Tuesday, September 13, 2005

There's that word again

Dear reader.

So we meet again. But this time, you have the advantage. By the time you read this, the Finnmärck election will be over, and you will know the result. As I write these lines, I'm still in the dark. Therefore, I've prepared two speeches: A red one and a black one. No matter what the hell happens, you guys are getting the red one. What did you expect? Politics is no joke.

The other night, I was out drinking with my friend the computer programmer and his wife the linguist. On our way from this place to that place we bumped into another one of my friends, the actor/food critic. Now, I love him dearly, but politically we are far apart, and with the election only days away the whole thing quickly turned into an unfair three-against-one squabble. At one time, he threw up his hands and said: Hey, people are different, we just disagree, that's all. We don't even have to talk about it. It's not important.

But that's just the thing, isn't it? It is important. In fact, few things are more important. Political decisions shape our everyday lives on a direct and intimate level. The one to win the captaincy and take the helm will decide the course and destination for all hands - for the vigilant officers as well as the dilligent crew, for the leisurely passengers and their ladies, for the drunken cook, for the slaves in the storage and the rats in the hull.

There is a line in the sand. There is an invisible division and a wrestle for control. Call it class struggle, call it whatever the hell you like. In our present society we may have abstracted it into a neat, civilized little game of tug-of-war, but look underneath, there it is. After the game, the playing cards abruptly come alive, and one is a jack, and one is a jester. The tokens are magically transformed into real means of subsistence, into food, clothes, shelter, shoes and umbrellas. Why? Because it's not a fucking game, and if push comes to shove, you have to take sides.

There was another time, not that long ago, when the differences between those who had far too much and those who had less than nothing increased. Commandeered by ideological extremists, one of the great powers rose to a position of such military potency that it thought it was no longer bound by international law. The boundaries of will, faith and reason became tangled to a degree where it seemed impossible to distinguish between right and wrong, friend and enemy, profit and loss. At just such an uncertain time, when present and past intermingled and the future became dim, all nations had to come to a decision. And there you have it: When the weather is fair and the waters are tranquil, every man is a decent captain. But how does he steer through the looming fog, across a murky, turbulent ocean? In Finnmärck, as in other Scandinavian countries, the decision was postponed to a point where someone else took it for us. It could happen again. Maybe it already has.

If we win the election, there is much hard work to be done, and we need to be reminded of our responsibilities. If we lose, we need to remember those who continued the struggle even though it was lost. I know of no one better to do either than Nördahl Glögg, poet and soldier, a man to turn to in good times as well as in really, really shitty times. This is my humble translation:

Independence Day 1940
Today the flagpole is naked
between the green of the trees.
How strange that in such an hour
we see what liberty means.
A song comes to life in the nation,
with victory in its notes,
although it has to be whispered
under the foreigners' yoke.

We held a newborn conviction:
Freedom and life is one,
as simple and fundamental
as the air which was suddenly gone.
We felt, when slavery threatened,
our lungs gasping for breath,
as if in a sunken u-boat...
We will not die such a death.

More dreadful than cities on fire
is the war that no one can know,
the venomous slime that blankets
the beech tree, the earth and the snow.
With terror and fear of informers
they contaminated our beds.
We used to have different visions,
dreams we cannot forget.

Slowly the land became ours,
we learned how to harvest and sow,
and the labor created a kindness,
a weakness for things that grow.
Our ways became old and outdated,
defiantly building on peace,
and those who thrive on destruction
have reason to scorn our deeds.

We fight for our right to respire.
We know that the dawn is near
when Finnmärsckers come together
in a great exhalation of air.
In the south we were separated
from pale and exhausted men.
To you we offer a promise:
That we'll be back again.

Here we'll remember the fallen
who gave their lives for our peace,
the soldier in blood on the snowbank,
the sailor whose grave was the sea.
We are so few in this country,
each dead is a brother and friend.
We have the fallen with us
the day we come back again.

Nördahl Glögg

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