Medienes kollektive muslim

Medienes kollektive muslim

av Cora Alexa Døving

Dagens forestillinger om en kollektiv muslimsk mentalitet ligner de vi kjenner fra ”den kollektive jøden” fra forrige århundre.

Det er en vesentlig forskjell på ”kategori” og ”gruppe” som sjelden er tatt hensyn til når muslimer er tema i offentligheten. En gruppe har en felles agenda, en gruppe er organisert og de aller fleste grupper har en representant. Muslimene i Norge fremstilles som en gruppe, men er langt fra en gruppe. Muslimene i Norge er en kategori. En kategori er en samlebetegnelse som kan brukes på noe eller noen med et eller flere felles karakteristika, som for eksempel at man er kristen eller muslim. En kategori er i utgangspunktet verken en handlende enhet eller et meningsfellesskap.

En kan gjerne snakke om en gruppe dersom diskusjonen relateres til hvorvidt muslimene bør ha tilgang på egne gravlunder eller halalmat. Når man derimot skal diskutere synet på vestlig skolegang, barneoppdragelse eller holdninger til demokratiet har det ingen mening å snakke om ”muslimenes holdninger” som om de utgjorde en gruppe.

Det er interessant at mediene benytter gruppebetegnelsene så sterkt fordi det politiske språket, slik det finnes i rapporter, partiprogrammer og stortingsmeldinger om integrering har blitt individualisert: Integrasjon handler i dag om innvandrernes individuelle plikt til deltagelse. Det har altså skjedd en endring fra den gangen ”det fargerike fellesskap” ble lansert som begrep av Arbeiderpartiet og det ble manet til toleranse og respekt for forksjellighet, til et fokus på at innvandrere selv som skal bidra positivt i integrasjonsprosessen, og at det skulle stilles krav også til dem.

Samtidig som det politiske språket opererer med individet som den integrerende aktør, har det utviklet seg en tydelig mistillit til grupper. Det er for eksempel tematisk lagt stor vekt på at regjeringens politikk skal tilrettelegge for unge individer som ønsker seg ut av et for definert fellesskap.

Et tydelig trekk ved omtalen av muslimer i mediene, er bekymringen for hvorvidt minoritetsgrupper overkjører retten til autonomi og dermed kan utøve skade på sine yngre medlemmer. Det er et generelt trekk ved muslimdebattene at ordenen gruppe, ledere og foreldre er omgitt med en viss mistenksomhet.

Religion som referanse
I fremstillingene av muslimene som gruppe spiller islam en vesentlig rolle, og islam er svært ofte referert til som et tidløst verdisystem. Den kunnskapen som finnes lett tilgjengelig om islam er stort sett historiske oversiktsbøker. Det finnes svært få bøker om muslimene selv. Som samfunnsmedlemmer i et flerkulturelt samfunn behøver vi ikke å besitte kunnskap om alle slags varianter man kan være muslim på, men vi bør vite at det er mange måter å være muslim på – og dette bidrar offentligheten i liten grad til. Dersom nordmenn hadde utgjort en minoritetsgruppe i Malaysia, slik som pakistanere er her, ville det vært synd om all kunnskapen om oss i det malaysiske samfunn hadde vært basert på kunnskap om normativ kristendom, eller amerikanske kristenfundamentalister.

I politikken har temaene for integrasjon følgende rekkefølge i forhold til viktighetsgrad: arbeidsmarked, utdannelse, boligmarked og til slutt verdifokus. I de offentlige debattene er temaenes relevans snudd på hodet: I mediene er verdispørsmålet i sentrum. Og med verdier i sentrum har også fokuset på konflikt økt.

Det refereres stadig til 9/11 som datoen som endret innvandringsdiskursene. Det er spesielt en endring som bel tydelig i mediene fra og med denne datoen: Den svake innvandreren ble den sterke muslimen. I den tidligere innvandrerfiendtligheten i Europa ble innvandrerne sett på som de svake, de som var nederst på den sosiale samfunnsstigen. I majoritetsbefolkningen ble de enten sett på som noen som trengte hjelp eller noen som burde reise hjem. I dag har den etniske marokkaner eller tyrker blitt ”muslimen” som ikke lenger er svak men sterk i kraft av å representerer et alternativ verdisystem. Min hypotese er at synet på innvandrere og deres etterkommere har endret seg til å i sterkere grad ligne føringene vi kjenner fra antisemittismen. Den individuelle innvandrer betegnes stadig oftere som bærer av en kollektiv mentalitet, som representant for en gruppe. Den ”kollektive muslimen” er sterk, en trussel i kraft av å representere et alternativ. Verdifokuset i integreringsdebattene har altså fått en form der trusselen om overtagelse og dominans fra et alternativt samfunnssystem er tydelig representert.

