Hanne Nabintu Herland (born in Kivu in Democratic Republic of Congo) is a Norwegian historian of religions, bestselling author, lecturer and social pundit. Educated at the University of Oslo, Herland has written several books, among which is the recent best seller Alarm! Reflections on a culture in crisis(2010) and RESPECT ( Orfeus Publishing 2012).
She is known for razor-sharp analysis and fearless expression of opinion, and writes about perspectives that often are not so called «politically correct.» She is a strong voice for traditional European values and tends to view the Norwegian society from an international perspective.
She often participates in TV and radio programs and holds lectures at colleges and universities, business conferences and church events, as well as in public debates.
Herland emphasizes that it is vital for European culture to uphold its cultural roots in facing the globalized world, and that each culture should determine its own values without outside interference. She has written extensively about the need for respect for ethics and religious values in society, as well as the importance of individual freedom in democratic states. She states that the Western culture is sliding towards decay due to its overly energetic push away from traditional values, precisely the ideas that once made the West such a great civilization.
She was strongly against the Libya-war in 2011 as well as US interference in Syria. According to Herland, each country should be a sovereign national state which should have the right to solve its own problems without interference from foreign countries. She is famously known for having said: NATO has gone from being a transatlantic defense organization to an aggressive political alliance which attacks weak states wherever Western interests are threatened.
Childhood: Herland was born in the Congo. In the sixties her parents moved to Africa to work for UNESCO, and it was a family friend, the chieftain of the Shi Tribe in the Congo, that gave her the name Nabintu at her birth. She spent her childhood in the Congo, Kenya and Rwanda. At the age of 19 she returned to Europe and Norway. Herland is fluent in four languages.
Hanne Nabintu Herland on Wikipedia
Hanne Nabintu Herland’s Youtube Channel
Hanne Nabintu Herland on Facebook.
An interview of Hanne Nabintu Herland about her new book RESPEKT ( February 2012 Orfeus Publishing) by Monica Øien
An interview of Hanne Nabintu Herland on her bestelling book Alarm! Thought on a culture in crisis. (Luther 2010)
A few of Herlands latest articles which have been published widely, both in the US as well as in Europe:
Multiculturalism’s failure in Europe
Over the past decade the opponents of multiculturalism have multiplied. Leading politicians like Angela Merkel, David Cameron and Nicolas Sarkozy have all condemned this Leftist strategy of integration that equates the ideals of other cultures with European traditional values in Europe. The idea has been that Europeans should not uphold their own cultural roots, but instead listen humbly to new immigrant residents and accept their traditional norms and customs in the name of diversity.
But multiculturalism has in essence turned out quite differently than the utopian dreamers of the naïve Leftwing socialists hoped for when they first started out. Today many decline to engage in necessary discussion concerning the need to uphold traditional European values in a time of upheaval, for fear of offending non-Western immigrants and being labeled intolerant and racist.
This implies a tragic misunderstanding of what tolerance really means.
To be tolerant means to respect other cultures when visiting their countries, just as immigrants from foreign cultures are to respect European values and ways of life when they move to Europe. To be tolerant is to respect the traditions, values and social norms of the country in which you are staying.
One of the main problems with multiculturalism, is that it does not respect the differences and boundaries between nations and cultures. For instance, for a number of years there have been demands to tone down Christmas celebration and exclude it from school arrangements, justified by Leftist claims that the holiday´s emphasis on the birth of Jesus Christ and the celebration of Santa Claus will offend non-Western immigrants. Yet, many Muslims object to these types of multicultural attempts, as they say that they of course have nothing against celebrating the birth of Jesus, or in Arabic “Isa”. After all, he is a prophet in Islam.
Similarly, in a country like Norway there are efforts to criticize the traditional use of the Norwegian flag on Independence Day, the 17th of May, to avoid conflicts with non-Western newcomers. Hardcore multiculturalists want each person to use the flag of his country of origin, rather than the Norwegian flag which symbolizes national unity.
When pride in one’s own traditional values are continuously suppressed and spurned, the result may be that Europeans feel discriminated against in their own culture. This becomes a “racism against white’s” which in turn creates a growing environment of displeasure with “non-Western foreigners”. In turn, resentment fuelled among ethnic groups may grow malicious. The Swedish city of Malmo is an excellent example of how bad things can get when a sloppy careless multiculturalism is implemented and society doesn’t demand respect for Swedish law. In Malmo, foreigners are moving back to their countries of origin like Iraq or Iran, because things are much better in those countries than in Sweden.
The mistake of multiculturalism and its contempt for traditional European values is that it fails to recognize the need for a strong common ground of cultural unity.
Yet, there are many misconceptions about what it means to be against multiculturalism. Some believe that it involves a general antagonism towards immigration; that the goal is a society with no foreigners whatsoever, a kind of monoculture where only the original ethnic population is desired. This is, however, not the case.
