Macro-History from Norway

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Why should anybody be interested in Norway that little, stretched-out country, that way to the North, to the North Pole?

Because just like we can learn about the geology of the earth by drilling deep down at any point through many layers, we can learn about the history of the earth by drilling deep down, at any point, through layers of time, about millennia, centuries, decades, years. The “point” does not have to be a country, or any geo-political unit. Could be family, genealogy. For instance your own. There are data.

So, how has Norway evolved? Where is it now?  Where may it be?

Frede Castberg, constitutional lawyer, advisor to Norway’s foreign office, rector at Oslo University, wrote a guide book: The Norwegian Way of Life (London: Heineman, 1954).  As a starter.

Norway may originally have been inhabited by dark-haired, short skull people; later dominated by fair, long skull, taller, people. They made coastal and inland, Eastern, Norway different. Geography  favored fishing and small, separate, self-sufficient farms; few villages, towns. Fifty small kingdoms were united in 872, they say. During the Viking Era 800-1050.  During the continental Middle Ages.

The Viking Era was not continental Middle Ages, inward-looking, static, however. Rather continental Antiquity, many centuries later. Antiquity was about ships, conquest, killing, robbery, slaves-women, also for sale. So were the Nordic Vikings, with smarter ships, no keel, beaching quickly; broad, for much robbed cargo, live or not.

Their domain ranged from North America via Greenland-Iceland-Faroe, deep into France (Seine) and Russia (Volga), Galicia and the Iberian coast, Mediterranean, Constantinople, the Black Sea-Caspian, Baghdad. Ruling with statecraft; creating great literature, the sagas.

Their dark pessimistic sagas proved self-fulfilling. Old Nordic Gods yielded to Christianity, to Satan and God. Meaning hope.

Then Norway caught up with the Middle Ages: a century of devastating civil war 1130-1240 (Birkebeinere/Baglere) and apocalyptic Black Death in Europe 1346-48+, killing half of Norway’s population, low and high. After a brief period under Sweden, the 1397 Sweden-Denmark-Norway union, Sweden left in 1536, then Denmark-Norway as exploiter-exploited, fighting Copenhagen’s wars against Sweden and, with Napoleon, against England and Russia. Denmark and Norway lost vast lands to Sweden; and by the Treaty of Kiel January 1814 Denmark lost Norway to Sweden.

Then four amazing months, producing the May 17 1814 Constitution based on people’s sovereignty–“people” meaning farmers to start with, “sovereignty” meaning from Denmark-Sweden. But the Swedish army came in July 1814, claiming their booty, Norway.  The Treaty of Moss.

Then under Sweden, in a union with Swedish King and Swedish foreign policy till Norway broke out in a very tricky way in 1905.

Then under England with enough anglophilia to deny Gandhi the Nobel Peace Prize, German invasion-occupation 1940-45 after England broke Norway’s neutrality, four years under nobody 1945-1949, membership in NATO, then under USA. And americanization unlimited.(*)

So far for 68 years; after 5 years under Germany, 90 years under Sweden, 400 years under Denmark; 500 years Evangelical Protestantism.

A dominated, underdog country after the Viking era +.

And a devastated country, by the civil war and the Black Death.

However, who dominates matters. Sweden-Denmark were similar enough for mutuality, and small enough to be opposed successfully.

England, once conquered by Vikings, has conquered Norway at least linguistically: Ibsen is today studied at Oslo University in English translation. More and more public meetings are conducted in English.

Norway in Denmark-Norway fought Danish wars against Sweden, with Napoleon against England-Russia, and lost. As Sweden-Norway, neutral. As USA/NATO+-Norway it fought US wars in Afghanistan-Serbia-Libya. That brings us to today and beyond. Exactly “where are we”?

A belligerent Norway, threatening Russia with offensive weapons; and 248 domestic militia districts of 249 unable to defend themselves.     “Farewell to the ‘peace nation’” writes Ramla Alnahi who came to Norway from the Middle East mid-1990s (Klassekampen 9 Jun2017) and does not believe the government controls Norway’s military in Syria.

An inegalitarian Norway, where the investment moved from the real production economy to the finance speculation economy (Klassekampen 3 Jan 2017, 25 Feb 2017). The old story: galloping housing prices, credits to builders and buyers, rotten loans–and the bubble bursts. Norway is rich, will salvage the banks till next time; for how long?

May be even more troubling is “who are we?” Americanization has given Norway belligerence and inequality that most Norwegians accept because they accept USA. A new “we”?  Is there an old Norwegian “we”?

There is a way of knowing.  What is Christianity? Identify key quotes from the Scriptures, starting with John 3:16. What was Rome? Identify key words from daily life, like “usus tyrannus est“, habit is tyranny.  What is Norway? Identify key words from daily life, like “it tends to turn out well”. No big authors, from people, from centuries.

Add Norway’s experience breaking unions: leaving a sinking Danish ship not serving its interests to build a new ship in 1814; leaving a not sinking Swedish ship not serving Norway’s interests in 1905.  The US Trump ship is sinking and does not serve Norway’s interests.  Time for the Norwegian rat to jump ship, boarding increasingly accepted EU. Unless USA throws Trump–working on his 2020 re-election–overboard.

A likely scenario, given the last six centuries. An alternative?

A self-confident Norwegian rat jumping ship to build its own: defensive defense, neutral between West and Rest; with positions, not only jobs for less inequality; seeing the good in all, for projects linking good with good. Switzerland, also focused on positive peace.

Johan Galtung
24 July 2017


(*) A personal note. Norsk Rikskringkasting, Norway’s BBC, has the Ole Torp interview program; I believed it would be about 60 years work for peace and the track record; criticizing US belligerence, predicting decline and fall of it empire, warning against US “security”. No word about peace, no discussion of US-Norwegian policy: harassment with unsubstantiated nonsense, causing a storm of protests from viewers.

Evidently his task was to protect the alliance. In the end he even cut what I had said about the Nobel peace prize to Liu Xiaobo–a provocation, could have been given to the Charter–and about the 20 million killed by USA in 37 countries after 1945, solidly documented.  Ole Torp is incompatible with democracy, and should be pre-pensioned.


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