Monday, April 12, 2010

People of the North

The pursuit of peace and progress, with its trials and errors, its successes and its setbacks, can never be relaxed and never abandoned.

Dag Hammerskjold
Dag Hammerskjold of Sweden (1905 - 1961) was the second Secretary General of the United Nations. He was one of the most important statesmen of the 20th century. His mighty efforts to establish peace have left behind a great legacy. The first Secretary General was also a Scandinavian, Trygve Lie, from Norway.

I've always had a fascination for the history and culture of Scandinavia from the Vikings up to modern times, and wondered why those 5 nations have never really taken a place in the mainstream of European life. It comprises formidable stretch of land from the Finnish/Russian border to western Greenland, which is part of the Danish Kingdom.

We hear of Norway when the Nobel Prizes are handed out, but otherwise the nations of the north seem to remain in the shadows.

There are three famous Scandinavian composers: Edvard Grieg of Norway, Carl Nielsen of Denmark and Jan Sibelius of Finland. But there are many other excellent composers: Hugo Alfven of Sweden, Wilhelm Stenhammer of Sweden and Dag Wiren also of Sweden just to named a few.

Two great playwrights were Scandinavians: Edvard Grieg of Norway and August Strindberg of Sweden. But again there were many other fine authors. I've done some of their plays. I used to belong to a theatre company in New York that specialized in modern Scandinavian drama.

One of my favorite filmmakers is the Swede, Ingmar Bergman. His film "Wild Strawberries" is listen in my Profile as one of my favorites.

So why are those 5 nations still outside of the mainstream of European and world culture? Why do so many of the artists have to live in southern Europe to receive the recognition they deserve? Why don't those cities, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Oslo, Reykjavik and Stockholm have the same standing in the world as Berlin, London, Paris and Rome?

The world is changing and spreading out. Maybe the time is coming for there to be a cultural tectonic shift and the Scandinavians will get the spotlight, because the sure can use the vision of the People of the North.

DB - The Vagabond


pacifica62 said...

"Why are those five nations still outside of the mainstream of European and world culture?" Interesting observation. I might guess because of the languages that have no basis in anything even remotely comparable to any other language. I might also offer up environment as another possible reason. These are northern countries that provide a harsh and difficult life for those who live there. The influence of these countries is not widely seen or heard throughout the world. They did not fight in great wars, amass great fortunes or conquer great lands so their culture was not really passed on in other places in the world.

Gerry said...

Do you think it could be the cold climate? The very thought of it sort of freezes my enthusiasm for these countries but I recall loving to watch those long turgid dramas of Ingemar Bergman's. And what an exciting actor Max von Sydow was for me when young. Strindberg seems so modern. More so than Ibsen. I am looking for that playwwright who could so enthrall me as they did when I first read them. I thought I will write the kind of drama I want. I sort of did this in "Blue" the play I wrote when my sister LaRae was dying about the idea of death being a space journey and a play in our spirit forms with many people meeting who would ordinarily never meet and mingle in real life. I still find that idea very compelling and with the Internet it is easy to imagine people you have met on line in a drama with others who only know each other in the writing sense. But what would be the compelling drama? Interesting to think of people who have never met and have no means of doing so coming together in a play that they each imagined and created together, not in reality, but in a play reality, like you imagined your part and where it would take you, and I, mine, and others theirs. Raymond is so good at doing improv, I can imagine him very easily in this kind of drama, I would put all these characters together and imagine another reality, on going like a serial, well today, here is the drama today, what is our story, the imagination is so powerful, could create an alternative reality, outside of the limitations like no means, poor health, that keep us stationary, how to get around those and write the play that engages the imagination of another, well kind of like a dream which has its reality oh yes, like I dreamed that I saw you riding a horse (of course you probably could not do this in real life) and I saw you had big striking eyes, and then suddenly a woman appeared who reminded me of a girlfriend I had long ago, bubbly, full of personality but not real intellectual, and she was stark naked and jumped up behind you on the horse and threw her arms around your waist as though to claim you and you rode off into this green forest together....does this mean anything to you. That was the drama that appeared in my dream.

DB said...

An interesting comment Pacifica. But many of the conditions you refer to can also be said about Russia, including a language no one else speaks. And yet Russia has a rich and varied culture know the world over.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

I wonder if it is because they are sparsely populated, and getting around is difficult because of the topography.

Lori said...

I recently watched a very good educational film on the Vikings with my daughter as part of her school lessons. I learned a lot about the northern countries that I had never known before, and I would like to learn more. My maiden name in Scottish means Dark Stranger, and it is believed the name came about because ancestors settled in Scotland from Denmark, and were darker than the native inhabitants.

pacifica62 said...

Point taken db. The cities in the former Soviet Union that flourished with richness and culture were not in the harsh, foreboding regions like Siberia. Russia at one time was an empire that wanted to take over a great part of the world. It was not a democracy where wealth was divided nor shared. The money went to the czars or government to spend as it or they would, and opulence and grandeur spoke to the wealthy few. Entertainment, art, science and technology were all funded by the government and rewards were showered on those in favour. A very different model to what was happening in the Scandinavian countries.

Liz said...

In my humble opinion the echo that this quote picked up originally sounded within the United States Declaration of Independence and was listed under the unalienable rights of man.
"Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness."
For what greater success could peace and progress ever imagine?

Liz said...

I should have added that I am British, not American.
In case any think I have taken an opportunity to fly my flag!

DB said...

From my friend Stuart

I've cracked many a wishbone over peace from any place,