To oppose multiculturalism means to respect the sovereignty of other countries and their right to define the cultural ideals they wish to emphasize within their boundaries, and at the same time, to claim this very right in Europe within the context of European culture. Europeans should define the values and laws that apply in Europe and immigrants from other cultures should respect these. Just as «Europeans» should not dictate norms in other countries and have no right to intervene in other countries’ internal affairs, “non-Westerners” should not have rights to define fundamental values in Europe.
For instance, to respect the right of other cultures to practice polygamy in their own countries does not necessarily mean that you must accept the same cultural practice when in Europe. Here European values and marriage laws apply. Those who are not inclined to conform to European laws are of course free to return to their country of origin and practice their religious, marital or cultural preferences there.
We who are against the injustice of multiculturalism aspire a globalized world with a greater degree of international respect based on each country’s right to determine its own values. The plea is for a Europe where foreigners and all Europeans receive equal treatment and actively participate in the development of a society based on the values of the traditional European heritage.
Opponents of multiculturalism have a very positive view towards law-abiding working immigrants who are more than welcome, but criminals with no constructive contribution to make to society should be punished and expelled from the communities. If you show no respect for the country you move to, you lose the right to stay there.
We want a multi-ethnic society that evaluates individuals on an equal basis in light of their competencies and willingness to work rather than ethnicity. But multiculturalism is heavily tinted with an underlying socialistic racism which implies that people with dark skins who do not originate from Europe should be “pitied”. These people must be helped, provided with welfare benefits and excused if they commit crimes. This socialistic racism is denigrating, and today permeates governments and social structures in a number of European countries, amongst these Norway. Instead of showing immigrants respect by offering them work, we shuffle the non-Western into an underclass of welfare-dependent victims. The tragedy of multiculturalism is that it has created a class oriented and ethnically segregated environment which places so called “non-Western foreigners” at the bottom of the social ladder.
Multiculturalism has slowly robbed ordinary Europeans of pride in their own culture and awareness of the importance of its values. It was the European cultural environment that years ago fostered citizens of the enlightenment with a high regard for honesty, punctuality, duty, integrity and solidarity. Emphasis on moral elements such as self-discipline, education, humility and good manners formed the basis for a society that respected individual differences. Capitalism joined with the protestant ethic produced a culture that emphasized hard work, savings, honesty and the belief that earnings should merely be spent, but re-invested. When Europeans relinquish these cultural ideals, the upshot is today´s moral decline with financial crises, mediocrity and cultural decay.
Europeans must reinforce a belief in these norms, ideas and guidelines that form the basis of traditional Western thinking. We must continue to build on common historical values to which everyone, regardless of ethnic origin, should respect when living in Europe. This will produce a stronger, more peaceful and stable Europe for the times ahead.
NATO: The tyrant in Libya
Article published in Norway’s largest newspaper, Aftenposten, October 27th, 2011
NATO’s brutal war and contribution to genocide in Libya is one of the worst examples of Western assault in modern history. In a just world the politically responsible Western authorities would have been brought to The Hague and tried for crimes against humanity.
In our lifetime NATO has gone from being a transatlantic defense organization to an aggressive political alliance which attacks weak states wherever Western interests are threatened.
The renowned American professor Samuel Huntington, has in The Clash of Civilizations? (1996) pointed out that future conflicts will evolve along cultural lines, because civilizations simply do not understand each other. NATOs war in Libya is a good example of this.
Another political scientist, Robert Kagan added that during the past decade the West has implemented an aggressive and self-glorifying global policy with the goal of shaping the world according to Western culture and values. In this process, they have forced others to bow down according to their will in ways which are deemed to provoke vengeance and a serious backlash.
The UN Security Council is dominated by rich Western countries. Huntington says that due to this the United Nations mainly function as a servant of Western interests, while decisions are double standardly presented to the Rest of the world as if it is in the interest of the world community in general and concerns democracy, human rights and protection of civilians.
The leading Western nations has in the case of Libya gained legitimacy in the UN to attack a state based on assumptions and circumstantial evidence, misused UNs no-fly zone resolution in order to bomb Africa’s richest country to the ground and thus prepare for civil war, contributed to the genocide in Sirte, mass murder of civilians and a large number of Libyan blacks, intervened in a country’s internal affairs by aiding only one fraction in the conflict and most recently, supported a regime that has gravely violated international law on the treatment of prisoners of war.
Hilary Clinton’s laughter when she heard about Gaddafi’s brutal death while she quoted Julius Caesar about the US and her own role in the matter, speaks for itself. Norway’s choice to award the Nobel Peace Prize to President Barack Obama in 2008, the man who gave the U.S.’ green light to these assaults, was a huge mistake.
Huntington points out that in a global world, the Western notion that Western values are universal, is potentially very dangerous. It provides an artificial legitimacy to destabilize nations, contribute to war and civil war, which in time may very well lead to the end of the West. In a world defined by various cultural, ethnic and religious identities, it is crucial that the West recognizes that its culture is distinct, but not universal. It has jurisdiction in the Western cultural sphere, but not in everyone else’s territory.
