Poet Besigye retells upper-class myths
To international readers: this opinion piece requires some knowledge of Norwegian society. If it is unclear, comments (moderated) are open for questions and discussion..
The poet Bertrand Besigye claims in an interview with the leftwing magazine Ny Tid that Norway has no cultural history:
- We never had an upper class that could support artists financially through centuries. We're simply a nation of farmers which suddenly gained oil wealth, and the cultural life still suffers the effects of this, Bertrand says.
- A nouveau riche oil state without any deeper cultural history creates a bizarre climate.
Ny tid issue 47 2007 p. 27, emphasis mine
Here Besigye is simply re-telling the myths of the Norwegian burgoise / upper class.
Granted, Norway didn't have a strong aristocracy - and Fru Inger til Østråt and her peers were to the best of my knowledge not famous for their patronage of the liberal arts. But here's another thought, Bertrand: that "culture" depends on the support of an upper class is a myth the upper class uses for their own pretentious purposes.
Culture is humans creating, editing and communicating based on their conditions - whatever they may be. The scorned Norwegian farmers - obviously "farmer" is a phrase of utter contempt also for the self-proclaimed nature-mystic Besigye - preserved the medieval ballads and great story telling traditions while barely surviving on their smallholds. These valuable traditions from a financial under class became a foundation for creating the Norwegian national culture during the 1800nds, a perspective that might explain today's national consensus regarding the continuation of the welfare state. AND that we to a large extent have avoided the resource curse other oil-rich countries suffer: there remains - so far - a healthy powerty gene in our cultural DNA.
That Norway is culturally divided between "Oslo" and "the rest" and that the farmers' cultural contributions are usually ignored on the "Oslo" side of the divide is well known. That the nature mysticism of the old ballads aren't considered "culture" by Besigye is nevertheless to the poet's loss.