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The Selfish Idealist


Freedom has been on everybody’s lips for decades, actually a century and more, and changes in the way of life have been going on for the better. 

But we are not completely peaceful beings, and increased freedom calls for responsible behaviour. There is violence and violent reactions to it, and increasing oppression is going on and is on its way, I believe in all countries, and right now it ought to be a time for thinking and talking rather than for rash action.

Winter morning, Oslo

Think and talk…instead of planning wars

Comment Posted on 14 May, 2022 13:02

Vladimir Putin said in an interview that USA has the idea of the individual, Russia the idea of the collective.

Those two concepts need to be specified, put into a context, to work in real life, in society, the world.

He says more than this, but to many this is almost what politics is about – they see it as a choice between individual freedom and collective restrictions or dictatorship.

The choice between individual freedom and collective restrictions of different kinds can’t be made 100%.

There always has to be a balance.

Putin also says something about the (Russian) idea, I think, which goes into spiritual matters, into matters of our Creator.

He is a Christian, I tend to forget this because he looks and sounds much like a Soviet leader.

Complete individual freedom, this is my experience, you rarely experience, but in moments I feel really free and happy. You have to adjust to other people, more and less, their habits, society, depending on the situation.

I don’t really believe that any society restricts the movements of their citizens 100%, but if they did, it would of course be the perfect dictatorship.

Of course, not only legal restrictions is an issue, also social restrictions, which occur in all types of society, run by all types of government.

To experience collective freedom you need to feel at one with a group. The moment someone acts or speaks against the common spirit or habits, the common feeling goes, at least partly.

If you see either an idea of the collective wellbeing or the individual freedom as a mystery or an omnipresent fact, which you own or manage on behalf of God or on behalf of general ideas that everyone agrees to, you are walking on a dangerous path, because…who knows the exact meaning of those concepts, and who knows exactly how they should be made into government or to life, by an individual or by a group of people?

I don’t think you can tell once and for all, it has to be sorted out and changed from time to time. Freedom, restraint and social control form of itself patterns among us which are not eternal, but which works for a certain time, in a certain historical period, a certain area, in a certain group of people.

The ways of life, all our habits and ways of dealing with love, work, nature…all this, culture, is very different in the different parts of the world, and determines to a certain extent what is experienced as freedom and what as restraint.

If you believe that your version of society, and of freedom or of people’s welfare – is the only one possible or the only right one, you’re pretty much blind.

Then you are maybe ready for war, which will destroy the possibilities of developing our lives in peaceful ways, through having conversations and talks and forming friendships which affect our lives – not shooting at each other.

No society is perfect.

Partly tabloid

Comment Posted on 05 May, 2022 02:37

Those who can read Norwegian and sometimes follow Norwegian newspapers, should make a note of Trygve Hegnar, who runs his own newspaper, Finansavisen, meaning almost “Financial Times” in Norwegian, and Kapital, a bi-weekly magazine. Hegnar is an economist, and both publications focus on finance and economy, in addition to other stuff.

He began his career as an editor with Kapital, and later started a daily newspaper, Blikk, not to be confused with the gay culture and politics magazine with the same name. Hegnar’s Blikk had the same layout as the German BildZeitung.

Blikk did not last long, but some of the style of the initial broadsheet (no real tabloids back then, in the 70s) still lingers on in Finansavisen.

The role of national cultures in times of migration

Comment Posted on 03 May, 2022 02:56

There is right now unrest based on culture, and some are very much into protecting their national culture, the French, the Danish, Norwegian, etc.

Those cultures were established in Europe roughly in the 19th century. I recently read, actually in a book about Azerbaijani music, that there were intentions back then of internationalism, communication across borders, etc., and this is acually a very interesting point.

One problematic side of the voices eager to protect their own culture today, is the idea that a national culture is 100% itself, homogenous and impossible to mix with other cultures without destroying it.

Discussions about this has been too one-sided.

The cultures of course exist, in a more or less modern fashion, but the point is not…100% right. Some impact from other places is always visible, and usually digested in some way, and more important, there should still be room for this today.

In the 19th Century the need to establish the cultures firmly made them a little over-solid in some ways. At the time you could say it was a problematic, but necessary thing, but today we ought to be safe enough to accept other cultures into our own, as long as we don’t disappear.

As everyone should know the chauvinism then in some ways reached into the wars that came.

Still, we need some of this culture.

But not as a monument or a massive block, not 100% in all respects.