Verdifokuset i integreringsdebattene er først og fremst uttrykt i trusselmetaforer: Den nye innvandringen og religionspolitiske krefters stigende innflytelse kan føre til at vårt demokratis ideologiske grunnlag utvannes, er et eksempel fra den innvandringsboken som i 2006 har fått mest omtale.  Typisk i de verdiorienterte debattene er forståelsen av et ”vi” som står i opplysningstidens arv mot et ”de” som står for middelalderens mørke.

Problemet med fokuset på verdiforskjeller er etter min mening ikke selve tematikken, men manglende kunnskapen om tematikken. I Norge foreligger det svært få undersøkelser som gir kunnskap om verdisyn hos ulike minoriteter. De to rapportene som foreligger viser imidlertid at synet på religionsfrihet, demokrati, kvinnens stilling, sosialt system og barneoppdragelse samlet sett er svært sammenfallende mellom ulike minoriteter og den øvrige befolkningen. Man kan lure på hvorfor mediene i så liten grad fant disse undersøkelsene interessant.

Et interessant trekk ved økt fokus på de andres verdier, er at enhver forskjellproduksjon også handler om likhet: For å definere muslimer som representanter for et verdisystem, bli også norskhet i sterkere grad knyttet til verdier. I identitetspolitikkens logikk ligger det et krav til forskjeller, men for at de skal ha effekt må de også gjøres sammenlignbare. Ergo blir forestillinger om norskhet også mer religiøst ladet.  På 70- og 80-tallet ble det snakket om innvandrere fra ulike land som kom til et geografisk stykke Norge, med økt fokus på islam ble debattens grunnforståelse endret til at det var et religiøst system som kom til et geografisk og politisk Norge. Etter hvert som muslimene ble tydeligere fremstilt som gruppe og bærere av fastlagte verdisystemer har også forestillingen om Norge forandret posisjon i debatten : Nå er det et sett av muslimske verdier som møter et sett av norske verdier. Fra nasjonale og geografiske møter til verdimøter med andre ord.

Den moderne jøden og den tradisjonelle muslimen
Omtalen av muslimer i mediene har ofte strukturelle likhetstrekk med 20-30-tallets antisemittisme. Argumentene mot å bruke antisemittismen som bakteppe i studien av kollektivisering av ”muslimen” er selvsagt mange. Motargumentene knytter seg imidlertid til samfunnsstrukturelle forhold og ikke til innholdssiden i fordomsproduksjon – som er mitt anliggende her.

I en sammenligning mellom den kollektive jøden og den kollektive muslimen har jeg lett etter hvilke essensmarkører som brukes til å fremheve muslimenes kjerneidentitet. I offentligheten er essensmarkørene – eller symbolsakene – nokså like de vi finner i antisemittismens sentrale tematikk: dårlig behandling av kvinner og barn, illojalitet til nasjonalstaten og deterministiske religiøse tekster som maner til fatalisme og hat til andre religiøse grupper. Disse temaene utgjør grunnlaget i forestillingene om både ”jøden” fra første del av forrige århundre og ”muslimen” i dag. mentalitet.
Den mest kjente antisemittiske teksten fra Norges 1920-tall er boka til advokat Saxlund ”Jøden og Gojim” fra 1922. Han skriver følgende om sitt eget motiv for å skrive boka:

…troen paa at jeg derved dog vil bidrage noget til støtte for den gamle og ærlige norske nationalkaraktere, som jeg nødig ser undergravet av semitiske Livsopfatning.

Frykten for at ens eget skal undergraves og maning til plikt for å bevare det egne, går igjen i debattene om muslimer så vel som i den om jødene. Et annet trekk som ligner dagens debatter er Saxlunds stadige maning om at det er kun de få som tør ta kritikken i munnen og at vi nordmenn er naive ”de er aktive, vi er passive”, skriver han stadig i sin bok. Flere steder går det igjen at europeiske land lider av en nasjonal unnfallenhet i forhold til den fare jødene representerer.  Ikke ulike kritikken den snillistiske venstresiden hamres med i dag.

Religion som kilde til gruppestereotypi er sterkt til stede da som nå.  Saxlund skriver:

”Den jødiske religion er ingen Religion i vor forstand, maaske den snarere kunde betegnes som jus. Kvintessentsen i den er iallfall politikk, isolationspolitikk.”

Vekten Saxlund legger på den religiøse identiteten som politisk og segregerende er påfallende lik homogeniseringen av islam. I dagens skriverier om islam er det knapt mulig å se at dette er en religion som også handler om tilgivelse, sjelen, frelsen og den metafysikk de fleste religioner handler om. Den politiske siden av islam betyr lite for majoriteten av muslimer i Norge, men medienes bilde viser det motsatte.

