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Wes' World

March 11, 2012

A couple things come to mind this week

Excerpt from "Lucy Gayheart" by Willa Cather

"In little towns, lives roll along so close to one another; loves and hates beat about, their wings almost touching. On the sidewalks along which everybody comes and goes, you must, if you walk abroad at all, at some time pass within a few inches of the man who cheated and betrayed you, or the woman you desire more than anything else in the world. Her skirt brushes against you. You say good-morning, and go on. It is a close shave. Out in the world the escapes are not so narrow."

Ever Hear of Jante Law?

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The Jante Law is a pattern of group behavior towards individuals within Scandinavian communities, which negatively portrays and criticizes success and achievement as unworthy and inappropriate.
It has been observed as a form of behavior for centuries, but the Norwegian/Danish author Aksel Sandemose identified it as a series of rules, the Jante Law, in his novel A fugitive crosses his tracks (En flyktning krysser sitt spor, 1933, English translation published in the USA in 1936). Sandemose's novel portrays the small Danish town Jante (modeled upon his native town Nykøbing Mors as it was at the beginning of the 20th century, but typical of all very small towns), where nobody is anonymous.

Generally used colloquially as a sociological term to negatively describe an attitude towards individuality and success claimed to be common in Scandinavia, it refers to a supposed snide, jealous and narrow small-town mentality which refuses to acknowledge individual effort and places all emphasis on the collective, while punishing those who stand out as achievers.

The term may be used by those individuals who feel they are not allowed to take credit for their achievements, or to point out their belief that another person is being overly critical.

Jante Laws
There are ten different rules in the law as defined by Sandemose, but they all express variations on a single theme and are usually referred to as a homogeneous unit: "Don't think you're anyone special or that you're better than us."

The ten rules state:
Don't think that you are special.
Don't think that you are of the same standing as others.
Don't think that you are smarter than others.
Don't fancy yourself as being better than others.
Don't think that you know more than others.
Don't think that you are more important than others.
Don't think that you are good at anything.
Don't laugh at others.
Don't think that any one of us cares about you.
Don't think that you can teach others anything.

A further rule recognized in the novel is: 11. Don't think that there is anything we don't know about you.

In the book, those Janters who transgress this unwritten 'law' are regarded with suspicion and some hostility, as it goes against communal desire in the town to preserve social stability and uniformity.

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