I also don’t need to bow my head to a flag to feel my Norwegianness…it is there anyway.

I ought to bow my head to people of all kinds, and without losing myself in a negative way. 

I believe that actually all cultures are under pressure today, also the national European ones.

Not so far into the past there was talk about American commercial culture as a threat, and this is in my opinion still the case. The most common focus is on music and language, I believe, and this is at least true as a part of this problem.

But more important, the way of giving priority to business before politics, and companies before customers, and the New Public Management as a pattern, system, for public administration, are all clearly imported from less nice parts of American culture.

There are many other sides of American culture that I love, and in any case, as long as it comes as impact, not invasion, most things are ok.

The way those things, the NPM etc, are implemented in society are often, in practice, hidden from public information and comment, the press.

The issue of culture mostly addressed by people on the far right and others, is the perceived problem of, in general, what is not seen as national.

I certainly don’t want Denmark to lose all its Danishness, I love it and love to be a tourist, a guest, physically or mentally, in Denmark and Danish cuture, experiencing its people, music, landscape and cities.

One point is that no culture is 100% itself, we are all a mix in some ways even if the basic pattern can be recognisable.

I can still recognise a Dane and a Norwegian.

I don’t believe any culture has the capacity of solving every problem totally in its own way, I believe every country, every person, even, every subculture of any kind, needs both to protect itself, but also to communicate and let itself be influenced by others. 

To be in touch with other thoughts and use them for one’s own and common purposes.

On the European continent this must in some places and in some ways have been a pretty obvious fact – if we exclude wars for a moment, and only consider the close contact between say Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, for instance, Denmark also – in normal, civil life…it is very easy to move between places, especially in modern times, you don’t have to travel very far to cross a border.

In Norway isolation has been more of an obvious fact, also because of geography, and we have had to adjust pretty fast to changing times of today. The opening up of the Russian border in the north was a boost for cultural exchange when it happened.

Still, reactions to the impact from outside today, by some, are panicky.

To solve this knot, the first thing to consider is the way to think about national culture in general. I agree that there is a certain pressure from immigrants’ culture, but much of the impact can be tackled through close contact between “hosts” and “guests”. 

It takes some time and some effort, but basic social contact, over the fence, at work and in cafés, is a really important key to avoiding social conflict between different cultures in a society, in the city or anywhere. Misunderstanding the neighbour’s habits and ways of thinking can only be eradicated by simple questions and relevant answers, so that in the end anxiety gives way to a more relaxed attitude and in the end…humour.

This process normally takes some time, but I guess if you know that this is possible, it is easier to avoid problems even if the time is short.

Meaning, many problems can be solved in the minds rather than with physical action or physical precautions in society.

There is, of course, a limit to how many newcomers a country can absorb, but it is also partly depending on how you do it, what attitudes and thoughts about the whole thing which are in play.

Another issue which should be addressed is the causes of immigration and the reasons for the great number of refugees today.

If you advocate war as a means to solving problems, in general…a war produces refugees.

This is not a very complicated point.

When it comes to poverty I don’t really have an overview, but the climate changes and COVID has an impact, and again, to argue in favour of cuts in emergency or development aid seems to me not very wise.

If you have no reference to poverty, ask someone what it means and how deep it goes. I am also absolutely not against helping local businesses etc, to fight poverty – in addition to direct help.

To those who don’t believe that the climate problems exist I don’t know anymore what to say. I believe you are really obstructing the solving of a huge problem.

This problem has an impact on the living conditions of many people in the world today.

But to go back to the issue of national cultures, I believe in protecting them, nurturing the arts etc in all possible ways, in order to being able to encounter, meet, any other culture and utilize whatever points those cultures may contribute to one’s own culture, and of course, protect things that you need to protect. This can be a mutual agreement, both parts may have a positive effect of this, as long as there is mutual respect and a certain amount of mental space, and time, which gives room for thought, for finding the positive sides of each other, and room for finding solutions to whatever problems that may occur.

The oversensitivity towards others which can be seen many places today, is a problem, and it comes very often out of not knowing the “others” very well, often the knowledge comes from reading about them or by superficial personal contact.

The lack of knowledge can go both ways in a society of today, obviously, so by all means, the people who come also have to think and adjust themselves. This is an obvious point. 

But the “hosts” have to be active too.

How the question of national culture works in other parts of the world than Europe I don’t know much about, the role of this may be very different. The question of regional cultures splitting up countries I also don’t have much knowledge about. 