I enhver identitetspolitikk er det vanlig å påføre den andre gruppen hensikter som er til fare for en selv. I antisemittiske litteratur blir det for eksempel stadig gjentatt at ”jøderne næreer et sterkt hat til de kristne”. Utdrag fra Toraen, brukes svært likt som utdrag fra Koranen : sitatene er valgt for å vise at det finnes hos dem en gudegitt og dermed fatalistisk  bestemmelse i forhold til fiendtlighet overfor kristne.

Sammensvergelsesmyter var sentrale i antisemittismen. Den globale tilknytning som i dag tillegges muslimer og som gjør dem potensielt antilojale mot den norsk stat, er et sentralt aspekt ved ”den kollektive muslimen. Både ”jøden og ”muslimen” ble oppfattet som trusler mot etablerte institusjoner.

I antisemittismen er jøden en undergraver av legitimiteten til institusjoner som skapte trygghet: Kirken, familien, monarkiet, landsbyfellesskapet og stendersamfunnet.  Jøden ble koblet til modernitet og liberalisme. Muslimen er proporsjonalt omvendt en trussel mot dette moderne som vi etter hvert gjorde til ”vårt”: Sekulariseringen, den individuelle frihet og den likestilte familien.

Poenget med å se på eksempler fra antisemittismen er først og fremst å skremme oss vekk fra å delta i en politisert gruppeideologisering. Ved å kollektivisere andre kollektiviserer en selg selv også, og det blir en form for plikt å handle på vegne av sin egen gruppe og de verdier man mener denne representerer. En konsekvens er dermed at det finnes en form for moral og lojalitet innbakt i diskrimineringen av andre. En sterk form for selvrettferdighet.

Når omtalen av muslimer i offentligheten får for mange tegn på at fremstillingen vel så mye dreier seg om å sikre egen gruppe, en form for selvopprettholdelse, er veien til  gruppehat kort.

Høsten 2006, kom det ut to bøker om integrasjon i Norge som viser et annet tema som synes å gå igjen i integreringsdebattene; et angrep på venstresiden. Hege Storhaugs «Men størst av alt er friheten» og Bruce Bawer «While Europe slept – How radical islam is destroying the west from within», er bøker skrevet av forfatterne med et selvbilde som liberale, de er dogmatisk entydige i sitt verdistandpunkt og de er skuffet over andre liberalere som de mener fraskriver seg et samfunnsmessig ansvar i møte med religiøs fundamentalisme og islamisme. Deres syn har preget den senere integreringsdebatten med bemerkelsesverdig intensitet. ”Snillister på venstresiden” er for tiden de som gis skylden for det som altfor ofte beskrives som en ”feilslått integreringspolitikk”.

Med et sterkt forsøk på å analysere de siste fem års debatter så objektivt jeg klarer, har jeg vanskelig for å se på hvilken måte venstresidens politikere har vært ”nyttige idioter” som er ”godtroende når det gjelder terrorisme”. For det første har vi hatt en lang periode med borgerlig regjering som vanskeliggjør angrepet på ”venstresiden”, for det andre kan jeg ikke se at et noe mer tilbakeholdent forhold til bruk av lovforbud mot hijab eller henteekteskap skal være grunnlag for å bli fremstilt som ”nyttige idioter”. Det burde heller ikke kvalifisere til stempelet snillist å anerkjenne at en traumatisk flyktninghistorie kan være sosiologiske forklaringsfaktorer. Jeg har også lett etter hvorvidt representanter for venstresiden har anerkjent eller støttet overgrep i kulturens navn, og aldri funnet et slikt tilfelle.

Det er selvsagt en plikt å si fra når en opplever at sentrale verdier er truet. Å stilltiende akseptere radikale ideologier er å delta. Det verdifokuset debatten i dag preges av er imidlertid for lite spesifisert. I kampen mot andre gruppers praksis eller verdisyn og i forsvar for eget, bør det foreligge et visst krav til empirisk samfunnskunnskap og evne til nyansert analyse. Med empirisk kunnskap mener jeg dokumentert data på hva din motstandsgruppe egentlig står for, hvem i gruppen som forfekter dette synet, hvorvidt det stemmer for et flertall i gruppen og hvorvidt de ser på seg selv som en gruppe i det hele tatt.

