Sunday, August 07, 2005

Norwegians - Indigenous People in Norway?

The Sami people were, before the recent waves of immigration, the most significant ethnic minority in Scandinavia. They inhabit parts of northern Norway, Sweden, Finland and northwestern Russia, the region sometimes called Lapland. In the 1980s, they were granted a Constitutional right to preserve their culture in Norway. Earlier this year the Norwegian parliament, Stortinget, passed a law that went further than that, granting the Sami people special property rights in the northernmost province of Finmmark, over that of Norwegian citizens of non-Sami origin. Carl I. Hagen, leader of the right-wing Progress Party, has argued that the law is racist, in effect creating an apartheid regime in Finnmark. I tend to agree with him. What's more interesting is that the parliament this spring also passed, with the support of all parties except the Progress Party, a new Discrimination Act saying in pretty clear words that in cases of suspected direct or indirect discrimination due to religion or ethnicity, Norwegians are guilty until proven otherwise. In other words, if any Somali or Pakistani claims that I have discriminated against him, I have to bend over backwards to prove my innocence. In the same year as Norway celebrates 100 years as an independent nation, my leaders make me de facto a second-rate citizen of my own country.

My first thought about the law regarding Finnmark is that it should be repealed. It sets a very dangerous precedent to give a special legal status to a particular ethnic group, at a time when this country is rapidly becoming the home of people from all around the world. It is the road to Balkanization, and yet another indication that our leaders have completely lost their grip on reality. Groups don't have rights. Only individuals do.

On the other hand: When I look at how this country is, I notice that everybody should "keep their culture". Everybody except me, that is. If you ask people how native Norwegians are supposed to keep our culture when we may soon be a minority in our own country, many quickly reply that "there is no such thing as Norwegian culture". We eat Italian pasta and Chinese food and are otherwise "Americanized", which is of course bad. This is exactly the same reply you will get in Sweden, even more vehemently. So, everybody is supposed to keep their culture, except people of European origins? Is that it? All cultures are equal, but some are more equal than others? Why is colonialism always bad, but not when my country, which has no colonial history, gets colonized by Muslims?

The special status granted to the Sami people is based on the logic behind the UN Convention concerning Indigenous Peoples. The interesting question, which nobody in our intellectual establishment has asked, is what legal ramifications this law has for the rest of Norway. If the Sami people can be given status as indigenous people in the northernmost regions of Norway, why can't Norwegians be given the same status in the rest of the country? After all, we have stayed here for centuries, probably even for thousands of years. And we belong to a small "tribe" of only 4 million people, a drop in the sea of humanity. Again, I am as a matter of principle skeptical of granting rights to groups within a country. But it is an intriguing question. I have no illusions about the UN, but I find it difficult to see how our politicians could deny us this when they just gave it to others.

A multicultural society implies that all cultures are granted equal status. Isn't it then by definition an encroachment on the rights of the native population if they have to subdue their cultural identity to please people who just moved there out of their own, free will? In Norway, our authorities seem to solve this dilemma by simply stating that this is a terra nullis, a land without people or at least a land without culture. The rights of the Norwegian people don't count because the Norwegian people doesn't exist. Perhaps the time has come to challenge this assertion?


At August 07, 2005 7:10 PM, Blogger sissyblue said...

It is a strange phenomina, but the "left" seems to idealize "the Noble Savage", thinking that anything non-western is good and anything western is bad. Yet they are a product of the west, so it's sort of self-loathing I guess. I'm not a psychologist, but maybe they hate themselves subconsciously, and this is how it manifests itself.

At August 07, 2005 7:34 PM, Blogger linearthinker said...

[...many quickly reply that "there is no such thing as Norwegian culture". ]

They should take a holiday in Minnesota. And the Swedes who doubt their culture can vacation in Rockford, Illinois. Lutefisk used to be a hot item there at Christmas time.

Whose culture inspired those magnificent statues in the city park in Oslo?

Does your Constitution facilitate repeal of such PC nonsense when the populace awakens? I hope so. You had a wonderful country.

At August 07, 2005 7:50 PM, Blogger Netr said...

Learned a lot here. Thanks for the info:-)

I have new york style cheesecake recipe and you are welcome to visit.

At August 07, 2005 9:49 PM, Blogger Jessica said...

Hei. Interesting post.

At August 07, 2005 10:59 PM, Blogger nouille said...

This article reminds me of a time when I lived in Belgium.

Abu Jahjah, who was born in Lebanon, Is an inflamatory subject w/ Belgian citizenship who called for Arabic to be recognised as a fourth official language in Belgium, after French, Dutch and German.

Europe is so ashamed of all that is "western" and will lose it's identity to please foreigners in it's own land.
How long before Ibrahim becomes a common Scandanavian name?

These people are not stupid, they know the system can be exploited to work in their favour,whilst the countries they hail from(Saudi arabia,Iran,Algeria) would rather die by the sword than recognise European or westerners rights in their country

At August 07, 2005 11:44 PM, Blogger erp said...

fjordman, If your fellow Norwegians don't appreciate you, come on over to this side of the pond.

We always have room for people like you.

At August 08, 2005 4:24 AM, Blogger a said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

At August 08, 2005 4:29 PM, Blogger Evan said...

Groups don't have rights. Only individuals do.

Mario Vargas Llosa in an essay entitled The Culture of Liberty has expressed this point very compellingly:

The notion of "cultural identity" is dangerous. From a social point of view, it represents merely a doubtful, artificial concept, but from a political perspective it threatens humanity's most precious achievement: freedom. I do not deny that people who speak the same language, were born and live in the same territory, face the same problems, and practice the same religions and customs have common characteristics. But that collective denominator can never fully define each one of them, and it only abolishes or relegates to a disdainful secondary plane the sum of unique attributes and traits that differentiates one member of the group from the others.

The concept of identity, when not employed on an exclusively individual scale, is inherently reductionist and dehumanizing, a collectivist and ideological abstraction of all that is original and creative in the human being, of all that has not been imposed by inheritance, geography, or social pressure.
Rather, true identity springs from the capacity of human beings to resist these influences and counter them with free acts of their own invention.

To assert that "cultures" have rights is really to assert that we will arbitrarily allow some people in a "culture" to impose through force their vision of how to live on everyone else. To say for example that the Iranian culture has a "right" to protect itself from Western cultural poison is really to say that the perhaps utterly unrepresentative minority of people who currently run Iran should be allowed to impose their preferences about the role of women, what people should be allowed to watch on television, etc. on all Iranians.

Inevitably protecting cultural rights means arbitrarily supporting the views of some individuals and opposing those of others. It is no more logical to respect the King of Saudi Arabia if he says that all Saudi women should be prevented from driving than it is to respect a hypothetical Saudi secularist who says that all Saudi women should be required to drive. Either way, in supporting cultural rights one supports some authoritarian vision over another. Only individuals can define their own cultural identities.

At August 08, 2005 6:29 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


The notion of having 6 billion individuals running around with nary a connection to each other and free to do what they wish is patently absurd and by definition, anarchy.


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