But the way I think, in general – you need integrity to meet other people in a civilised fashion.


My own music Posted on 02 May, 2022 03:39

The Lost Piece

This must have been published earlier, but it ought to have a second chance.

New piano improvisations

My own music Posted on 01 May, 2022 20:41

Improvisation on my own piece “Trust”

Arrangement of/improvisation on “Nun danket alle Gott” (Johann Crüger, 1558-1662)

Arrangement of/improvisation on “Jeg råde vil alle” (mel. Norwegian folk tune, from Romsdal)

Songs from Russia and N.America

Music Posted on 27 Apr, 2022 01:44

A prelude by Sergei Rachmaninoff (D major, op. 23 no. 4) played by Lazar Berman.

Jean Ritchie, one of the greatest American folk singers.

Some of this is very much related in style to the Rumanian singing that was kind of famous here in the 80s-90s. At least we certainly noticed it when I was a music student in Tromsø.

New piano improvisation

My own music Posted on 27 Apr, 2022 01:38

The necessity of making peace, right now.

Somehow…the crashing of a business goes on

Oslo Posted on 18 Apr, 2022 22:21

…or so it seems. Two businesses, actually, or three – restaurants, arts & music, and hotels.

Those who work there, this is what the talk should be about right now.

The people working in the restaurant downstairs look like they are falling to the ground, physically, right now, when I pass them on my way up the stairs and home. Some, or many, or all in this restaurant, I don’t know, are working double shifts today, from morning till late night, I guess, because the customers are back, lucky for the city, but many people have left their jobs during pandemic times, since the city more or less stopped for a long time, and were started and more or less halted many times. 

In Norway we have a lot of money in total, but the last eight years we have had a Conservatives/Progress Party government, after a while ministers from the Christian Democrats and Liberals (both fairly small parties) were added to gain a majority in the parliament, and this government has been showing its unsocial side, it is fair to say. Big dicussions have been going on around the social system, and changes in the system has happened.

There has been enough money to establish economic compensation for businesses hit by the pandemic, but in the case of restaurants/cafes and culture, music/artists etc, it was obvious that the authorities didn’t have a clue how those businesses functioned, so the money came late, or I believe in some cases not at all, and were often not directed in practical ways, for cafe owners or workers, and for musicians.

The social system has been under pressure for years from the Conservatives and the Progress Party (a Populist party) – they have wanted to save money and get people out of the social system, and certainly not always in an orderly manner or a way that takes care of our rights, economically or otherwise. 

There has been bureacratic stinginess, rules made meticulously detailed to save money for the state, counting every penny and often not in favour of the people who needed the money.

Both businesses, arts and restaurants, have a large number of pretty small units, down to one musician or a few partners of a restaurant, working hours are not 9 to 5 and the income generally unstable and small. Ups and downs in the work are of course sensitive to ups and downs in city life and the economy in general.

To tilt systems like these is easy, and this happened to a large extent. 

The focus of the govrnment seemed to be on the big money, the idea seemingly that if the big guys didn’t fall, the whole economy wouldn’t.

But many small units comprise, in total, many people working, and money for many to live on.

Doing creative work when rules were changing all the time were also difficult for people, one day you could kind of do your work, the next it was forbidden because of concern about contagion.

The understanding of a creative or artistic work life is not really common knowledge in Norway, either.

Erna Solberg, Conservative PM the last eight years, until the election 2021, at one point said that “people could find other jobs”, meaning more or less that losing a job in the restaurant business was not a problem.

For her.

So, it seems that many left.

There was no consensus or even real political discussions on the matters concerning the business itself, other than a general stir on economic, social rights.

Which is normal.

The context of anything that touches upon alcohol is peculiar to Scandnavia, I guess, and Norway in particular. This makes some discussions irrational.

The restaurant business has had a boom the last 10-20 years, and depending on how you see it, even longer than this, and it has meant new jobs and income for the state and for everybody involved, and obviously activity on a lower level of CO2 emissions than for instance oil production.

The number of people working in these businesses has been substantial, and both restaurants, concerts etc and hotels are of course intertwined, for obvious reasons, and also many artists etc work parttime in cafés. 

If you take away one piece of this puzzle there will be consequences for the rest.

Brexit is also mentioned as having an effect on how many are still here and how many left the country the last months and years, but I don’t know right now the details in this.

For interested guys & girls there is work, at least, so it seems, right now.

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