Innlegg på Menneskerettighetshusets seminar «Skjult rasisme i norske medier?», 7. desember 2006

Tale til Ossietzkyprisvinner Ebba Haslund

ALLTID OPPREIST

har jeg tenkt om Ebba Haslund så lenge jeg har kjent henne. I dag er det mitt store privilegium å takke henne for alltid å være engasjert og informert. For at hun aldri er redd for å si sin  alltid velformulerte mening. Alltid står oppreist for det hun tror på uansett hvor sterk motvinden er.  Kanskje blir man så motstandsdyktig av å vokse opp i og leve gjennom 80% et århundre gjennomtrukket av krig og urett, fanatisme og nød, ideologiske og politiske sammenbrudd, og vår egen arts forsøk på å forgifte den  enestående kloden vi lever på.

Den USA-ledete okkupasjonen av Irak var «enda råere enn den jeg selv opplevde». sa Ebba i et avisintervju i 2004.  Ebba tilhører en generasjon som var unge da Norge ble okkupert. Motstandskampen mot Hitler var livsfarlig, men kampen mot nazismens undertrykkelse kom også til å prege livene til mange. De ble menn og kvinner hvis medmenneskelighet og medfølelse aldri sløves.  Som Ebba. Mennesker som aldri slutter å gjenkjenne ofrenes lidelser og raseri, som vet at det kunne ha vært meg… Aldri blir for gamle til å  arbeide for en fredelig verden.

Fra krigstrommene begynte å larme i Det Hvite Hus  engasjerte hun seg kraftig mot den varslede okkupasjonen av Irak. I 2003 sto hun i spissen for 409 forfatterkolleger som ba regjeringen om å holde Norge vekk fra en krig mot Irak. Aldri tidligere i Forfatterforeningens 110-årige historie hadde så mange forfattere samlet seg om et politisk utspill. Regjeringen tok høflig imot forfatterdelegasjon og appeller, men verken disse eller de overveldende demonstrasjonene i Norge og resten av verden kunne få Bondevik-regjeringen fra å rygge baklengs inn i den USA-skapte politiske hengemyra Irak som raskt ble til et blodig kaos.

I juni 2004 tok Ebba og Thorvald Steen initiativet til en ny appell til regjeringen om å trekke Norge ut av den uverdige krigen, som raskt samlet 242 kolleger.  ”Jeg hadde håpet at andre skulle begynne en ny protestbølge mot Norges deltakelse i Irak, men ingenting skjedde. Og siden Thorvald Steen og jeg er de eneste æresmedlemmene i Forfatterforeningen, føltes det naturlig for oss å sette i gang en.” Sa Ebba til Klassekampen. Typisk Ebba, heldigvis, tenkte mange, mange med meg.

I september 2005 var Ebba på barrikadene igjen.  Oppropet og folkemøtet med krav om at alle norske offiserer skulle hentes ut av Irak innen 100 dager etter valget var en del av Oslo 2005s mobilisering for en ny politisk kurs.

Ebba har aldri vært redd for å kalle en spade en spade, eller å kalle feiginger for pudler.  Også den rødgrønne regjeringen har fått  fortjent refs for servilitet overfor USA i forhold til den lovelig valgte palestinske regjeringen.  ”Vi er jo så små, men behøver vi å være dvergpudler? ” sa hun indignert i sin åpningstale ved årets Bjørnsomfestival i Molde.  Da gjorde Ebba også det hun er kjent og høyt respektert for blant kolleger;  hun knyttet sitt eget engasjement til den yrkesgruppa hun alltid har tilhørt og har gjort så mye for, – det skrivende folket.

”Under okkupasjonstiden i Norge var det våre diktere som nørte opp under motstanden. De ble våre ledestjerner. Som ung jente satt jeg motløs i det okkuperte Oslo 17. mai 1940. Da hørte jeg over den nordnorske radioen Nordahl Grieg lese sitt eget dikt: 17.mai 1940: ”I dag står flaggstangen naken blant Eidsvolls grønnende trær.  Men nettopp i denne timen vet vi hva frihet er.’

Det var min første opplevelse av hva det frie ord betyr. Etter hvert  vokste det frem i mange en fornemmelse av usårlighet.  En indre frihet. Fordi det betydde noe, hva hver enkelt av oss sa og gjorde. Inger Hagerups diktstrofer hamret det inn: ’Bak hver som gikk i døden, står tusener igjen. Står tusen andre samlet i steil og naken tross: Å, døde kamerater de kuer aldri oss!’

Det særegne ved vår såkalte ’krigsdiktning’ er at den i høy grad handler om fred.  Den er gjennomsyret av lengsel tilbake til fredelige tider: ’Vi trodde på freden, fornuften, arbeidsgleden.”  Øverlands dikt skapte en forvissning om at ånd er evig.  Om at ’vi overlever alt’.  Om vi bare unngår å tape vår sjel.

