According to the latest information, Jens Stoltenberg stands unopposed as Anders Fogh Rasmussen’s successor as general secretary of NATO. Why is this not ok?
For a lot of reasons.
In Norway the press have treated his nomination as some kind of sports competition. It is nationalism in disguise. If you oppose him, you are a dissenter, an unreliable person, maybe someone to watch.
It leaves you with a feeling that there is no alternative. Opposing Stoltenberg is unpatriotic. That is not a healthy situation in what purports to be a democracy.
There is plenty to be critical about. But as the years have gone by and Norway has been transformed from a homogenous to a multinational society, the press, political and cultural life have coalesced around a common conception of reality, and woe to the person who dares criticise them.
This concerns above all; immigration, and in particular everything to do with Islam and Muslims, although a lot of Christians are arriving as well, from formerly Eastern Europe as well as the Middle East and Africa. This situation is no different from most West-European countries, only it has a bigger impact in a small country, such as Norway.
Oslo is the fastest growing city in Europe, but knowledge of this fact is scant. As one foreign-born architect said to me the other day: – Why don’t they build more houses?
The answer is simple: that would be highlighting on the number of people coming, and what that entails. Oslo’s infrastructure is hopelessly inadequate to cope with this influx. Instead of addressing the problems head-on, one is now openly advocating reducing the number of cars in the rush hour by drastic measures, i.e. raising the toll road fees.
One of social democracy’s most cherished slogans has been that one should not favour one group at the expense of others.
Today the largest daily has a story on how to accommodate more passengers on public transport: by taking away the discount given to pensioners. A growing number of them will have an economy that puts them far above new groups. No mention is made of all the pensioners who live on the basic state pension, which make them de facto poor people. They are a growing number all over Europe, and a sociological fact. They are the ones who cannot afford to move to areas where they can be surrounded by their own kin, as immigration changes the city and they become strangers in their own neighbourhood.
Americanisation has been a dirty word on the left for a long time. Norway is about to implement a system that takes us in an American direction, but without the benefits of the American society. Above all when it comes to freedom of speech.
The other day I checked out old articles about Obama and found pieces by people like David Brooks and Maureen Dowd of the New York Times that were scathing. Brooks talking about him as The Presence, Dowd writing that Obama not only acts like he is playing a part in the West Wing, but believes he does.
In the Norway of today such talk would be seen as sacrilegious, bordering on blasphemy. What was once a society where socialists and conservatives were in balance, has become a an all-encompassing social democracy. The Labour party’s slogan during election was «Everybody shall be included». It carries a double ironic twist; a lot of people are falling off and out of society, and nobody seems to care. The other aspect is threatening: – There are no truths outside our perimeters. Those that trespass shall be punished.
This is the house that Jack, i.e. Stoltenberg built.
Has Obama chosen his alter ego? Both handsome, smart, pragmatic, opportunists even, but at the same time with an ideological hardcore when it comes to gays, Muslims and gender.
Add to that an authoritarian streak when it comes to dissent and security. Snowden’s revelations are mostly about programs that were instituted after Obama took power. They happened on his watch. Norway is moving in the same direction. The security police has been tasked with visiting critics and warning them about their writings.
It is all part of what I would call the crisis of the liberal mind. The liberal cannot stand all the contradictions that befall him and seeks ad hoc solutions. But throwing democracy under the bus is not ok.
Their liberal outlook is especially ill equipped to deal with an adversary that does not follow their rules of the game. Obama is still talking as if he is lecturing Putin. Stoltenberg uses the same soft approach. They hope to persuade him.
In a showdown with an authoritarian Russia, the U.S. and Germany should have employed the wisdom of the member states that used to live under Communism. Poland’s foreign minister Radoslaw Sikorski knows what it is all about.
Obama and Merkel do not seem to realise that Putin will read the choice of Stoltenberg like an open book. He knows exactly what it means, and he will know that there is now no real opposition to his adventures, if he acts ruthlessly enough. And he will.