrorism. I remember a lecture when I studied theology in the mid 90s. The lecturer became a professor later, but he was studying youth culture at the time. He talked about P for power. P was the evil forces in society, like the one that influences youth to destructive behavior. He was not talking necessarily about religion, but in general about the forces that govern society.

There seems no doubt that there is a minority of the good forces. Is it at all possible to create the desire for change that many had in the 60’s and 70’s? The changes Bob Dylan sang about is still happening. That will continue no matter how I feel about it, but it is tempting not to support much of what is happening today.

Maybe my voice doesn’t matter that much, but I still want to try hard to make my voice evident. That’s something I want the next generation to see. It’s all about the attitude I want my daughter to learn.

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