Det er det man kan frykte i dag.  At vi i kampen for demokratiets verdier står i fare for å tråkke dem ned.”  sa Ebba til folket i Molde.  Ordet  KAMP er ofte knyttet til Ebbas engasjementet, enten det dreier seg om forfatternes og andre opphavsrettshaveres fagpolitiske kamp for rimelig vederlag for samfunnets bruk av deres arbeider tidlig på syttitallet, eller Kvinnepolitisk aksjon rettet mot Stortinget seint på syttitallet. I den yrkesfaglige kampen sto Ebba som Forfatterforeningens formann tydelig i spissen for opprøret mot en sendrektig stat. Like sentralt sto Ebba i den politiske stormen som raste i forfatternes organisasjoner og i offentligheten midt i syttiåra. Frontene ble til tider vel  ensformig røde eller blå,  men for mange av oss som begynte fagpolitisk arbeid i stormens øye, var det slett ingen dårlig vind å ha i ryggen da forhandlingene begynte, for motparten staten skjønte godt at forfatterne ikke var ufarlige veggpryd. Kunstnernes yrkesfaglige engasjement har aldri seinere vært sterkere, ei heller har ytringsfriheten blitt brukt mer høylydt om vår plass og rolle i samfunnet enn midt på syttitallet.

På slutten av syttitallet hadde mange kunstnere forlatt samfunnsbarrikadene, men ikke Ebba. Hun var engasjert i den likestillingspolitiske kampen hvis mål var å endre mannsamfunnet til menneskesamfunnet, sikre kvinner rett representasjon, og gi kvinner og menn likt ansvar for samfunn og hjem. Ikke kvinner bakom alt, men kvinner i alt, var parolen.  Tross alle grensesteiner som er flyttet i det norske samfunnet, er tiden ennå  ikke moden for å parkere denne parolen på historiens skraphaug.

En naturlig del av Ebbas brede engasjementet for fred, frihet, rettferd, likeverd og andre umistelige demokratiske verdier er hennes langvarige omsorg for verdens kneblete forfattere, og ikke mindre beundringsverdig; hennes innsats for oppreising for kollega Fredrik Fasting Torgersen.

Ebba begynte sin åpningstale ved årets Bjørnsonfestival med en appell for  israelske Mordechai Vanunu som fortsatt er fange i sitt hjemland etter å ha sonet 16 års fengsel for å  ha varslet om Israels atomvåpenprogram, og hun avsluttet med en appell for Fasting Torgersen.

”Mannen som tilbrakte 16 ½ år i fengsel fra 1957 av, for et drap han ifølge ny dokumentasjon ikke kan ha begått.  Mannen som i snart 50 år har kjempet for å bevise sin uskyld.  Jens Bjørneboe arbeidet utrettelig for hans sak i konflikt med det norske rettsvesen.  Forgjeves. Da jeg møtte Torgersen i 1974, trodde jeg som de fleste, at han var skyldig og hadde sonet for det. Og fortsatte å tro dette, inntil jeg leste professor Eskelands dokumentasjon.  Der viser han at ny naturvitenskapelig forskning, kullkaster alle de såkalte ’bevisene’ som naglet Torgersen til drapet.” sa Ebba
og videre:

Vår internasjonalt mest kjente forsker, Per Brantzæg, har offentlig uttalt at Torgersen-saken er trolig det største justismordet i Norges historie. Det vil si verre enn Per Lilandsaken, verre enn Fritz Moensaken.

Forfatterforeningens årsmøte vedtok i år enstemmig å støtte Fredrik Fasting Torgersen i kravet om at hans sak må opp igjen. Den ligger i hendene på Gjenopptakelses-kommisjonen for straffesaker, som i følge loven skal la enhver tvil komme tiltalte til gode.  Likevel nøler de. Om det viser seg at Høyesterett eller påtalemyndigheten atter har tatt feil, som i tilfellene Liland Og Moen, så vil det skade maktpersoners prestisje, for ikke å si tilliten til rettsapparatet. Dessverre har det alt skjedd. Jeg ber enhver som ikke har satt seg inn i saken, å gjøre det snarest.” (..)  Ba Ebba,  fordi:  ”Rettsvesenet er en hovedsten i demokratiet.  Vi er alle medansvarlige for at den ikke forvitrer. Medansvarlige for hva som skjer.”

