Coded gray.

Wednesday 13 September 2000

Landscape w/rowan

Pic of the day: Well, in all honesty Norway is pretty decorative. At least outside the cities.

Norway vs The World

Ouch! It seems that it was indeed possible to misunderstand my diary this Monday. Where I wrote: "Now in the mind of most Norwegians, a McAfrica would probably mean an empty box. The stereotype here is that Africans do very little except starve and die".

I am not most Norwegians - or an average Norwegian - by almost any way you count them. Most Norwegians read and write Norwegian rather than English whenever the chance is there. Most Norwegians don't read The Economist regularly, and are blissfully unaware that the rest of the world (possibly excluding the Swedes and Danes) consider Nigeria much more important than Norway in most ways. Norway (and probably some neighboring countries) has its internal "monoculture", in which anything related to black Africa is filtered so as to suit the stereotype: The starving black Africans that we can feed to feel good.

This is the reason for my pleasant surprise to find that yes, there was a McAfrica. Obviously the McDonalds corporation, being global, was not clued in on the need to avoid any mention of African food. Or perhaps the young generation of Norwegians also are a bit better informed than we were when we were young. I was well and truly grown up before I understood that Africa is a very varied continent with extremely complex cultures.

OK? Have we got that out of the way now?


In fact, I suspect that all countries consider themselves very important, morally superior and world famous. However, the only three countries I know well enough to say this for sure are:
--The USA, which actually is very important,
--Israel, which is regionally important and which also started off a couple world religions,
--Norway, which is a largely sub-arctic wilderness with the population of a moderately large city.

Despite being approximately as important as the city of Kuala Lumpur, Norway still attempts world domination, most lately by trying to get into the UN security council. Since much of the world does not give a rat's tail about the UN, this could possibly succeed, but I doubt it. And the argument that we're actually paying our dues to the UN (unlike certain other important people) is not likely to impress anyone, since they will logically assume that a country they've never heard of probably doesn't have a very large share of the budget. They are right, of course, but yes we do pay our little part. We also give a larger part of our GNP to developing countries than anyone else ... unless you count investment.

It may sound like I'm not particularly proud of my country. And that's right. I would have been, if my fellow Norsemen were vaguely realistic as to our place in the world. There are certainly some selling points: Lots of pristine wilderness, clean air and water by European standards, low crime rates, the world's second highest income per head, one of the world's highest densities of computers, Internet access, and mobile phones. Norway has a culture of gender equality, as well as religious freedom and tolerance. Our basic education is excellent, and distribution of wealth is more equal than in most democratic nations.

Now if my fellow Norwegians would kindly stop thinking that we're somehow important and inherently superior, it would all be just peachy.


I guess there is this need in most people to belong to some group that is Clearly Superior. Whether it be a nation, a religious group, an ethnic group within a larger nation, a social subgroup, a profession, a club, or just one's family. I vaguely remember C.S.Lewis in his Screwtape Letters saying something like, people think that the forks they had at home were the only real forks. Something like that. I certainly agree with the general sentiment.

I've spent the last several Christmases with my Best Friend and her family. It has been quite comfortable. Having a Best Friend - and friends in general - is good for me, though I don't need lots of them. But the thing that fascinates me, is that these otherwise intelligent people think that their random Christmas traditions are somehow important or at least meaningful. I mean, it's just a random collection of things they are used to. I have imagined what may happen if people from two different families marry. Things may be all nice and cuddly until Christmas - and then the mother of dogfights break out, as one demands that there be fish for dinner whereas the other knows that there must necessarily be meat.

And you wonder why there is still war in the world?

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