Letter to Some Dude in the Third World
By Martin August
Dearest Abdullah, Mohammad or Fatima (pick one of the three; if you happen to be a female, then you shall have to settle for Fatima), I write this letter to you in hopes that you speak and read English fluently (this is highly unlikely), and also in hopes that this letter somehow reaches you, whoever and wherever you are. I will mail it to the address ”Afghanistan” and hope that it gets to some awful third world country or other (due to the name selection above I should hope it does reach Afghanistan or at least a place in the Middle East. If it were to end up in Venezuela or Myanmar, well, I would look a fool calling you by these stereotypical Arabic names).
Overuse of parentheses aside, I write this letter to you to tell of Norway and its national day, the 17th of May, the date when our constitution was signed. See, in the year 1814 we Norwegians were all but tired of these Swedes and Danes (or was it the Ottomans? I do confuse myself sometimes) quarrelling over us, and decided we should be our own country with our own laws. We weren’t really independent until the early 1900’s, but 1814 is where things got started. So, a lot of men (the fairer sex were left out of the meetings) gathered in a mansion and decided upon a few laws to get our country started. Amongst other things, they concluded that Jews should not be allowed into this fair nation of ours (a sentiment which I hope you Middle Easterners can appreciate), though later they recanted the law, stating “Aw, what the heck” and letting them in anyway (jokes on them, most Jews fled or were killed a hundred and something years down the line, in World War II. Sweden was sounding nice by then, I’d imagine).
This is all beside the point. I am writing to tell you of my own experience with our national day, and how it is celebrated. Norway has a particularly proud and patriotic population, as shown by our refusal to join the EU, the stated reason being “Fuck you guys!” followed by a mocking fart noise and another unnamed rude gesture (Note: I may be confusing Iceland and Norway’s justifications for not joining the EU). Either way, I happen to live not two hundred meters away from the building where our constitution was written and signed, and as such I am an expert on the subject of 17th of May celebrations. The schoolchildren are forced (did I say forced? Naturally I intended to say “willingly participate”) in a coordinated march which typically starts at their school and ends somewhere in the depths of their own tiredness and misery. Ironically, this is meant to be a celebration of the freedom of the children. The adults, clearly, do not understand that children don’t feel patriotic sentiment, and as such do not see the sense in marching for hours to celebrate the right to swear, show bare breasts on television and not least of all eat horrible frozen pizza (though presumably these were not included in the first draft of the constitution; I can only assume a sort of unaccredited focus group was at play here). Child abuses aside, the celebrations that take place at Eidsvollsbygningen (or Eidsvoll Manor as it will be referred to from now on) are a thing of their own.
View of Eidsvoll Manor, and part of the surrounding park
Grown men and women dress up in ridiculous outfits which might lead a sensible person to believe a sort of rain dance or goat herding ritual were about to take place, eat sausages (lots of sausages!) and cry at the national anthem.
However, there is another important aspect of the Eidsvoll Manor celebration of the 17th of May, and that is the Russ. The Russ are youths who, having recently graduated High School, dress up in absurd red clothes and drink until their brains fall out (most of them forget to put it back in). These life forms, a name I have neutrally and respectfully concluded on naming them by, like to hang around Eidsvoll Manor on the national day, leaving traces of themselves like empty glass bottles, cigarettes and other, more squalid things.
Pictured: Utter squalor.
Activities for Russ include “å rule” (“to roll”; translation, driving a cheap read car which most Russ transport themselves in, presumably to hunt down the next victim of their grave delinquency), “å chille I hassern” (slang term, used to describe the act of existing within your abode. Considering that almost all Russ live with their parents, this is no impressive feat) and many other exciting things which these life forms like to do on their spare time, though I hesitate somewhat to use that term, taking into account that being an entirely useless parasite with little hope for the future is a full time job. Other occupants of the park around Eidsvoll Manor include adults, ranging from the normal, if not patriotic type, to the smug people who’ve somehow come to believe that Norway is a sort of magical land that is so superior to every other land that comparing them would be akin to squatting on the Norwegian flag.
Best darned country in the world
Do not misunderstand me, Abdullah/Fatima/Mohammad, I am a most patriotic fellow myself, but the way this national day is celebrated I cannot condone entirely. But, you may ask, is there no light at the end of this sausage-filled tunnel? Might there not be a certain joy to the national day, one that I may have neglected to mention in my cynicism? Well, in most ways the 17th of May, even at the heart of its celebration, is much like the state of Kansas: Nothing important truly ever happens. Yet, a few things do happen every now and then. For example, a winner of the esteemed Eurovision Song Contest may grace the temporary stage at Eidsvoll Manor, though most of the time we get the ones that didn’t even qualify for that particular farce of a musical competition. What’s more, for the moment the Eidsvoll Manor is undergoing renovation, and there will be no proper 17th of May celebration until it is done in 2014. I do confess that now in my more proud, patriotic state I look forward to when it is finished, though no doubt my cynicism will re-emerge like a slug out of its shell, once I arrive at the locale and find it covered in the usual fetid, wasteful life forms and middle-aged buffoons. The Gods of weather usually are in harmony with my sentiments, and sometimes they are so gracious as to give me snow on the 17th of May, much to the chagrin of the already bored marching children.
I hope you have learned more about our national day, and if you ever consider moving to Norway I hope I have made a good case for why you might consider remaining in your dilapidated nation for only a while longer, until the 17th of May 2013 has passed and the country goes back to normal.
You will forgive me if I must leave you now, to shoot myself in the foot.
Sincerest, fondest and stickiest greetings from Martin August of Norway.