Forfatterforeningens eneste æresmedlemmer Ebba Haslund og Thorvald Steen tok sitt ansvar da de stilte seg i spissen for kravet om gjenopptakelse av Torgersens sak.  Om dette skriver Steen bl.a. i sin kronikk i Aftenposten den 6 september 2006:

” Flere av juristene vi ønsket å ha med ville ikke skrive under – av svært utydelige grunner. Andre, også noen som har arbeidet tett med riks- og statsadvokatembetet, turte ikke å gi sin støtte fordi «det har gått prestisje i saken». Selv etter at de hadde fått «Bevisene i Torgersen-saken» levert på døren, «kunne», «ville», «skulle» man ikke. Det virket som om de var redde for å trosse en usynlig orden.”

Redd for å trosse en usynlig orden er Ebba ikke. Mens jeg har arbeidet med takken til henne i dag, har jeg fått god anledning til å tenke over hva et livsverk er. For noen er det visstnok et livsverk å suge så mye olje ut av kloden at en liten nasjon kan forbruke seg sløve i et par generasjoner. For andre er livsverket å stå med en barnevogn full av saklig informasjon og framtidsomsorg foran Stortinget i vind og blest i 30 ++ år.  Forfatteres livsverk finnes mellom to permer, på scenen, i eteren eller cyberspace. De færreste av oss skal leses og huskes i mer enn vår egen tid.  Bare et fåtall får innpass i sin ettertid, og enda færre former dikt som flyter av egen kraft gjennom alle tider og trenger gjennom alle pansre, uansett hvor tykke de er blitt av likegyldighet.  Dikt som  de  Grieg, Hagerup og Øverland  skrev, som i sin tid tente unge Ebba og var deler av grunnmuren i hennes eget livsverk.

Ebbas livsverk har mange sider,  men enten engasjementet gjelder individ eller samfunnsverdier, ute eller hjemme, henger det sammen med hennes omfattende virke som forfatter, dramatiker, oversetter, kritiker, foredragsholder eller spaltist, med hennes kamp for språk, ytringsfrihet og forfatteres kår og rettferdige behandling.

Ebba har fått mange vel fortjente priser, men den hun mottar i dag lyser med en spesiell glød. For prisen bærer  navnet til redaktøren og Nobelprisvinneren Carl von Ossietzky, den uredde fredsaktivisten og skarpe kritikeren av Hitlers diktatur,  som ble anklaget for høyforræderi og spionasje fordi han publiserte fakta om Tysklands brudd på Versailles-traktaten. Ossietzky er et symbol på personlig mot og samfunnsansvar. Han er forbildet som aldri blekner.

Hva mer kan vi ønske for Ebba som selv er et forbilde og nå hedres med prisen i hans navn?  Jo, en enkel gave, som er beskrevet slik av hennes medinitiativtaker  Steen til gjenopptakelse av saken mot Fasting Torgersen i september 2006.

” Granskingskommisjonens ansvar er stort, og takknemlig: Den har privilegiet å kunne innrømme en urett som er begått mot en mann som mater duene på Galgeberg hver dag, og venter.”

Før jul skal kommisjonen avgjørelse falle, forhåpentligvis til befrielse for Torgersen og  belønning for hans iherdige forsvarere.

Takk, Ebba.

Mette Newth,
15 november 2006

Talen ble holdt i forbindelse med overrekkelsen av Ossietzkyprisen 2006 

Takk til våre sponsorer

International PENs kongress i Tromsø 2004

Fra 6. til 12.  september 2004 arrangerte Norsk PEN International PENs årlige verdenskongress i Tromsø.  Sikring og videreutvikling av litteratur skrevet på minoritetspråk og forfattere i eksil var hovedtemaene på kongressen.

En internasjonal kongress med flere hundre deltagere fra hele verden er et stort løft for en liten organisasjon.  Norsk PEN hadde inngått en rekke sponsoravtaler, knyttet til seg viktige samarbeidspartnere og mottatt økonomisk støtte til kongressen både fra offentlige og private institusjoner.

Norsk PEN vil gjerne takke alle sponsorer og samarbeidspartnere for økonomisk støtte og godt samarbeid:

Våre sponsorer:

Institusjonen Fritt Ord
Utenriksdepartementet
Den norske bok- og forlagsbransjen:
Den Norske Forleggerforening
Forlagene Aschehoug, Cappelen, Gyldendal og Damm
De Norske Bokklubbene
Norsk Forfatter- og Oversetterfond
Norsk Faglitterær Forfatter- og Oversetterforening
LINOs utenlandsfond
Den norske Bokhandlerforening
Norsk kulturråd
Dagbladet
Reklamebyrået KITCHEN

Lokale sponsorer og samarbeidspartnere i Tromsø:
Sametinget
Troms Fylkeskommune
Tromsø kommune
Ordkalotten – Tromsø internasjonale litteraturfestival
Rica Ishavshotell
Tromsø Symfoniorkester
og avisen Nordlys

Human rights and human obligations

Human rights and human obligations

Lecture at the International PEN Congress in Tromsø, Norway, Friday 10 September 2004

By Jostein Gaarder

This year sees the bicentenary of the death of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant.  Towards the end of his life he pointed out that it was a necessary moral imperative for every country to join together in a «league of nations» whose job would be to ensure their peaceful co-existence.  As such, this German philosopher would seem to have first fathered the idea of the United Nations.  A few years ago we were able to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights.  And there was good reason to celebrate this milestone, as human rights still need to be protected against infringements and brutal violations.  The only difference now is that, for more than fifty years, we have had an institution and an instrument with which to defend these rights.

