Courage makes a stand

“It is our choices, Harry, that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”  J:K. Rowling in Harry Potter and The chamber of Secrets.

There aren’t that many people I admire, but I have a few in different fields. There are two Norwegian contemporary painters on my list. They are both known internationally, but not as much acknowledged for their work in Norway. That’s because modern art is the only game in town if you want acceptance. What infuriates the critics the most might be the fact that these two painters are very independent. They even have the audacity to refute the criticism. You don’t do that without paying a price.

Vebjørn Sand is the best known figurative painter in Norway and he has a way of creating big headlines. Most of the time he’s not doing anything. Painting the way he does for some reason seems to make posh people crazy. He also paints portraits and he has done jobs for two of the richest families in Norway. In both cases they got upset when he also painted variations of the same theme, like classic painters also did. He said in an interview that he would never concider painting something he could never show.

He moved to the USA 15 years ago. That was partly to get some more education in anatomy and painting portraits, and partly because he was tired of constantly being opposed and criticised in Norway. I am sorry to say this is a recurring theme in Norway. My small country isn’t the brightest star on the sky, but it has made some useful contribution to the world. When I was growing up I was a big fan of Thor Heyerdal. He had an amazing life, and although he did receive some recognition, he was mostly ridiculed in Norway. He’s just one of many Norwegians that have been told that they had no business thinking they were better than the rest of us.

I used to think that our constitutional monarchy with a dash of socialism was the best mix compared to what else is available in the world today. In a way it is because everyone is better off than ever before, but it’s also a very difficult society. The reason for that is the law of Jante, which appeared in the novel A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks (1933) by the Danish-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose.

Jealousy is very strong in Norway and I think this has grown out of the equality idea. The socialists did a good job in increasing the standard of living for everyone. It was pretty good in 1969 too, but when the government discovered oil that year, everything changed. There were more and more people that stuck out. There’s an old expression that seems to fit us Norwegians, to act like peasants in town. I think provincial would be an accurate translation. I think the only solution is to accept some inequality. That doesn’t mean that the top 1 % need to own more wealth than the bottom 90 %, or something like that, but the idea that no one should make more, have more success or be more popular than their neighbours is not going to develop our country. I believe we need some inequality, some winners. We need competition and innovation in the future; not oil.  I have always assumed that the socialist influence wouldn’t harm us because we are democratic and there is no restriction on how much money we can make. I’m not sure about that or where this restrictive jealousy comes from, but I do hope we manage to overcome this problem long before we run out of oil.

Vebjørn Sand has been working on a fascinating project recently. He has painted people in Germany that made a stand against the Nazis during World War 2. One of them was Traute Lafrenz who was a member of a student protest group called The White Rose. They mostly wrote and distributed flyers and Traute was the only one that survived. The rest of them were executed, but Traute artfully deceived the man interrogating her.

This is a video about The White Rose. I’m not sure who the narrator is, but if I have understood this correctly it was written by someone listening to news from London. Incidentally, radios were banned in Norway during the war because the Nazis knew that the Norwegian government broadcasted news from London, as well as messages to the underground army. Nevertheless there were many Norwegians listenning. I suppose the whole continent was listening to news from London.

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5 thoughts on “Courage makes a stand

  1. Is the truth any less true said by anonymous?

    Take for instance a building scheduled for demolition. Yet some want to continue to live there, to fix it up, instead of letting it be torn down so a new building can be erected.

    It’s an unpopular truth to say that the market system supplied arms to both the Axis and the Allies. In the US, the situation is remains where corporations contribute to both major market parties (socialists/democrats and libertarians/republicans). It’s called the “Iron Triangle” where lobbyists, special interests, and bureaucrats are the defacto governing power. The parties cycle, “elected” officials are replaced, but the governing power remains. Everything else is an illusion of change/progress.

    I recall when Schlumberger acquired controlling interest in Western Geophysical (global oil explorations), and formed the corporation Western GECO. The 10+ story headquarters building in Houston was closed and consolidated instead in Norway. I’d worked with international crews and a few like a ship’s engineer from Norway. What actually happened was that the vast repository of global undersea and underground oil and gas survey data was shifted to Norwegian / EU control. I left when they wanted me to work two 6 week crews back-to-back in Venezuela. The minimum work day was 12 hours, with no days off.

    So yes Norway is part of the global oil power. Hence the connections with Texas and Venezuela. And with what used to be the mideast oil cartels. More recently the geopolitics that moved the Saudis to lower oil prices so much (such that new competition closed down) says far more about how the wealthy corner markets than about any Sunni Shia fratricides. With of course the US and Russians backing the various sides to keep their economies (arms sales & oil consumption) circulating at high volume. The higher the circulation, the more the leeches/1%’rs feed.

