Lost innocence of the Norwegian model

The murderous attacks by Anders Behring Breivik on July 22 have shocked a nation that prided itself on its collectivist model based on tolerance and egalitarianism. A New York Times report.

Published on 29 July 2011 at 13:20

Nearly all Norwegians of a certain age know where they were when Oddvar Bra suddenly broke his ski pole in the final sprint of a championship ski race in 1982, and Norway had to settle for a tie with the Soviet Union. But the common expression, “Where were you when Bra broke his pole?” has suddenly given way to a darker question — where were you when Anders Behring Breivik was killing Norway’s children?

July 22, the day Mr. Breivik killed at least 76 people, shook a peaceful nation to the core. But for many Norwegians it is also an indelible mark of a country that has evolved away from the monoethnic, egalitarian culture that knew tragedy as a setback in Nordic competition.

Today, more than 11 percent of the population of some 4.9 million were born someplace else — Pakistan, Sweden, Poland, Somalia, Eritrea, Iraq. And the cultural shock of diversity, especially incorporating the growing number of nonwhite Muslims, has already meant the rise of a moderate anti-immigrant party, the Progress Party, to become the second-largest in Norway.

The young people Mr. Breivik shot at a summer camp on the island of Utoya were all Norwegians, but some were the children of immigrants, who have now been memorialized in the country’s greatest modern disaster.

“When you are confronted with multicultural immigration, something happens,” said Grete Brochmann, a sociologist at the University of Oslo. “That’s the core of the matter right now, and it’s a great challenge to the Norwegian model.”

Norway’s leaders, from the royal family on down, have all praised the country’s solidarity, democracy, equality and tolerance, and all vow that these values will not change. Virtuous, peaceful, generous, consensual — this is the Norwegian self-image, aided by the oil wealth that props up one of the most comprehensive social welfare systems in the world.

Einar Forde, a former Labor Party politician, once said: “We are all social democrats.” And a former prime minister, Gro Harlem Brundtland, who was a target of Mr. Breivik’s terror, once remarked: “It is typically Norwegian to be good.”

For all its virtues, the emphasis on consensus here can also promote small-mindedness, smugness and political correctness. That is especially true when newcomers have different notions on certain values, including gender equality and secularism, even in an officially Christian country, that Norwegians hold dear. Read full article in the New York Times

Oil

More than €400 billion for the future

Launched in 1990, the Statens pensjonsfond utland is the sovereign wealth fund that manages Norway’s oil revenues. With more than 400 billion euros in assets, it controls 1% of global equity markets and functions as a “gigantic social insurance fund” for Norways citizens, explains El País. Citing anthropologist Thomas Eriksen, the Spanish daily argues that although it has helped to allay fears about the performance of the economy and labour market, “this great public wealth and the prudence with which it is invested by the state” have not been sufficient to prevent the emergence of “a perception of a cultural threat” to the Norwegian model.

Categories

Are you a news organisation, a business, an association or a foundation? Check out our bespoke editorial and translation services.

Support independent European journalism

European democracy needs independent media. Voxeurop needs you. Join our community!

On the same topic