Perhaps the Universal Declaration of Human Rights represents the greatest triumph of philosophy and literature so far.  For human rights were not bestowed on us by higher powers, nor were they plucked from thin air, but rather they represent the culmination of a thousand-year maturing process, a process which to a large extent was carried forward by the written word, by English and French literature of the Enlightenment, by Italian Renaissance writing, by the literary heritage of ancient Greece and Rome, and of course by a clutch of religious tracts as well.  Behind this humanistic tradition were flesh and blood individuals who, at certain times of their lives, sat down to think and write – and they thought on behalf of the whole of humanity.  The very notion of a person’s «natural rights» has had a long and tortuous development; women’s political rights are, for example, hardly more than a century old, and they still need to be fought for – proof in itself of our slow development from tyranny and arbitrariness towards freedom and humanity.

The question that faces us at the start of a new millennium is how long we can go on talking about rights without simultaneously focusing on the individual’s obligations.  Maybe we need a new universal declaration.  Perhaps the time is ripe for a Universal Declaration of Human Obligations.  It is simply no longer meaningful to talk about rights without simultaneously stressing the individual state’s, or person’s, obligations.

Currently there are hundreds of organisations throughout the world which protect human rights, but only a handful that are concerned with human obligations – like, for example, the responsibility of looking after the rights of future generations.  Despite its very modest first showing, the Kyoto Protocol provides a preview of what must be achieved through international commitments aimed at rescuing the environment, the earth’s resources and the basis of human and animal life.

My question is: what role does art and literature play in all this?  We often see examples of artists, writers or people in the international entertainment industry disclaiming responsibility by pointing to freedom of expression or «artistic freedom».  But what do we mean by artistic freedom?

An important bedrock of all ethics has been «the golden rule «: you should do to others as you would be done to yourself.  Immanuel Kant defined this reciprocal principle by pointing out that the right action is the one we would wish everyone to perform in a similar situation.  Two hundred years after Kant’s death we have just about begun to get used to the idea that the reciprocal principle must also apply between rich and poor countries.  In addition, it must include the relationship between the generations.

The question is whether we would have wanted the people who lived on this planet before us – a hundred, a thousand or a hundred thousand years ago – to have deposited large quantities of atomic waste on the bed of the sea or in caves or mountain ravines.  If not, we have no right to do the same.  It’s as simple as that.  Or we can turn the question round and ask: how much does it cost to rent a security company for half a million years?  And who will pay the bill?  Or: how many geologists would dare to guarantee plutonium-free playgrounds in a hundred, or a hundred thousand years time?  Or: who will clean up after us?  Who will clear up after our party?

The question is whether we would have wanted previous generations to cut down more forests and rain forests.  Would we have preferred it if our ancestors had exterminated even more plant and animal species?  If not, we are duty bound to preserve biological diversity.  We cannot even be sure that Kant would have tolerated our high consumption of non-renewable energy sources.  We must first make sure that we would have wanted our ancestors to burn the same amount of coal and oil per head as we do.

We are the first generation to affect the climate on earth – and perhaps the last that won’t have to pay the price for it.

It has been pointed out that we have not inherited this planet from our ancestors, but have it on loan from our descendants.  But we are leaving a planet that it worth less than the one we borrowed.  And so we are eating into a capital that we really ought to have repaid with interest.

We can use the following simple idea borrowed from the American moral philosopher John Rawls: imagine you were a member of a formal committee whose job was to work out all the laws of a future society.  The committee members need to think of absolutely every eventuality because, once they have reached agreement and ratified all the legislation, they will all drop dead.  But after that they will all immediately wake up again in the very society whose laws they have written.  But – they would have no prior knowledge of what position in society they would occupy.  Nor would they know their ethnic or religious background, or if they were going to be born a boy or a girl.  A society like that would be a just society – simply because it had been formed by equals.

To make this notion more relevant to a modern global community, it would however be necessary to add one other important criterion: the members of this legislative body would also not know when they would be living in this society that everyone was equally responsible for.  It might be straight away.  But it might also be five hundred or five thousand years in the future.

