HRS International

The individual and the collective – a lost battle in this century?

Those of us who are in our forties grew up in the 1970s and 80s as individuals. Which is to say that it never crossed our minds to think that we did not have full control over our own lives and futures . We dreamed about and flirted with love. We dreamed about and flirted with various career options. We were the world – and the world was there for us.

The individual and the collective – a lost battle in this century?By Hege Storhaug, Human Rights Service

Those of us who are in our forties grew up in the 1970s and 80s as individuals. Which is to say that it never crossed our minds to think that we did not have full control over our own lives and futures . We dreamed about and flirted with love. We dreamed about and flirted with various career options. As early as our teens, we dreamed about and made journeys out into the great world. We were the world – and the world was there for us. The overwhelming majority of us had a freedom that, from a historical perspective, was revolutionary. Something has happened, however. Things are going in reverse. More and more citizens of Norway are living in a world that is very different from the one we knew. It is as if love will never be more than a dream. As if the inviolability of the body is for “the others.” It will take a revolution in thought and action to return to the good old days.

Hege Storhaug, HRS

I’ve been on the move. Flekkefjord is one of the pearls of southern Norway, and the approximately 9,000 people who live in that beautiful town tend to be friendly, down-to-earth folks. I was there to give a lecture about immigration and its consequences. Not just financial consequences, but value-related consequences, too. It was the latter that the members of the audience – which consisted mostly of members of the Rotary and Soroptimists clubs – were most intellectually and emotionally engaged with, and they asked plenty of sensible, thoughtful questions, all of which boiled down, essentially, to a single question: what needed to be done to turn things around. How to stop the injustices inflicted upon the children and young people in Norwegian immigrant communities? People care. People become deeply moved when they’re reminded that not everybody in Norway enjoys the kind of freedom that their own kids and grandkids do. At the same time, it’s almost impossible for people to take in what’s happened as a result of immigration, especially the immigration from the Muslim world that began on such a small scale toward the end of the 1960s, only to explode in the 1990s. Norwegian authorities have created a situation in which – when it comes to human worth and individual liberty – we don’t have an A-team and a B-team; we have an A-team and a Z-team. Imagine if, in [the northern Norwegian county of] Nordland, there were girls being ritually mutilated, girls and boys being kept apart from each other after school, and young people who knew that they faced a choice of either being married off or running away from home – a flight that might end in death. How would our authorities in Oslo react to such conditions? By handing out brochures to these kids’ parents? By handing out brochures to these young people about the human rights and freedoms that are set down in our laws? By arranging conferences (and opening them with local folk dances and cultural presentations staged by the locals) at which representatives of various villages were given plenty of time to explain the measures they’d taken to put an end to this or that problem – and that would close with a self-satisfied speech by the minister responsible for such problems in which he or she said: “How wonderfully clever we are! This new action plan will be printed right away. Yes, this is definitely a step in the right direction. We must have meetings like this more often. We’re doing everything we can now to reach our goal of being an inclusive Nordland in a Norway where human rights rule the roost on every hill, along every fjord, and in every village in the country.”
When l myself look back at the book I wrote in 1998, Hellig tvang: Unge norske muslimer om kjærlighet og ekteskap (Holy Force: Young Norwegian Muslims on Love and Marriage), I am powerfully reminded how far I myself have come: recognition after recognition of how deep the conflicts run between our individual-based culture and the collectivism that has migrated here from non-Western countries. It’s a cultural collision of dimensions that our politicians hardly imagined when they gave a green light to mass immigration. It’s only the individuals – the very few – who manage to steer their own ships away from the fleet, out of the collective’s grasp. People who turn their back on their own group and the intense conformism that reigns there, and that is taking root in Norwegian society. Yes, I’m talking about the unnamable: assimilation into Western values. Assimilation: even members of the Progress Party [which handles these issues with a frankness other parties do not] tiptoe apprehensively around the word.

At the end of Hellig tvang I proposed several measures. They reek of good intentions – and naiveté. I suggested the publication of a pamphlet on forced marriage that would help young people learn to stand up for their human right to marry whomever they wished. I envisioned a residential collective for young people who felt forced to break away from their families in order to escape violence and assault. Twelve years ago, in other words, I didn’t understand the power of collectivism. Nor did I I realize what a dramatically high level of immigration we were facing – a development that would further strengthen the power of the collective over the individual.

I told the audience in Flekkefjord about the four-year rule that was agreed upon in Soria Moria 2 [the policy agreement issued by the three parties in Norway’s current coalition government when it took power in 2009]. One of the political achievements of which HRS is proudest is the requirement that one must work and/or study for four years after secondary school in order to be able to bring a spouse into Norway from a country outside the European Economic Area. This requirement represents a revolution in Norwegian political history, and it means that Norway has the second strictest set of laws relating to these matters in all of Europe (only Denmark’s are stricter). But did I feel that by explaining this rule I was giving my audience an honest and candid picture of today’s situation and of what the future may bring? The reader will doubtless know what the answer to this question is. At this point, the four-year rule is kind of like wetting one’s pants – it makes you feel warm for a brief period, then makes you feel even colder. In other words, considerably more powerful measures will be necessary in order to put sufficient limits on marriage integration.

Why? Because our political leaders, over the last 40 years, have let things go much too far. With their eyes wide open, they’ve allowed non-Western cultures to sink their roots deep into the Norwegian earth. Their collectivist cultures have been placed on an equal footing with liberal Western culture – for who are we to think that we had something better to offer, much less to ask anything in return for citizenship and welfare payments? Yes, they say from the podiums, forced marriage and genital mutilation and all those things aren’t good and need to be stopped – and if we talk enough about them, then everything will work out fine in the end.