The brutal lynching of Moammar al- Gaddafi and his son Muatassim violates every concept of international justice, which quickly gave Gaddafi martyr status in a number of African and Muslim countries, countries that now hardly dare to say a word, which is understandable considering the brutality the rich nations of the West has shown the world will face those who go against them. It is a paradox that these are the defenders of democracy, so-called freedom and respect for human rights.
Everyone agrees that Gaddafi has had his flaws, but he also modernized society and did much good for Libya, as well as for other African countries. This is hardly mentioned in the biased Western media, which all too often only reflects the views of the Western political elites, – by the way the definition of propaganda. This misleads the Western public opinion in an alarming way.
Before NATO «humanitarian bombing» Libya was Africa’s richest country with higher living standards than Italy, Australia and New Zealand; they had free education, healthcare and the right to study abroad with scholarships for both men and women; with regular unemployment benefits and aid of $ 50. 000 to support newly weds. 82% can read and write. Numbers are equally high for women.
The socialistic Moammar al-Gaddafi allowed oil wealth to benefit the population. The country has large state-owned foreign funds to secure the future. In the last few years Libya have adapted to the West, solved the Lockerbie-issue, reduced army expenditure, disarmed weapons of mass destructions and opened for Western investment. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi recently said Libya’s past years of tolerance and openness towards the West clearly was a mistake, in the light of the recent events.
To the extent that Gaddafi was a tyrant, the tyrant was removed by an even worse tyrant – NATO. Professor Jacob L. Talmon has previously shown how easy it is for democracies to become totalitarian, dominated by arrogant political elites who promote politically correct propaganda and exercise an unbearable pressure on their own media as well as the population.
With the West’s current strategy of aggression towards weak states who threaten Western interests, one should at least, in the name of honesty remove the slogans of “hope for peace in the Middle East”.
Norway: the most anti-Semitic country in the West. On the bigotry of the current Radical Leftwing government in Norway
The President of Israel, Mr. Shimon Peres’ critical comments on the current Norwegian government’s reluctancy to follow EU, UN and USA in denouncing Hamas as a terrorist movement, are timely remarks. If one adds Harvard professor Alan M. Dershowitz article in the Wall Street Journal March 30, it all makes me ashamed to be Norwegian. Under the title «Jews are not welcome in Norway,» Mr. Dershowitz told of his encounters with anti-Semitic Norwegian academics who made it clear that he was unwanted as a guest lecturer at Norwegian universities. This is how Norwegian intellectuals treat one the West’s most famous defense lawyers and an internationally renowned Harvard University professor. This is anti-Semitism with a new European face: Anti-Israelism.
I met Dershowitz in March during Oslo Symposium 2011. His description of the obvious anti-Semitism and the lack of willingness to be objective that characterizes Norwegian academia, is flat out shocking. During my opening lecture at the same Symposium Conference, I pointed out that the lack of nuances that characterizes the Norwegian understanding of the realities in Israel and the Middle East are not only shameless, but historically inacurate. For culturally we have much more in common with the Jewish people than one would think. Western civilizational values has its cradle in the Greek and Roman contributions, but also, and especially when it comes to values, in the Hebrew-Christian contribution. The European humanistic view of the dignity of human beings regardless of rank, class or ethnicity carries deep impact from Judaism. These values are at the core of what it means to belong to Western Civilization.
But today, Norwegians reach far beyond the question of Palestine, and instead of supporting the only real democracy in the Middle East, namely Israel, we blackmail the Israelis in a manner as though we were still in 1939 at the time the socialist Hitler «sieg heil » was shouted in Norway. For the Nazis were Left Wing, and came out of Germany’s Socialist Labour Party, they were not right-wing. The individuals in the Norwegian politically powerful positions that have pushed for these solely negative attitudes for so many years, are responsible for creating a politically-correct hatred towards Israel that has made Norway the most anti-Semitic country in the West.
Norway’s largest newspaper VG recently showed a survey on what the Norwegian people think of the largest TV station, NRKs chronically negative covering of Israel. The question was whether the people feel that the coverage is done in an objective manner or not. 60% believed that the recent complaint by the Israeli embassy in Oslo is right in that the coverage is constantly negative towards Israel, and highly biased.
The current Radical Leftwing government, voiced by people like Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr-Store’s embracing of the Hamas, thus does not reflect the feelings of ordinary Norwegians who support a higher level of justice towards Israel. Prior to the Oslo Agreement, Fatah’s Yasir Arafat was required to denounce terrorism. Today, the Radical Norwegian governments silently accept Hamas’ wish for ethnic cleansing of the Jewish minority, and pose no major remarks. Anti-Israelistic actions like these are unprecedented in modern Norwegian History. The French philosopher Bernard Henri-Lévy has strongly criticized the European Left for its flirt with the totalitarian islamist movement, which values, for example the desire for ethnic cleansing, clashes with core Western ideals like human rights, the concept of tolerance and democracy. His point is that the Left’s ongoing sympathy with the weak and feeble in society, clouds their minds and creates an atmosphere where they make the crucial mistake of supporting the anti-Americanism, anti-Israelism and bottom line, anti-Westernism that these groups carry.
