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The Selfish Idealist

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Freedom is a word that 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

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.



The right to move – but how

Oslo Posted on 12 Nov, 2021 04:10

There is talk about people who are driving their car to town instead of using the bus or the subway – and more often than before the pandemic.

As an inhabitant of the city, not the suburbs, I beg you to show some consideration.



Build-up of violence

Oslo Posted on 10 Aug, 2021 07:34

For those of you who do not read Norwegian, or who understand both English and Norwegian:

Things are happening in the relation between the “immigrants” and the “Norwegians” in Oslo.

The Progress Party has been talking for many years about “Swedish conditions” – according to them a surplus of violence and “trouble which the foreigners bring with them” – and to counter this they have argued in favour of laws that are unlawful, double sentence in particular areas etc, things that has been done in Denmark.

They managed to get an extra 50 million kr to the Oslo police for the purpose of “curbing the gang problem”.

This problem has been a marginal one until now.

Now Jon Helgheim, the party’s spokesman for immigration, is leading a campaign which I consider racist and violent. More news about confrontations between young people and the police are being published. Until now Oslo has been a fairly quiet and peaceful place.

He is shouting about a problem that he and his party is in the process of creating.

They have a sense of reality that is so slanted on this, they end up aggravating small problems and then blaming “mainstream society” for something big.

I would recommend everyone interested to read the news with my comments in mind, in other ways seek information about this, from other sources, and please, comment where and when it is practical.

From being a city with a peaceful coexistence, there are forces in play, mostly actually from outside the city, who want conflict, and who are prepared to use unlawful legislation to deal with matters they hardly know anything about.

They do this out of their own private assumptions, mainly built up from the outside of Oslo, which hardly match reality.

Their ideas and methods are authoritarian.

This piece of news tells about a confrontation between young people and the police, with a comment from Jon Helgheim on top.

https://www.facebook.com/JonHelgheimFrP/photos/a.1999107413495453/6020336471372507

Oslo is not a dangerous city and never was.

By the way, Jon Helgheim lives in Drammen, not in Oslo.



City Life

Oslo Posted on 26 Apr, 2021 08:50

Free shoeshine.



Alcohol restrictions

Oslo Posted on 01 Feb, 2021 01:39

There was a rule in town once, I mean in Oslo, that if you wanted to buy alcohol, beer, in a shop, and it must have been after a certain time in the evening, you had to buy food or something else for as much as the beer cost. The place where it meant something for me, I think, was the Jens Evensen supermarket which was then at Grønland, at the subway station, because it was open late, I think until 10:30 pm or something.



Nice cliché

Oslo Posted on 01 Jan, 2021 23:14

Strolled through town in the afternoon, and it gave a really peaceful feeling. Grønland especially, the shops with lights in the windows or inside, the doors often open, people buying sweets or other stuff.

In Studenterlunden the Christmas market, the Ferris wheel was running, encouraging things in gloomy or strange times.

I hope the general feeling was right and that it goes on.



…and one answer

Oslo Posted on 19 Nov, 2020 14:35

…to the restaurant initiative.

‘Dear Noel,Thank you for your email.

We are fully aware of the extremely difficult situation for the uteliv branch i Oslo and other places throughout the country. We know that the compansation scheme suggested by the government is inadequate in many ways in the sense that its to rigid and will arbitrarily not capture businesses that are equally deserving of support than the ones that accidently are captured by the scheme.

Additionally we are also not accepting the governments explanation for developing a totally new scheme with a different governmental agency than the agency responseble for the last one, causing payments to be delayed possible to february.

We will propose in parliament that the government immediately broaden the scheme and let the former agency run it so that they can start payments within weeks.

Unfortunately we are outnumbered in parliament, so we have little power to win a majority for our proposals.But we will continue to follow this up all the way, and we will appreciate feedback and suggestions on what we can do from you and the rest of the branch.

Thanks again for your email and best of luck to you and your collegues.

Best regards, Reber Iversen, Political advisor, SVs parlamentary group’



Killing a business or not?

Oslo Posted on 18 Nov, 2020 06:06

Here is a letter from an English guy who runs a bar in Oslo.

I don’t know what else but to start writing letters. I’m Noel the Daglig Leder at Henry & Sally’s. As an English-speaker I may have missed some of the nuances in the stack of shit-cards we have been dealt.

‘Dear…

I am writing to you on behalf of my business in Oslo and in solidarity with hundreds of similarly-affected bars and restaurants. This is a matter of grave urgency as many of us in the uteliv branch are facing the immediate threat of bankruptcy. 17,000 people are employed in Oslo alone and contribute a significant amount of money towards the economy of Oslo. The loss of these businesses will affect the cultural life of Oslo for years to come.

On the 10th November we were forced to close due to the loss of our main source of income. As I am sure you are aware, this has left many businesses facing a dire future. Indeed, this was recognised as the government hashed together a ‘support’ package for our industry.

I have yet to meet a business-owner affected who thinks these measures are in any way sufficient to deal with the scale of financial hardship we face. Not only are they economically inadequate but they display a complete lack of sensitivity to the pressing needs of our industry sector.

We fully understand the need to do our utmost as individuals, business-owners and as a sector to reduce the threat of the coronavirus spread as much as possible. We have reduced our seating capacity (and by extension our revenue), we have introduced and adhered to regular and extensive cleaning routines, we have fully implemented customer registration, use of facemasks and stood steadfast to the reduction in our opening times. The latter has resulted in a huge loss of income. These efforts have been well-received.

