On the Edge: Talkin’ bout revolutions and cross-country skiing

Siv Jensen. Photo: Magnus Fröderberg/norden.org

Siv Jensen. Photo: Magnus Fröderberg/norden.org

“On the Edge” is the new opinion column in the Norwegian American Weekly, featuring opinion pieces written by invited contributors who make some comments on the current issues that define modern Norway.

One of the most popular Norwegian expressions is the question: Hvor var du da Oddvar Brå brakk staven? Or as you would ask in English: “Where were you when Oddvar Brå broke his ski pole?

The expression became known after a breathtaking finish in the cross-country relay at the 1982 FIS Nordic World Ski Championships, where he ended up winning gold medal for Norway, although shared with the Soviet Union. It was a magic moment, not only for us Norwegians, but for sports-interested people in general.

Now we’re only days away from a new Nordic World Ski Championships, and Oslo is again the proud host city for the competition. In my view, we have a lot to learn from the sports arena. Competition is in the sports world regarded as necessary, positive and valuable. Why can’t we feel the same about competition in arenas other than sports?

A situation where there’s only one player in the game is comparable to a monopoly. A monopoly is when one cross-country skier is all alone in the track. The skier turns his head and sees no one behind him. He turns his eyes forward, and sees no one. The clock is ticking, but why should he bother? The skier is alone and will win anyway.     We need to introduce competition among providers of welfare services, because schools and hospitals are too important to monopolize. Competition usually brings out the best in people, and I can’t understand why this should not be true for arenas other than sports also.

In 1933 the Danish-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose gave birth to the so-called “Janteloven” (Jante Law), which is a term to negatively describe an attitude towards individuality and success claimed to be common in Scandinavia, punishing those who stand out as achievers. In short the message is: “Don’t think you’re anyone special or that you’re better than us.” Sad to say, the Jante Law is still visible from time to time, even in sports. I have a dream that one day we can proudly announce that the Jante Law is abolished.

While we’re busy preparing Oslo and Norway for a great ski championship free from the Jante Law, people are busy in the Middle East organizing revolutions. Enough was enough and the people took to the streets. We salute the steps towards a new political reality for Egypt, Tunisia and the other countries in the area. The march towards freedom cannot be stopped, and in the last 30 years we’ve seen that the number of free countries (according to the analysis by Freedom House) has been doubled. That is of course great news. The problem is that the people living in the Middle East and Africa have not marched in this direction, but in some instances chosen the opposite.

We don’t know where the revolution of Egypt will take us. The people of Egypt deserve freedom and they deserve political leaders that respect universal human rights. A vibrant political force in Egypt is the Muslim Brotherhood, and if the revolution results in a political take-over from Islamists such as them, the people of Egypt most probably won’t have neither freedom nor respect for their basic human rights, because that’s not a part of the Islamists’ agenda.

Democratic elections must take place, but let’s remember that mass elections are not all it takes. As Fareed Zakaria has noted: Countries that try to simply adopt elections without laying preceding conditions including protection of liberty and the rule of law, end up creating not “liberal” democracy but illiberal democracy.

We don’t know yet whether what took place at the Tahrir Square in Cairo will lead to a result inspired by what happened in Berlin in 1989, or by what happened in Tehran 10 years earlier. Let’s hope that the people of Egypt turn their faces to Berlin instead of Teheran. If they chose the “Berlin way,” we could be asking ourselves in twenty years this question: Where were you when the Egyptians stood up for freedom at the Tahrir Square?

Siv Jensen is the Leader of the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet) and also the parliamentary leader for the Progress Party`s group in the Storting (The Norwegian Parliament). The classical liberal (libertarian-conservative) Progress Party is the second largest party in Norway and the leading opposition party. Ms. Jensen has been elected member of the Storting since 1997, representing the district of Oslo. Ms. Jensen is member of the Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and Defense and member of the Enlarged Foreign Affairs Committee.

Please bear in mind that opinions expressed in “On The Edge” are not necessarily those of the Norwegian American Weekly, and our publication of these views are not an endorsement of them.

This article was originally published in the Feb. 25, 2011 issue of the Norwegian American Weekly. For more information about the Norwegian American Weekly or to subscribe, call us toll free (800) 305-0217 or email subscribe@norway.com.

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