It’s pleasant when things are quiet. It’s pleasant not to hear the screaming. It’s pleasant not to know. Then we can fantasize and pretend that things actually are going the right way – that all the action plans and adjustments of regulations and laws are lifting children, young people, and women with non-Western backgrounds up into a fully free Norwegian life. But if we take this approach, they won’t become a part of the national community. They won’t just be denied control of their own bodies; they won’t acquire a feeling of belonging to our nation and of having a connection to its history and traditions.

One of the subjects I touched on in the talk I gave at Flekkefjord was my family history. For me, Flekkefjord awakens a great many emotions and memories. I have relatives there on my mother’s side, and for that reason I’ve heard, over the years, a number of Flekkefjord-related stories that illuminate various aspects of Norwegian history and the path the country took to freedom. In Flekkefjord, for example, there’s a monument dedicated to the memory of my great-grandmother Tonette’s godson, the war hero and double agent Gunvald Tomstad – the young man in the Hird uniform [the Hird was Quisling’s paramilitary group] – played his part so perfectly that no one was more hated in Flekkefjord and the surrounding area than “the Nazi from Helle.” (Helle is the name of his farm.) The relationship between Tonette and Gunvald had been very close, but when he publicly identified himself as a Nazi everyone turned their backs on him. When Tonette lay dying during the war, Gunvald knocked at her door. He wanted to say goodbye to her, but Tonette’s daughter slammed the door in his face. Tonette, however, defended Gunvald until she took her last breath – she was convinced that he was on the side of freedom, not on the side of the Nazis. In supporting him, she was rejecting the judgment of the collective.Tonette was also a witness to the class divisions in yesterday’s Norway. She came from a well-off family, while the young man proposed to her just wasn’t in her league, status-wise; he was no blueblood, and for that reason my great-great-grandfather repeatedly refused to let him marry her. Therefore the man who would end up being my great-grandfather ended up taking the boat to America. The story goes that my great-grandmother Tonette waited for ten years, during which she wanted to study to become a teacher. But when one belongs to a “fine family,” she was told, one does not go to work.Ten years after Tonette’s young man set sail for America, he sailed back and knocked at my great-great-grandfather’s door. He is said to have brought with him a big leather bag full of coins and to have slammed it down on a table with the following words: “Am I good enough now?”

The woman who would become my mother’s mother took the same boat to America when she was young. She was supposed to spend a year serving as companion to a rich relative “over there.” She came back pregnant. This was in the early 1930s, and she carried the shame she felt over this scandal to her grave. It is possible that she told my mother’s father that he had a child on the way, but nobody other than the two of them ever knew anything about the circumstances that led to her pregnancy.

The deficit of freedom in our country’s past is also illustrated by the story of Tonette’s sister, Eline, who was married off to a cousin in Sirdal, near Flekkefjord. She had three sick children, two of whom died before they were five years old and one of whom lived (mostly in bed) until he was 30. When her one healthy child went to see a doctor in Stavanger as a young man, he was told the following: “When the day comes that you want to marry, you will have go far away from this valley.” He did. Because he could. The collective was letting go of the individual – and in those days, of course, men had much greater freedom than women did.

I’ve offered a couple of examples here of the lack of freedom that members of my own family experienced in Norway in earlier days. But even their experiences pale alongside the following: recently a 16-year-old girl contacted Human Rights Service by e-mail. She had decided to stop struggling against the violence and lack of freedom she had experienced at home and was crawling back to her family. Now she needed a new hymen before her family married her off – so that she wouldn’t risk being murdered on the morning after a wedding night spent with a man she didn’t wish to be with in the first place.
Today our political leaders are pouring gasoline on the flames of collectivism. Immigration from unfree cultures goes on and on, and the various immigrant groups expand with every passing year: nobody can deny the story the statistics tell. can hardly be denied. Our leaders have dropped the spirit of Castberg down the memory hole – they’ve forgotten that we’ve lifted the vulnerable up into freedom, and also into prosperity, through the use of law. In 1915, for example, children born out of wedlock won the right to their fathers’ name and inheritance, and mothers of such children won the right to be cared for by the men who had fathered those children. At the time, many people opposed this social revolution; today, no Norwegian objects to such things.

This is the spirit that needs to be in the driver’s seat. Today, after decades of nonsensical conduct by our political leaders, one’s thoughts turn to the father of Realpolitik, Machiavelli, who in his classic The Prince made these crucial points: that serious social problems often go unrecognized until it’s impossible to deny their existence; that when such problems are minor in scale and not yet easy to recognize but still relatively easy to address, it takes wisdom to even notice them; and that when the problems have become so significant that they’re obvious to everyone, it may be too late to do anything about them.

I refuse to believe that it’s too late. But I do recognize that in order to address the problems satisfactorily today, the remedies will have to be extremely powerful.

At this writing, I’m about to give a lecture to members of the Progress Party in Asker [an Oslo suburb] about the economic and value-related consequences of immigration. They will want to hear proposals. I think the mouths of many of the women and men in the audience will drop open when they hear what I have to say – because, in the spirit of Castberg, I’ll be going a lot further in my proposals for solutions than the Progress Party has gone in its platform. I’ll have some particularly strong things to say about the citizenship law, and the ease with which immigrants can obtain a Norwegian passport – and how they might also lose that passport.

And I’ll say these things in the name of our culture of liberty and our respect for the individual.

Translated from the Norwegian by Bruce Bawer.