Bruce Bawer is a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center and the author of many books, including While Europe Slept and Surrender: Appeasing Islam, Sacrificing Freedom.
Let’s begin with a quick look at a February 14 column, “This Is How Scandinavia Got Great,” by New York Times writer David Brooks – yet another legacy-media article based on the premise that pretty much everything in Scandinavia is just plain wonderful, even if the author has no personal experience of the subject one way or the other.
In his piece, Brooks argues that Denmark, Sweden, and Norway take a categorically different approach to schooling than America does, and that that different approach makes those countries splendiferous in ways that we should admire and emulate. “They look at education differently than we do,” Brooks avers, contending that Scandinavian schools focus not on transmitting knowledge and skills – what a waste of time that would be! – but on effecting “the complete moral, emotional, intellectual and civic transformation of the person” by helping kids to “understand complex systems and see the relations between things — between self and society, between a community of relationships in a family and a town.”
Yes, it sounds like borderline gibberish, but I think I know what Brooks is talking about. And it’s this: from day care onward, Scandinavian kids are indoctrinated into seeing the world through social-democratic eyes. They’re inculcated with the so-called Jante Law, an ingrained cultural mindset that, as formulated in 1933 by Danish-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemost, dictates: “Don’t think you’re anything special….Don’t think you’re good at anything….Don’t think anyone cares about you.” In Scandinavian schools, kids learn to think and act in lockstep, to put community above the individual, and to view nonconformity and ambition as distasteful.
Until relatively recently, indeed, Norwegian kids (I don’t know about Denmark and Sweden, but I suspect it was the same way there, too) were actually punished for being high achievers. Meanwhile, Norwegian law makes it almost impossible to fire even the worst teachers. (A friend of mine had a middle-school teacher who for three years did nothing but weep and read aloud from the Bible.) Thanks to mass Muslim immigration, moreover, more and more Scandinavian schools are now hotbeds of violence, a problem that PC officials usually refuse to acknowledge, let alone address.
In short, the schools in Scandinavia are nothing to write home about. Finland, however, at least until recently, was another matter. Two decades ago, it was viewed as having the best schools in the world, and the reason had nothing to do with highfalutin transformative brainwashing of the kind Brooks applauds, but rather with an old-fashioned emphasis on hiring competent teachers who were indifferent to trendy pedagogical theories. Subsequent developments, alas, have tarnished the Finnish educational miracle, but that’s a story for another day.
Where does Brooks get his information about Scandinavian schools? It turns out that he’s just read, or at least skimmed, a book called The Nordic Secret by a Swede named Lene Rachel Andersen and a Dane named Tomas Bjorkman. I looked it up on Amazon, and even the brief excerpts available there make it clear that Brooks either missed or chose to overlook a key part of their message. To their credit, they admit that Scandinavian societies – and school systems – are breaking down. As anyone who’s even glancingly familiar with the region knows, Sweden is now the world capital of rapes, car burnings, grenade-tossing, and other Koran-inspired outdoor sports; and, insane though it may seen, many bien pensant types in Denmark and Norway are desperate to see their own countries catch up, because it’s all so deliciously multicultural.
Anyway, Brooks gets so many things so spectacularly wrong in just a few sentences that it’s mind-boggling. He paints Scandinavia as a place of “high social trust,” and contrasts it to the U.S., where “social trust has been on the decline for decades.” In fact, thanks to Muslim immigration, social trust has been plummeting for decades in Scandinavia, too (something Brooks would know if he ever deigned to look at websites like this one).
Brooks also celebrates Scandinavian schools for “instill[ing]” in pupils “a love of nation” and “a pride in, say, their Danish history, folklore and heritage.” Hilarious. Yes, patriotism thrives among ordinary Danes and Norwegians (the situation in Sweden is quite different) – but it’s not something they picked up in school. Rather, it’s passed down from generation to generation in families and communities and preserved in enduring cultural rituals. On Constitution Day, May 17, Norwegians wear traditional costumes and wave the flag. Both Danes and Norwegians decorate Christmas trees with their national flags. All this despite the fact that their countries’ schools and media strive to discourage such vulgarity.
Even some Scandinavian corporations have evolved beyond patriotism. Case in point: on February 12 Scandinavian Airlines (SAS), a joint Swedish-Danish-Norwegian venture, posted an online ad that begins with a woman asking in voiceover “What is truly Scandinavian?” The ad answered this question as follows: “Absolutely nothing. Everything is copied.” It went on to assert that Swedish meatballs are not really Swedish (a claim denied by a food historian), that the paper clip was invented not in Norway (as Norwegians maintain), and so on. “In a way, Scandinavia was brought here,” the voiceover stated over a visual of a man in a turban.
SAS claims that the ad is about how travel “inspires.” On the contrary, it’s just one more example of Scandinavian elites reflexively tearing down their homelands. I’ve quoted the following lines before and I’ll quote them again: several years ago, Mona Sahlin, then Sweden’s integration minister, told a Muslim audience that ethnic Swedes envy them because Muslims have a culture whereas Swedes only have “cheesy” traditions like Midsummer Night; later, when asked at an integration conference whether Swedish culture was worth preserving, a Swedish official, Lise Bergh, replied, “Yes, what is Swedish culture? And [by asking that] I’ve answered the question.” People capable of saying such reprehensible things about their own countries and cultures have no business being in government.
The SAS ad resulted in widespread – and richly justified – howls of outrage. SAS attributed them to far-right xenophones, and the BBC, Guardian, and other left-wing media parroted this line. The ad was taken down, but was put back up after a bit of tweaking: SAS omitted a bit where a black man says “We are no better than our Viking ancestors” (no, I don’t get it either) and cut out the odious statement that “absolutely nothing” is Scandinavian.
Well, one thing is certainly Scandinavian, and it’s not something that David Brooks should be holding up for us to copy. It’s this: nowhere else on earth, in the year 2020, are so many people in positions of authority so eager to say that their country is nothing, that their culture is nothing, that they themselves are nothing. It’s the Jante Law on steroids, and if one nation is noticeably even worse in this regard than the others, it’s Sweden.
Consider this: the other day, Sweden’s interior minister, Mikael Damberg, was asked about the rise in “sadistic and degrading robberies” of ethnic Swedes by “young migrants,” for example a recent incident in which two teenage immigrants not only robbed an 18-year-old Swede but also “peed on him and forced him to open his mouth” while they did so. In his effort to explain such conduct, Damberg served up some vague remarks about values and morals and poor parenting – and then suggested that some of these young perpetrators do these things because they “feel hopeless” and “feel that there is no place for them in society.”
No, you oaf. These thugs don’t feel hopeless. They view themselves as princes of the city, as soldiers of Allah, destined for Paradise while you’re going to Hell. They think Swedes are hopeless –and pathetic. And who‘s to say they’re wrong? People like you, Herr Damberg – top-ranking Swedes – declare that your culture is nothing and that all of you are nothing. Why should your “new countrymen” from the Islamic world think otherwise? You act as if you’re their toilets and urinals – why shouldn’t they urinate on you?
What of the notion that these Muslim kids “feel that there is no place for them in society”? On the contrary: they’re confident, self-assured members of their own parallel society and have, since childhood, been fiercely dedicated to the faith of their fathers. They cherish their own culture as much as you despise yours. They’re warriors for it. They see themselves as having been divinely tasked with supplanting your society – whose worthlessness you proclaim so incessantly – with their own. While the Jante Law instructs you to be submissive, the Koran orders them to subjugate. And the way things are going, it looks as if they’re well on their way to doing so. I can’t wait to see what David Brooks will have to say about it when it happens.