When the democratic right to free thinking is restricted, and only one part of the story is told, democracy alters shape and turns into a totalitarian system of speech control. Today Norwegian media tells of Jews who hardly dare walk the streets of Oslo without fear of being spat on, – and not from Muslims but of ethnic Norwegian misguided people who think they do the truth a service by bullying fellow human beings. Deep injustice lie in the fact that leading Radical Leftist opinionmakers in the Norwegian system have decided NOT to contribute to increased knowledge of international relations, but only reflect the politically-correct Leftwing dictate. During Soviet times this was called propaganda.
Foreign Minister Store ongoing articles in international newspapers in defense of Hamas, reflects this naiveté which eventually becomes so great that one should be promoting suspicion of deliberate malice. His International Harald Tribune article February 15 is a disgrace. There is good reason to understand why parts of the Labour Party would rather have him as Minister of Health. Then one could at least have stopped the harm this man is doing when it comes to degrading Norway’s international reputation. For Mr. Store is internationally ridiculing his own country by acting as a self-styled Hamas activist. He was recently caught lying in a live TV2 show, denying his continuous political talks with Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal. He only changed his story when the reporter told him Mr. Meshaal had spoken about his conversations with Mr. Store.
Because of the lack of political will to present both sides of the story, Norwegians are denied objective information that could have contributed to public knowledge of the international situation. The same happened in Iran in 1979 when the Marxists and other supporters of the naive dreams of the effects of armed revolutions «of the people», hailed Khomeini. The Shah of Persia was overthrown and many Marxists shed tears of joy because the Iranian people now had their revolution. Today many also cry, but for quite other reasons.
The Norwegian media’s uncritical celebration of the angry young men on Tahrir-Square during the recent revolution in Egypt, is a similar example. It was remarkably quickly forgotten that President Mubarak at the last election had more than 80% of the population behind him. During his years in power, he enabled Egypt to become Africa’s fastest growing economy and one of the Middle East’s most expansive, secular and stable country, rated as a middle income country by the UN, with a national income per. capita increased by 40% from 2004 up till today. In recent years, Mubarak succeeded in bringing one million out of poverty and into a middle class, an accomplishment that further pushed economic growth.
Many questions can be asked when it comes to the situation in the Middle East, including Egypt. It is well known that the country has struggled with corruption, poverty and lack of religious freedom. Nevertheless, the conservative philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville observed that when the so-called dictators over time have made conditions better for their people, that is when revolutions come that often make things worse again.
The lack of will to promote and highlight various aspects of what is really happening in Israel as well as in numerous other international issues, is thus one of the reasons why many Norwegians now stand together and push for a new course in Norwegian politics. We want an end to the propaganda and to the misleading image which continually is portrayed of Israel.
We want justice.
The need to uphold traditional European values
During the course of his determined efforts to establish a foundation for communicative rationality, the renowned German philosopher Jurgen Habermas reviewed methods demonstrating that normative questions, or questions concerning how people should behave, can be resolved rationally. Habermas, together with several modern moral philosophers, has viewed with increasing trepidation the tendency towards weakening solidarity in liberal society. Narrow focus on the rights of the individual has resulted in a substantial moral collapse. When normative consideration for others diminishes, and the State becomes everyone’s mother, egoism governs actions and the very foundation of social solidarity falters. When responsibility for care and nurturing is increasingly relegated to state institutions, the individual is free to pursue and cultivate their personal rights, independent of the constraints of duties and obligations.
In the search for a value basis with the ability to sufficiently motivate an individual to solidarity, the Neo-Marxist Habermas has clearly reversed his philosophic direction in relation to the ethical foundation of pre-modern European culture. In The Dialectics of Secularization (2007) he calls attention to the unique ability of traditional ethics, with their religious convergence in for example Judaism’s ethic foundation in the Ten Commandments, to motivate people to empathy and humanitarian actions. Habermas concludes that Europe needs to retrieve moral strength from its historical origins and re-establish respect for some of the traditional norms. Only this will curtail the present tendency towards the decline of solidarity in a society that first and foremost emphasizes material and technological progress. Complete removal of the common denominator for the roots of European cultural identity can be a ruinous misstep.
Habermas’ dramatic transformation, so clearly expressed in his acceptance speech for the 2005 Holberg Prize in Norway, surprised and even shocked the academic community to such a degree that they abstained from any comment. The reason is understandable. For several decades a cultural radicalism clearly antagonistic to traditional ethics has had a solid grip on Norway. The original dream of the leftwing was to demolish the traditional bastions of society. They peddled the principle that a classless secular citizenry would automatically lead to a better society where minorities would be neither marginalized nor ridiculed. In their rush to reform, they failed to distinguish between those traditional values worth preserving and those that actually called for reform. Instead, total, unqualified reform eradicated all traditional values.