    I’m no fan of the merchant system that will be destroyed as in Revelation 18 — a system that sells souls along with luxuries. The truth today is not about events from 100 years ago. Though I’d likely agree that the nazies infiltrated the core of the NSA, NASA, etc. in the US, and the Vatican and Interpol in the EU. The power behind the various factions remains the market system, and what is rapidly giving rise to the 666 system. Those seeds were planted long ago. I’ve no illusion (or delusion) that any marxist variant is better, where a party controls the production and distribution of merchandise. That’s not a popular truth. Both are merchandising systems.

    For those that compare history, current events, and prophecy — empires are never really replaced — they just morph into something seemingly more tolerable for a time. I’m not saying that continues forever. More like… it’s futile to be a Dietrich Bonhoeffer and think that “renovating a building scheduled for destruction” makes any lasting difference. The old building remains even with a new face… along with all that hidden rot in the old walls and pipes and sewers.

    Meanwhile… a tsunami is coming. The disintegration of the communist party system in China follows the shift of manufacturing to lower cost India and the collapse of consumerism in the US and EU. When that major eco-quake comes, much as with the soviets, the loss of centralized control in china will likely unleash a flood upon the world — longing to be free to compete in unfettered markets. 50 more competing with you for jobs, benefits, and housing.

    (copy all but leading squiggle to browser to see news story)
    ~http://www.wsj.com/articles/immigrants-to-u-s-from-china-top-those-from-mexico-1430699284

  2. There is wisdom in the Rowling quote.

    My son was fascinated by Heyerdal’s account of his Kon-tiki expedition. It’s too bad his genius was not better appreciated by his countrymen.

    From this angle, I’d say that Norway isn’t unique with regard to the tendency of citizens to envy one another. For many people, the idea that someone else might have a smarter brain or greater talent or higher income or nicer house is a constant torment. And the fact that a very few individuals are obscenely wealthy is viewed as intolerable.

    Given an opportunity, some people will go to incredibly evil lengths to try to make everything “fair”.

    A friend once loaned me her copy of Jung Chang’s Wild Swans, which included a description of how class envy played a significant role in the rise of communism in China. It was very sad to read how eager were many in the lower levels of society to deceitfully betray neighbors and co-workers as a means to grab for possessions or recognition they thought they deserved 😦

  3. Heather,

    I don’t dispute your comments about the class envy in China. But prior to the seeds of Communism being sown into the hearts and minds of Chinese people, there were HUGE disparities of wealth in China. There were basically the “nobility” and the “peasants.” China was a feudalistic society. As the standard of living for larger numbers of people rose around the world, and the middle class developed in other countries, the inequities in China grew. The peasants were impoverished, starving people. Because of the feudalistic nature of the culture, there were restrictions in place to lock people into their socioeconomic status so that they could never advance financially, and never be truly independent. Of course, this begin to breed resentment and eventually rage, as it naturally would when you have people who are starving and living under tyranny while their overlords profit from the fruit of the peasants’ labor and live in luxary. Of course, greed and envy play a role, both for those at the top and those at the bottom. As the peasants in China realized society was changing in other countries and feudalism going by the wayside in those other countries, they became more restless.

    Enter the Communists at this juncture to offer the “remedy” of Communism. And so in a simplistic nutshell, the peasants revolted, killed the overlords, and a few of the former peasants became the new overlords, and established a more “modern” feudalism called Communism. As the song goes, “Meet the new boss; same as the old boss.” Next the Hegalian dialectic dictates that Capitalism (thesis) wars with Communism (antithesis) to then synthesize to create Corporatism. I guess the next level of tyranny is something called “technocracy,” which is the Frankenstein monster offspring of Corporatism.

    1. Jay,

      Yes. I agree with your thought. Tragically, the revolution didn’t fix a thing. Society was upended, many peasants became aggressors rather than innocent victims…and suffering continued. And millions more peasants starved under the communist regime they helped to establish 😦
      You’d probably find Jung Chang’s book interesting, as it spans three generations of her family’s history, beginning with her grandmother’s pre-communist feudalistic experience.

  4. Heather,

    I will have to check that book out. I haven’t read it, though I have read many biographies of people who came through the Cultural Revolution. One of the things I found tragically ironic was how for so many peasants in China, there was absolutely NO improvement in their lives under Communism. Instead of turning over almost their entire crops to the nobility, they turned it over to the Party, instead. And thanks to “central planning,” they were not even able to utilize their own common sense and farming knowledge to find “loopholes” in the system as they had before.

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