Did you know that most Swedes are cursed?
They (we) all abide by the law of Jante to some extent. The Danish-Norwegian writer Aksel Sandemose wrote about this in the novel ”A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks” already in 1936 and as ridiculous as it may seem, it’s still the mantra for a large scale of the population, at least in Sweden, as of today.
It becomes ever so clear at any occasion where one individual is trying to stretch beyond average and make something more of him- or herself. Imagine that you hold a vision of something you want to do or accomplish and enthusiastically tell someone your vision. Within a few minutes (rarely as many as ten, most often less than five) you will have been told at least 10 reasons why you shouldn’t, couldn’t or it’s a bad idea, without you even asking for someone else’s opinion.
One could argue that these people are your closest family and are simply concerned about you and don’t want to see you hurt from failure that you’re most likely to encounter should you go along with your idea. Well, that’s not really what’s happening here. More often the people bringing your idea and vision down to ashes aren’t your closest family, but rather people you barely know. Sure, they could be your family as well, but the motives aren’t ever those of genuine concern for your well-being.
More often it’s one of those laws of Jante taking physical form through another individual to make sure you don’t have too much self-confidence or actually even start to believe that you can be something more than you already are, as it would mean you’d also have to be something more than everybody else in the room.
In shortness, the law states as follows (according to Aksel):
1 – You’re not to think you are anything special.
2 – You’re not to think you are as good as we are.
3 – You’re not to think you are smarter than we are.
4 – You’re not to imagine yourself better than we are.
5 – You’re not to think you know more than we do.
6 – You’re not to think you are more important than we are.
7 – You’re not to think you are good at anything.
8 – You’re not to laugh at us.
9 – You’re not to think anyone cares about you.
10 – You’re not to think you can teach us anything.
11 – Perhaps you don’t think we know a few things about you?
The short description of these articles states as follows: ”The Law of Jante is the description of a pattern of group behavior towards individuals within Nordic countries that negatively portrays and criticizes individual success and achievement as unworthy and inappropriate.” To be honest that’s actually what goes on in most of our society and what every individual that tries to make something of and for him- or herself has to struggle through to become successful at anything what-so-ever.
Of course, there are parents that are working towards encouraging their children to aim high and go for greater goals and so on, but even that’s not always true. But even then you can see a child mentally raising his or her bar really, really high – only to find the parent bringing it back down to a more ”suitable” level, not to break any of these laws in ways that people around them would notice.
I’m not sure how much sense this makes to anyone else out there in the world. Maybe the best way to talk about it is as ”the Scandinavian curse”, since we’re even taught to talk ourselves down in this matter, already while growing up.