Any criticism must center on Jacques Derrida, the philosopher of the ’68 generation, who promoted a philosophy that reduced the ethical ideals of European culture to rubble. As the father of Multiculturalism, he stars as the modern philosopher with the most successful attack on the value basis of European civilization, such that the entire culture shriveled back, enfeebled and sapped. Multiculturalism contains the idea that Western culture and values should not be given the authority as leading values in Europe and the USA, but all cultural values should be equally respected. European roots, the ideals that once made the European sivilization so great, should no longer define European values. Derrida’s deconstructionism has long been accused of containing a nihilistic element that legitimizes the individual’s right to act in their own interest without regard for others. Leftwing philosophers searched so intensely for repressive conditions that their recommended solution was removal of all mainstays of society. Thus philosophy opened for a social trajectory that slipped swiftly over to a state of self-exterminating anarchy. Habermas further explores the basis for his disagreement with Derrida in Europe the faltering project.
A society characterized by modern diversity and pluralism does not automatically demand the stifling of pride over national values. In the Study of Religion one of our era’s most important sociologists, Peter Berger, asserts that diversity and pluralism do not necessarily entail an opposition between maintaining one’s own cultural identity and at the same time, respecting the beliefs of others, be it Muslims, Hindus or other religious minorities. According to Berger, the ethnic melting pot of USA provides a prime example. Full religious freedom is there concomitant with considerable respect for all believers, even though major Western and Protestant values form the core of American culture.
Anxiety for setting limits stands as the overshadowing mantra of modern times. Corrosion of social authorities is most unmistakable in the moral arena, where a singular emphasis on sexual emancipation has advanced to the point of threatening the very existence of the family. The ‘68 generation’s revolt against the traditional has stripped authorities of their influence and ability to provide correction, be it teachers, priests, or police. For who has the authority to advise and discipline young people today? In the classroom teachers are powerless in their confrontation with obnoxious, unruly youth and police stand paralyzed and unarmed in the face of violent criminality.
Habermas seeks therefore a new system of thought that takes the liberal secular society a critical step towards the solution of significant social challenges. This modern consciousness should be expressed in a broader assessment that includes the relevant and regulating contribution of traditional religious ethics. This way to think will continue to distinguish between faith and science, however it will renounce the narrow academic definition of reason that lacks respect for religious doctrines. Traditional science remains in a naturalistic position that belittles all categories of knowledge that are not based on empirical data, laws of nature and causal explanations. According to Habermas, this worldview imposes a serious weakness, with the result that moral and judicial convictions are scorned just as much as religious beliefs.
Habermas maintains that singular emphasis on technical knowledge makes it difficult for us to understand the complexity of the human psyche. A more practical understanding of what individual responsibility and accountability entails is essential. If traditional science is the only frame of reference, such an understanding is difficult to obtain. Habermas discusses this further in Between Naturalism and Religion, and supports philosopher Georg W. Hegel’s thesis that world religions should in no way be described as archaic, as they are in fact integral to the history of rationality.
In the process to increase respect for the opinions of religious citizens, Habermas points out that the State’s worldly character is a necessary, but insufficient, condition for citizens to practice true religious freedom. It is naïve to believe that secularized authority will align automatically and positively to the rights of people of faith, under the supposition that such minorities will always be respected. Habermas takes it a step further. He insists that religious citizens should express and justify their convictions publically in a religious language, because other citizens can learn something normative from these views. Otherwise society is barred from important resources for the formation of meaning and identity.
Today a need exists for a renewed bond to our own European cultural and religious traditions. In an increasingly pluralistic present, an identity-anchoring element is a cultural prerequisite. The solution is a new system of thought that sustains society’s secular-liberal character, but implements respect for the ability of the European ethic to motivate people to solidarity and empathy.
The West in Crisis
Since the end of the Cold War the military hegemony of the West has been unchallenged. Increasingly arrogant and over-confident, the USA and Europe developed an acute lack of respect for the sovereignty of other cultures and an uncivilized belief that aggressive military bombing was sufficient to force other nations to their knees. Today the super-power façade of the West cracks while financial crises ripple in the wake of cultural greed and lack of self-regulation and self-discipline. Serious social-political unrest rocks the entire western world.
What we observe today has happened before. The English historian Edward Gibbon´s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is only one of many treatises highlighting distinctive historical phenomena. When a civilization is at its zenith, with power and influence over many other cultures, it often develops the notion that it represents the noblest and most advanced thus far known in history. In these moments of self-exaltation, a blind sense of invincibility prevails. No matter what reform is implemented, and even if the civilization abandons its original values – values that actually contributed to its greatness, no matter how it deals with its minority groups, no matter what wars it initiates in foreign territories, this civilization believes that it will remain superior.
