"And in a strange sort of way, it was oil money and easy living that set the scene for the bloody drama that brought thousands of immigrants from Iraq, Somalia and Pakistan to Norway's shores. And it was this migration, sometimes motivated by the search for cheap labour and sometimes by do-gooderism, that led 20 per cent of the Norwegian electorate to vote for the right-wing Progress Party last election.
And so bad things can happen to a people blessed and cursed with oil. Arrogance can blind a people, too. And affluence is no defence against extremism. Nor is petroleum any guarantor of anything other than greater complexity and vulnerability."
This is a tale of how culture, health, community, and values are destroyed by the hunger for money......
27 Jul 2011
• Geography, scarcity and then oil, have defined the Norwegian ethic.
• Norway Nightmare Sounds Alarm Bells in Europe
I grew up in a Nordic household and I am a Son of Norway. So when I learned of the bombing in Oslo and the massacre of young Norwegians, a part of me felt as numb as frostbite. Horror does that to a parent: it freezes the soul.
I also immediately knew that only a Norwegian could be the author of something so dark and cold. And Steig Larson, the Swedish journalist and thriller writer, would have known it too, if he still lived. He understood how comfort and self-satisfaction can write bloody disasters and spawn Nordic monsters.
Now everyone has heard the cliché: Norway is a small and peaceful country inhabited by a generous people with Lutheran reading habits and a sense of humor that could, as the Swedes say, benefit from a massive dose of Vitamin D therapy. It's the sort of treed place where people pay big taxes so that everyone can live well. Or at least not suffer much.
It is also a small nation (five million people) both blessed and cursed by oil. In 1969 the discovery of large offshore reserves dramatically changed Norway's fortunes and character. Despite the best of intentions and some of the world's most thoughtful public policy, petro dollars bedeviled and softened the place as only oil can do.
And in a strange sort of way, it was oil money and easy living that set the scene for the bloody drama that brought thousands of immigrants from Iraq, Somalia and Pakistan to Norway's shores. And it was this migration, sometimes motivated by the search for cheap labour and sometimes by do-gooderism, that led 20 per cent of the Norwegian electorate to vote for the right-wing Progress Party last election. And it was these very developments that ultimately served as an excuse for the fatherless and affluent video-game player Anders Breivik, a member of the Progress Party and a climate change denier to boot, to behave like some berserker. (Berserkers, "tasters of blood," were Viking warriors who fought combatants or slaughtered innocents in a trance-like state.)
Now before oil, Norway was a nation of hardy sardine canners, ship builders, and small farmers. It also made a creative impression on the world. It nurtured Edvard Greig one of the world's finest composer, Knut Hamsen, the father of the modern novel, and Henrik Ibsen, perhaps the best playwright since Shakespeare. You can't walk down the main street of Oslo without stepping on Ibsen quotes embedded in the pavement. (Ibsen famously noted that a man can't wear good pants when fighting for the truth.)
After oil, Norway lost much of its creativity but still produced some remarkable petroleum critics. Gro Harlem Bruntland, Norway's first female prime minister and one of Brievik's targets (she left the island one hour before the killing began) gave the world a bold recipe for sustainable development that unfortunately became a global chorus for business as usual. It also fathered Arne Naess, the mountaineering green philosopher who argued that humans don't have the right to reduce the world's biological diversity.