Adversity builds character.  Victory builds identity?  First there is the victory of birth, which gives you your birth date.  Then there is the victory of family (or such like) that gives you your name.  Then there is the victory of nations, which gives you your nationality.

Today is May 17th, constitution day in Norway, and this involves a big celebration: children’s parades, brass bands, school bands marching, heavy ice cream eating, sausages, potato-on-a-spoon races, more children’s parades, patriotic speeches, balloons and so on.  The traditional speech starts with “for those of us who experienced the war, 1945, 1905 and 1814” and then moves on to extol the humble origins and humble virtues of the nation.  On the other hand, we celebrate by parading children, not weapons.

Norway is a relatively young nation, we won our independence in 1905, but the constitution dates from 1814.  The national identity is rebuilt and reconfirmed, and history revisited.  Today is the day when every school child in the country march in the parades, on an identity building exercise, dressed up in national costumes or other finery.  Given the normal weather in May, this is sometimes also a character building exercise, as all mittens are off for the celebration (my soul still have childhood scars from frozen fingers gained by playing brass band music outdoors).  This year we had perfect weather in Trondheim, 15-20 centigrades and some wind to lift the heavy woollen skirts of the national costume.

Last night Norway won the Eurovision Song Contest, and our prime minister said that this was a great victory for Norway.  Fun, weirdly entertaining, yes.  Great victory?  That would be conquering global warming, flying to Mars or curing the common cold; or at least that was my initial reaction.  Then it dawned on me that our prime minister was in Spain, about to celebrate Norway’s constitution day with ex-pats and the Spanish prime minister attending the Norwegian children’s parade in Torrevieja.  And the man who won the great victory for Norway was born in Minsk, Belarus, immigrating at the age of four.  The prime minister was right, winning the Eurovision Song Contest was great victory for the national identity, not just another flag waving moment.

Current great victories seem better than the viking approach, or other glorious forefathers.  Glorious forefathers had a hang-up on conquest of the traditional type: rape, pillage and burn (preferably in that order).  Song contests may be better for building identity.

Advertisements