The economist Mancur Olson points out that Great Britain´s high status prior to World War II and the fact that Britain was on the winning side after the war, contributed to a state of arrogance that obstructed real needs for progress and growth. Complacent self-satisfaction and cultural indifference permeated British society, with the result that industrial growth and expansion received little or no attention. The British increasingly emphasized strong labor organizations and the development of a welfare society with extensive rights to social aid and welfare. Protectionist policies excluded other countries from the British market, in spite of their better-priced and higher quality products. The British were gripped by an intense desire to borrow money, incur debt, go on vacation and relax.
Great Britain blithely ignored increasingly competitive economies in many other countries. Self-confident winners of the war, they lost the leading role as a Western world power. Germany, in contrast, lost the war and humbly endeavored to meet the challenges of the future. They formed a society based on hard word, the re-establishment of German institutions, and limited debt. Today we live in a time where the USA as a world power shows many of these same characteristics of cultural decline.
A brilliant civilization can disappear. It can decay and rot. History is full of examples of civilizations initially characterized by a will to work, discipline, strong defense and shared values. A golden age followed, with growth and prosperity. But before this same civilization lost its power and slipped into the past with fading splendor, the society first passed through a phase where initial constructive ideals were labeled old-fashioned, out-of-date and passé. Humility evaporated. Family unity and empathy with the disenfranchised crumbled. Self-realization, consumerism and egoism rather than unity were idealized and mistakenly equated with individual freedom. Self-pleasure was all-powerful. Today we think that human rights bear no connection with human duties. Those that deviate from the pressures of conformity are ridiculed and mocked in a manner that hauntingly resembles Germany in the 1930s when the left extremist and national socialist Hitler assumed power.
Decline spans over many years, and people tend to accept and become accustomed to conditions of mediocrity. Like fish they swim aimlessly around in the increasingly dirty water. Infrastructure, public buildings, hospitals and schools decay, criminal groups assume power where upstanding citizens and the police once had control, teachers lose authority in the classroom, the cultures of knifing and bullying dominate, law-abiding youth are beaten up and women raped without noticeable reactions from authorities, manners and politeness disappear, respect for other religions and political opinions crumble, group pressures increase and in a totalitarian manner, force individuals to think both alike and politically correct.
In the face of such a degenerated and increasingly totalitarian democracy that no longer stands for human freedom, the population becomes resigned. They understand that they now live in a Soviet. Secrets are discussed within the four walls of the home, people whisper and look over their shoulder, while the oppressed rage over unsolved social challenges rises.
In The evolution of civilizations historian Caroll Quigley associates the expansion and development of civilizations with the existence of a permanent military, religious, political and economic organizational structure to maintain growth and prosperity. Decline begins when a civilization ceases to emphasize the very ideals that initially resulted in expansion and productivity. These are commonly replaced by alternative values that focus more on enjoyment, rest and relaxation.
At the pinnacle of a golden age, values change. This phase is characterized by impending economic crises, a reduction in standard of living, poor physical and mental health in the population, a rise of ethnic conflicts and civil wars parallel with a growing ignorance, analphabetism and low standards in schools and universities. The already weakened political authorities attempt to take control, but fail. They are unresponsive to the needs of the citizenry and the political system fails to remove incompetent politicians and bureaucrats. These individuals remain in their positions despite the fact that they do nothing to better worsening conditions in the country. Being a politician has become an occupation cultivating the art of argumentation for the sake of personal needs and career. The old socialistic ideals “for the good of the people” are forgotten.
This is Norway in the year 2012. The paralyzing “do-good-ism” and the structural lack of responsibility that characterizes modern public administration is the real social enemy spurring destructive ethnic and social tensions in the population. The reality gap between common citizens and politicians hardens as many Norwegians powerlessly observe increases in social violence, institutionalized “poverty” of care the sick and elderly and cumbersome and ineffective bureaucracies. Despite the quick claims of ministers “to evaluate the situation”, they see how little is accomplished in reality.
Has our civilization´s time of greatness irreversibly passed? If that is the case we brought it on ourselves. We slept when we should have been awake.
Time to uphold Western values
Today Muslims are a hot topic of discussion. Dissatisfaction in the wake of the murder attempt on the Danish cartoonist responsible for the Mohammed caricature has again blown wind in the sails of ever more urgent discussions about Islam and Muslims in Europe.
But why are Europeans generally so preoccupied with foreign religions and other cultures while so little is said about Europe’s own cultural values? Most non-western immigrate from their homelands because they believe that it is considerably better to live in a European country. How is it that we today are not allowed to emphasize the positive elements in European culture? The brilliant civilized elements of Western Culture actually provided the foundation for the growth of stable democratic states in Europe. The coupling between the protestant ethic’s emphasis on the Ten Commandments and capitalism’s espousal of hard work and real earnings made Western Culture a leading global force. Independent courts protected the human value and civil rights of the individual. The market capitalistic system has since spread in triumph over the world and released millions of people from lives of poverty.