In the meantime we stood shocked as cafes, gyms, shopping malls, public transport, bus stations, train stations, kiosks and shops were not asked to enforce mask-wearing, to enforce capacity controls or be regularly checked for adherence to covid-19 rules. As bars are forced to shut we are facing a situation where alcohol consumption will no longer be covid-regulated, indeed, private parties will grow exponentially and the rate of infection will increase. According to FHI figures, serveringssteder have been responsible for 0-4% of confirmed cases in Oslo. This is clear evidence that the covid protocols in place for uteliv were being adhered to and our industry is not to blame for the second wave. Nevertheless, with an infection increase we are the first industry to be treated with scorn and new restrictions.

Moreover, we find it shocking and insulting for Minister of Industry Iselin Nybø to state that “ellers levedyktig bedrift“ business-owners should weather this covid storm easily. Such statements display a profound ignorance of an industry she should know extensively. The vast majority of our businesses run at a profit, pay staff wages on time, pay our taxes and invoices and can survive the normal ebbs and flows of a financial year. There is no such “levedyktig bedrift” that can survive losing its primary source of income for long periods twice in one year, lose 2/3 of its capacity and still continue to operate. Everyone must know this.

Those with an iota of fiscal knowledge must be aware that being unable to even apply for compensation for fixed costs until January is completely inadequate. Who knows when businesses will receive this much-needed compensation? Many will be bankrupt before then. It seems a logical extension to suggest that the government know this and indeed are hoping for precisely this so the state picks up less of the bill.

In addition, how is that financial help in terms of postponement of VAT payments was deemed necessary in March but not in November when everyone’s situation is WORSE now than it was earlier in the year?

We are not interested in the assignment of blame. We are interested to know what are you doing to fight on behalf of 17,000 employees in Oslo alone? 17,000 people and hundreds of businesses are facing unemployment and bankruptcy. The loss of these businesses have a subsequent impact on an entire supply chain of other businesses such as cleaners, accountants, security guards, suppliers, distributors, transport and waste management.

We would like to know which precise steps are being taken to pressure for an adequate support package.

Your action is required now and is a matter of grave urgency.

Yours in sympathy,

Noel Heath

From here, I go on writing.

I really love the fact that Oslo and probably other places in Norway has got an international touch, in our case from being a small and a little sleepy city at least parts of the year, to becoming, at least partly, vibrant and alive, even if we are still small.

Small – is beautiful.

And this, I think, is great.

The city has been packed with good food, music and other events.

There is still a lot of money in the oil fund, and I will try to be reasonable when I talk about things, but there have been things going on that are almost on par with Donald Trump’s or other populist leaders’ actions, with a populist party in government since the formation of Solberg’s first government, in 2013, until last winter, when the Progress Party (Fremskrittspartiet) left the government.

In the corona crisis the art- and cultural life is and has been fighting for its life, but seems to be at least partly listened to and understood, but the restaurant business, which has also had a real boom in Oslo the last 5-10 years, together with music and arts, is not yet being compensated to the necessary extent. Oslo experiences right now a prohibition against serving alcohol in public cafés and restaurant etc, imposed not by the government but by the City Council, and practically the whole business is in danger of breaking down, as is or has also been the case this year with freelance musicians, other artists, organisers, technicians etc., in short the cultural life of Norway.

The tourist business, hotels etc are more or less in the same situation.

The shops still sell alcohol.

The two businesses, culture and restaurants etc, are very different organised also when it comes to money and income, and the authorities, especially the government, seemed or seem unaware of how things are done, quite simply, and act late and seemingly incompetent, at least at first.

The cultural people seem to be able to talk for themselves, at least.

The restaurants, however, has, I believe, not quite reached a point where the politicians and administrators in case understand and actually accept what is going on.

The spreading of the virus has mainly not gone through the city’s cafés or restaurants or even night life, according to statistics from Oslo kommune recently. With a few exceptions it has been happening mostly at home, and partly at schools and universities. People working in bars etc do figure in the statistics, but they are of course not allowed to work when they are ill or contaminated. There have been cases of shutting down of places because of the necessity of a quarantine period, because of contamination.

It should be said that there is also a substantial part of spreading which is unaccounted for, around 20 % of the cases in this registration.

Part of the picture, I would say, is the peculiar traditions in Norway of temperance and abstinence when it comes to drinking, some are looking at any alcohol consumption with suspicion, and there is a wide-spread opinion, in general, among quite a lot, that “people can’t behave” when they drink, even if, as I said, the business seem to have tackled the whole thing professionally and has managed to avoid a big spreading of the virus at any point this summer and autumn, during a long row of different regimes from the authorities since March. This has been making life difficult and right now almost impossible for people who run places to eat and drink. 

To put it bluntly I think some people don’t care.

Drinking habits have also changed a lot, say in my lifetime.

I find it obviuos that the hotels, restaurants, travel business and culture and arts all belong together in an economic and cultural package, relying on each other for getting visitors, guests, audience.

The restaurant business employs some 17 000 people in the city of Oslo, in a population of roughly 650 000.

The money is there, what is needed from the government and it seems also from the City Council, is understanding the problems of the business right now, and how things functions for them in general, just as with the arts and cultural world.

The whole city has enjoyed a huge social and economic contribution to its culture during the last years, as I said, both in arts, theatre, cinema, concerts and not least, food.

The statistics in question, from Oslo kommune, helseetaten:

https://www.facebook.com/photo?fbid=10157575823297093&set=a.376627147092



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