“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.