Sociologist Max Weber’s work has shown that the fundamental values of a state are not irrelevant factors. The success of capitalism is related to a highly specific series of ethical norms grounded in the Calvinistic traditions of honesty, hard work and integrity. Finance crises occur when moral principles that provide the basis for the optimal functioning of capitalism are abandoned. Greed and egoism take the overhand.
All values are therefore not equally good in the building of a state. Many cultures have values that are both destructive to society and disregard humanity. Some values create human communities and set healthy limits so that no one has the right to override others. Other values and ideals open for social chaos where the individual’s egoism is primary. Self satisfaction and realization then occurs at the cost of solidarity and common manners.
Author Seth Kaplan emphasizes in Fixing Fragile States that countries that today succeed in implementing a well-functioning capitalism, continue to exhibit a strict moral emphasis on work, individualism and personal property rights. It is impossible to build a well-functioning society without a solid ethical foundation, for which abominable conditions in many African states provide good examples. Where authorities do not provide real judicial rights and where corruption is pervasive, there is weak economic growth and great social unrest. For what happens in a state where it is legitimate to lie? If it is acceptable to steal from the workplace? If trust and loyalty dissolve as societal glue, only irresponsibility and betrayal remain.
A society characterized by modern diversity certainly does not require that pride over national values be choked. In The Study of Religion one of our time’s most important sociologists, Peter Berger, points out that diversity and pluralism do not imply a contradiction between maintaining one’s own cultural anchoring in religious traditions and respecting the beliefs of others.
One can ask: How have we come to the situation where Europeans are dutifully required to only emphasize the positive in foreign cultures and the negative in the European culture? Why is one labeled a national chauvinist as soon as one mentions constructive aspects of traditions? One of the answers is that the denigration of our own cultural background is enshrined in the present socialist politics that have characterized most of Europe to an extreme level the last 40 years. Amongst other ideas, multiculturalism has had a negative impact on Europe.
Multiculturalism contains the idea that Western culture and values should not be given the authority as leading values in Europe and the USA, but all cultural values should be equally respected. European roots, the ideals that once made the European sivilization so great, should no longer define European values.
Spokesmen for value relativism considered it their primary task to fight society’s traditional authorities. A modern multicultural society should be based on a universal science that replaced national culture. The odd idea prevailed that as soon as every remnant of European traditions was removed, a classless socialistic utopia would be realized. Today everyone knows that the cultural radicals were wrong. Europe has not become a paradise even though the Socialist worldview permeates all levels of society and defines policies in sector after sector. It has however paved the way for legitimatization of a norm-dissolving egoism in a society that detests words like self discipline, responsibility and duty. As a consequence of the liberalization process, no one dares to speak positively about traditional culture at the risk of appearing chauvinistic or racist.
The Left failed to understand that also in their own historical value foundation exist such basic Christian values as the duty of solidarity and equalizing of class differences. Central Leftist values also have their roots in traditional culture and carry important values that modern society lacks. Today Europe finds itself in a deep cultural crisis. Deconstruction of social authorities such as teachers, clergy and police has gone so far that it is almost not permissible to discuss limit setting. Today everything is cultivated except the cultural backbone of society.
In Nasjonalstaten the Norwegian professor Sigurd Skirbekk calls for a stronger national solidarity towards Norway’s own traditions. He maintains that a society depends on a common platform with moral and cultural qualities. It is a paradox that while one previously referred to historical national military conflicts as events that gave us “freedom as a gift”, modern historians call these same events “an obsolete nationalism.” Without the constructive nationalism that characterized many European countries in that historical phase, freedom would not have been achieved.
The destructive chauvinism that leads to genocide of the kind that Europe experienced with the totalitarian Hitler’s National Socialistic Labor Party in Germany (NAZI) does exist. At the same time a positive form of nationalism exists, offering people a secure cultural identity so that they can find their place in an ever more global society. Today it is time for a renewed focus on our own positive cultural traditions. We need the freedom to again be proud to be a European.
One of France’s leading philosophers, anti-marxist Andre Glucksmann, characterizes the conflict of value in Europe as a struggle between nihilism and conservatism. Nihilism advocates a moral without limits, where any and all actions are permissible. Evil does not exist. The shame of conscience is perceived as a socially constructed effect of traditional dogmas, to which the preferable response is one of rebellion. Freedom is thus the abandonment of the norms of the middle class, particularly in questions of sexual ethics.
Sexuality is one of life’s greatest gifts. Sex satisfies existential needs for self confirmation heightened by the release of orgasm. Who can survive without it? Even so this irrational desire has clear limitations, which the moral understanding of the cultural radical fails to consider. Today moral philosophical questions associated with sexual limits are unfortunately a taboo laden subject. The achievement of every liberal freedom does not automatically lead to a better society — one of the myths that progressive leftists have a tendency to advocate. Which freedoms are destructive and which are constructive?
