While novelists dig
ever deeper into their own novels, a lot of good non-fiction books are
published in Norwegian. Do you think non-fiction books are theoretical with
excessively long and clumsy sentences? No, it's called professional literature
and sold as pensum. On the other hand, prose is often reader-friendly and focuses
on reality. They are often printed by the best journalists, those who are tired
of writing about dead celebrities and narcotized gay thieves.
Simen Sætre said to
Dagsavisen, “I immerse myself in an existential question, and travel around the
world to find the answer. There is no room for the newspaper articles. Here
comes the conclusion first.” In his book, Sætre finds out what a lot of oil
money does to small countries. Norway prefers to compare itself with countries
in the West, but it is also useful to compare ourselves with the small oil-rich
states. Sætre calls them Petrostan.
In Kuwait, he meets business woman, Danah, who talks about the impact of high
oil revenues: “Everything people used to do themselves has become the state's
task. So we ended up with people just sitting in the office and get money for
In Petrostan, many
work safely in the state, or state-funded companies. But not all people sit in
the office. In Norway and other oil-rich countries such as Kuwait, Qatar,
Emirates, Gabon, Turkmenistan and Venezuela, there is a new “servant class” of
immigrants who take jobs we do not want to do ourselves. In 1979, Swedes worked
50 hours less than the Norwegians a year. Now they work 151 hours more than us.
Many of them operate our restaurants and shops. Eastern Europeans are carpentering,
picking strawberries and doing farm works, while Africans and Asians are driving
buses, cleaning and working at hotels.
In Petrostans, many
natives look down on immigrants, as if the oil was something the country had
earned, and not by pure luck. These people go on welfare rather than taking a low
status job. Shall we first work; we will certainly be designers, IT consultants
or sociologists researching whether women or men are more likely to use blinking
SMS symbols. And when something goes wrong, we appeal to the state. The phrase “staten
må ta ansvar (the state must take responsibility)” receives 159,000 hits in
Google. The state must take responsibility for the Oslo Philharmonic Orchestra's
development, for feeding wild animals, the Olympic Park's future and the
population's diet, among other things.
In Petrostan, democratic
elections are transformed into a competition to promise the most use of oil
money. The economy is a power struggle over the state's money, and people
become clients instead of contractors. In Norway, 1.3 million people receive their main income from social security.
Before the oil revenues, a Norwegian used to work 430 hours more a year. We
have become less willing to take risks and innovate. What will it lead to when
the oil runs out?
Sætre called the
book Petro Mania, the syndrome that occurs in Petrostans. But something
makes the Norwegian government prevent infection. For example, we have higher
tax rates and petrol prices than other Petrostans. In the Arab oil countries, Sætre
met people who hardly pay taxes, and therefore cannot have influence or a
transparent access to politicians' spending. The State finances itself with oil
money. For example, in Turkmenistan, gas is so cheap that public transport is
unprofitable. Instead, the streets are full of polluting pirate taxis.
If you want to
strengthen your immune system against oil disorders, there is much you can do.
Look at yourself before you blame the government. Is there much to do in the
office? Start your own business or find you a job where you needed. In 2030,
Norway will lack 13.000 nurses and 40.000 other health professionals, unless the
interest in medical studies increases. Get other interests than the consumption
of expensive, useless objects. Have interest in the world community, and
realize that Norway cannot do everything by itself. And in the end, stop
believing that your country is different – it follows the pattern of all