I’m not super political, despite what my posts may suggest. Though I touch on the current state of affairs (no pun intended) rather often my stance on American politics has always been the long term model: that either in my lifetime, or the lifetime of my future generations, America will fall as Rome did or be subsumed into a larger planetary entity, utopian/dystopian or otherwise, like Star Trek’s Federation of Planets or Warhammer 40,000. There are basic rights that every government promotes for the electorate, and regardless of which political spectrum one resides, the ends are achieved one way or another. The unregulated and anarchistic model of the fiscally conservative, remarkably similar to Mad Max (only with etiquette and manners in the slaughter of the innocent), is a favorite among most that already have wealth. Still, the basic principals of American free-market capitalism are ones deeply rooted in American traditions of entrepreneurship and free enterprise. There is elevated importance in the responsibility of the average citizen to “pay attention” and not “fuck up,” lest they willfully confine themselves to the proletariat strata for a generation or two.
Any other government today seems to be defined and judged on the merits of the former model, that any other interpretation of continental Enlightenment ideals and French populism is somehow an incomplete or misinterpreted execution of the classical models of Adam Smith. I once heard a Libertarian say “of all the imperfect models, capitalism is the best possible of all evils.” I wanted to follow up on his spurious assessment with probing questions like, “Don’t you have NO JOB, working at a church off the tithes and offerings of others (aka Biblical Communism)?” or “So have you never taken advantage of paid-vacation, employer health insurance, 8AM-5PM workdays, or OSHA requirements to ensure manufacturing procedures are in place to ensure a safe work environment?” I needed to remind myself in the moment that this particular specimen of Americana was one that lived in a family of protesters and activists, generally a class of people that have no firsthand experiences of those they advocate for.
(All of my friends who advocate for raising the minimum wage to $15 per hour have never had the privilege of working in a factory or washing dishes in a corporate kitchen. Now that I make in excess of $15 per hour, I recognize that a McDonalds employee earning an income within spitting distance of mine is an insulting proposition, given the bevy of soft skills and advanced tasks that I exercise on a daily basis. If anything steps should be made to control the artificially inflated value of real estate, which is often the primary economic drain on a household income by far.)
Though during the 2016 election, there was a lot of talk about various aspects of what I would consider “Nordic Socialism” being proposed as new legislation, deploying such benefits such as paid maternity leave, single payer healthcare, and the raising of a minimum wage. Having been to Norway, learned Norwegian and studied social, economic, political, and religious history of the land, and not simply read or watched a two minute video on the wonderful-world-of-the-other to inform myself of a complex, yet rich history of nationalism in Norway (Syttende Mai, for example), I have a close idea of why the miraculous social systems work so well across the pond. I can also explain, or approximate, the uncomfortable rise in Neo-Nazism, Extreme Nationalism, and the public awareness and subtle racism implicate in their multicultural programs and state naturalization bureaus.
Assuming first the fallibility and stereotyping inherent in television and media, on second reflection the television and film of Norway is very cognizant of the current issues plaguing Norway, many being existential in nature. Popular television programs like Lilyhammer depict Americans (ie outsiders) rigging the naïve and bureaucratic for their personal gain, employing spirited 1920’s era prohibition imagery to sell an overtly capitalist establishment operating under the nose of highly regulated and strictly monitored socialist businesses. A film, Troll Hunter, offers a similar satire of Norway’s turnkey bureaucracy, as well as the troubling and duplicitous stance the Norwegian government takes on conservation. (In this context, the trolls being rounded up and executed represent the bear populations in Norway—it is illegal to hunt bears (as they are protected) but perfectly legal to exterminate them if they wander to close to human settlements that are often being built progressively deeper into the countryside. Troll Hunter is a more subdued parody obviously. Lilyhammer, with its breadth of content (canceled after 3 seasons), more can be said of its self-awareness of the current political climate of Norway, which is schizophrenically tolerant and intolerant of refugees and immigrants seeking a better life.
According to Lilyhammer’s depiction of the Nye Arbeids og Velferdsetaten (colloquially known as the N.A.V.), Norway expends a tremendous amount of energy to invest in migrant populations, offering retreats, counseling, language courses, and eventual naturalization upon completion of the coursework. Whether or not this is fantasy, I have no idea. However the people that I chanced to meet with in Norway were directly involved with these programs, at least in the local municipality. To those that are tolerant, there is an expectation to help support the new arrivals. This attitude, often derided as “multiculturalism” by conservative Norwegians, indicates that there are non-vocal expectations for immigrants, namely that they assimilate quickly, and without retaining their original expressions of culture in favor of their new homeland’s values and traditions. More so, the popularity of asylum and immigration requests have created migrant communities that live in reasonably adequate housing projects, though with the attached stigma of being “the other.”
The unintended sins of socialism then beget racism, ethno-centricity, neo-naziism (in Norway’s case), nativism, aggressive nationalism, and homogenization of culture. The irony is that in the United States we exhibit the same tendencies but out of ignorance and generational gaps in thinking. The United States is a well blended, cosmopolitan nation with many segregated communities that in microcosm exhibit the inward focus of Socialist principals. (Socialism only works if the communities involved are small and tightly knit, with a common culture that unites the people with traditions and regional narratives.) We best see the signs of this when one culture oppresses another, or a dominant culture sequesters themselves inside self-styled ghettos (suburbs, gated communities, rural-agrarian homesteads).
Yet for all the complexities and difficulties implied in socialism (which we might as well acknowledge as bureaucracy integrated with society under the principals of social contracts), the benefits far outweigh the consequences. In a country so expansive and large, and having agreed reluctantly in the past to disband the Articles of Confederation, and other “state-centric” forms of government, the only sensible way forward is with the assistance of government oversight and regulation. This isn’t for the sake of touting an egalitarian system from person to person, but for repairing our roads and making sure our hospitals, residential buildings, and civic structures are built to code. Or, more importantly, insuring the safety of the food we eat or the air we breathe. Granted there are instances of bureaucratic complexity and red tape, but the benefit of being in a democracy is that these rules can be changed with active government participation. In other words we are without excuse. And if we don’t like it, then get the fuck out. Every citizen has a responsibility to advocate for the quality of life of their neighbors and community. That, in essence, is the spirit of socialism.