In Ouest contre Ouest (The West against the West) Glucksmann maintains that the European cultural divide is characterized by the struggle between those who desire reform in a liberal direction and those who wish to preserve the traditional Europe. However, value reflections can not be simplified to a question of left or right politics. These questions concern us all. In her time, Norway’s mother, Gro Harlem Brundtland, called for the “neighbor lady”, the woman on the street that cared about everyone. In the secular liberal society, both conservative and liberal thinking can contribute to an increased emphasis on greater moral energy. The cohesion of society depends on the strength of solidarity and empathy.
The rebellion of the Left had positive elements. The cemented elitist thinking in the middle class needed softening. The original spiritual eagerness of Pietism contained an irresistible optimism that provided the basis for the Norwegian state, in the words of Professor Francis Seierstedt. Prayer house icon Hans Nielsen Hauge stood in the forefront of a positive social process based on a cocktail of responsibility, moral duties, and solidarity. Because the Christian view of humanity considers the individual as both good and evil, the human conscience is the guide to a balanced life. In generations following Hauge attitudes soured among conservative Christians. Rigid commands and rules replaced spiritual force. It is not strange that socialists started a revolt against priests and prelates who cultivated the art of judgment to the extreme. Christians have themselves to thank for the establishment of these negative impressions. They idealized young women that appeared chaste and asexual and raised men to despise their own sexuality. With what right did Christians demonize the god-given need for sex? Early in the 1900s psychiatrist Sigmund Freud maintained that lack of sex among neurotic Christians caused psychoses.
The rise of hedonism as a modern social trend gained its legitimization here. Clearly egocentric sensual enjoyment paved the road to happiness. Friedrich Nietzsche idealized this perception. Nihilistic trends were later accused of opening the gates for Nazi atrocities. Because solidarity was downplayed, Auschwitz was possible.
Nihilism and hedonism are actually related moral philosophies which both attempt to justify the individual’s right to place self-gratification before consideration for others. The Freudian trend was a reaction to the rigidly chaste ideals of pietism. As is common when the pendulum swings, one extreme replaces another. In today’s postmodern Norway hedonism is glorified in a way that few would have thought possible just decades ago. Numbers show that over 70% of all internet searches are related to pornography.
The political elite find themselves in an ethic dilemma. The need for moral energy has been abandoned and forgotten. If the rebellion against the middle class implies that traditional moral thought (the ethics of the Ten Commandment) is abolished, egoism will reign. The naivety of hedonism rests on its denial of the importance of compassion as a basic component of a liberal secular society.
Today the fear of questioning the hedonistic development is so large that the theme is completely smothered and totally silenced. Magazines with sex and descriptions of intercourse flourish. Tribute is paid to TV series for the promotion of betrayal and malicious gossip. But few, if any, speak of the moral conditions for a healthy, lifelong sex life: trust, faithfulness and responsibility. How does it end for a society that encourages the betrayal of your partner “if it feels good”? What social structures survive the strain of the disappearance of faithfulness, honesty and civility? Human goodness chokes in such an anti-democratic decline. Today approximately 1 million Norwegians live alone. This is understandable. Who dares to trust a partner in today’s social climate? Just as the protestant elites in Germany openly paid tribute to Hitler without a thought to the morally suspicious sides of Nazism, today’s political elite uncritically support the exaltation of hedonistic sexual trends.
The search for the golden middle road and restrictions on sensual enjoyment has been a topic of discussion since antiquity. Greek philosophers thought that hedonism would cause social dissolution and the fall of Athenian democracy. They were right. Aristotle points out in The Nikomakiske Ethic that over time those that live according to hedonism become disappointed and end with an imbalance in their soul. They become emotionally handicapped by a dependence on stronger and stronger stimuli, always searching for “a sensual kick.”
Aristotle recommended moderation. Rule-fixated asceticism does not lead to a harmonious life, neither does hedonistic egoism. One of Europe’s most widely read authors, the atheist Michel Houellebecq, created a commotion with his challenging call to arms novel Extension of the Warzone that depicted the superficiality of the moral beliefs of the cultural radical. Houellebecq maintains that in postmodern times we have neglected the need for human compassion and thereby contributed to the institutionalization of care in a society characterized by emptiness, lack of empathy, and loneliness. His allegation is that sexuality today consists of a system of differentiation that is as merciless as market capitalism. In the same manner as rampant economic liberalism, sexual liberalism creates a chronic poverty where many are relegated to loneliness and masturbation. Some have sex every day, others five or six times in their life. However, in a sexual system where the dissolution of marriage is forbidden, almost everyone will find a bed partner.
The criticism of hedonism is that it does not adequately take into account the complexity of human nature. The body is more than physical. It embraces deep psychological mechanisms and a sea of vulnerable emotions. Exactly here lie the limits of sexuality. Humans consist of deeper dimensions that are not satisfied by titillating intercourse alone.