Is today’s society a similarly just – and sustainable – one?  In other words, would we dare to be born in the middle of this millennium, for example?  The question boils down to whether we would risk sharing the fate of our own grandchildren?

How wide are our ethical horizons?  How wide are the ethical horizons of literature and art? In the final analysis it comes down to a question of identity.  What is a human being?  And who am I?  If I were nothing more than myself, I would be a creature without hope.  At least in the long term.  But I possess a deeper identity than my own body and my own short span on earth.  I am part of – and take part in – something greater and more important than myself.

Radhakrishnan, the former President of India said: You must love your neighbour as yourself because you are your neighbour.  The belief that your neighbour is anything other than you is merely an illusion.  And we might possibly add: isn’t it also an illusion that makes us believe that life on this planet is something different from ourselves?

But we don’t need to travel to India to encounter this more profound sense of identity.  We simply need to restore the old farming ethic.  It was an unwritten rule that the farmer would hand on his land in a better state and in better heart than he’d inherited it.  When the old farmer was on his death bed it was, of course, a time of melancholy and sadness.  But it would have been a greater and more irreparable tragedy if the farm itself had burnt down.

It has been said that the problem with Spaceship Earth is that it didn’t come with any instructions.  But in that case, why don’t we get on and write an instruction manual!  For that we need authors and philosophers.  We know that things are going wrong, and we know that we need to change course.  Don’t we also understand that something in our very system of economics is on a collision course with what the planet can tolerate?  Far too many decisions give priority to short-term profit of small groups rather than considering what is a fair distribution of the earth’s resources.

We are often told that ideologies are dead.  But isn’t the consumer ideology also an ideology?  And is it really the only model?

The question for writers and artists at the start of the third millennium must be: what shift in consciousness do we need?  What is a sustainable wisdom?  Which qualities of life are the most important?  Which values are the true values?  What is the good life?  And importantly: what kind of mobilisation is possible in the global village?

I have met people in small local communities who have expressed profound sorrow about the enormous cultural loss suffered in their area as a result of what many regard as colonialism or neo-colonialism.  But the cultural sphere is not the only thing that suffers in this so called «globalisation».  The effects on the environment have been even more serious and irreversible, for example a total or partial extermination of native flora and fauna.  Some of these species still survive in traditional folk songs and folklore.  It’s just that they have been eradicated from the face of the earth.

A threat to ancient habitats is naturally also a threat to art and culture.  Even an attack on traditional economy can be an attack on a traditional culture.  Nature forms the basis of culture.  This can be easy to forget in an international consumer society in which the distance between producer and consumer can seem enormous.  But plundering a people’s natural surroundings is simultaneously to misappropriate that people’s culture  – and their soul.  It’s fruitless to discuss which is the greater loss.  It would be rather like asking what someone would hate to lose most: body or soul.

This «body and soul» perspective – or nature and culture – is clearly relevant to the whole of our planet.  If our very economic system is on a collision course with what nature can endure, it is also a threat to all cultural life.  For a playful, inventive and vain primate it is easy to forget that, at root, we are a part of nature.  But are we really so playful, inventive and vain that the game itself, the inventions and the art are given pre-eminence over our responsibility for the planet’s future?

Today, many of us well understand the challenges facing the planet.  But we feel paralysed by political and economic systems.  Politicians, too, have a far greater insight than might appear in practice.  And this is the paradox: we have sufficient insight – and we know that time is short – but we aren’t able to turn things round before it’s too late.  But if we do manage it, I am convinced that art and literature will play a decisive part.  In the same way that authors and artists have constituted an avant-garde in the fight for human rights, so they may form a vanguard, too, in the struggle for human obligations.

When Churchill was appointed Prime Minister in May 1940 – as German forces were advancing on the English Channel – he told the House of Commons: I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, sweat and tears.  The amazing thing was that he managed to mobilise his people – in spite of what was, to put it mildly, a depressing political message.  But the message was a necessary one.  Today we are perhaps facing an even greater and more imminent danger – by which I mean a fatal collapse of the earth’s environments, including all artistic and cultural values.  But where is that political courage now?  Where is the political decisiveness?  Where are the politicians who dare to ask for a little sweat and tears to bring about a new and necessary political direction simply to save our children’s futures, human civilisation – and the very dignity of the human race itself?  Perhaps it is we poets, essayists and novelists, who must raise our banners and make our politicians toe the line.  We have done it before.

Perhaps the most important question of all in relation to literature’s importance in a post-modern world is this: how can the written word inspire a young generation to believe in – and so fight for – a more just and sustainable future?  What visions can art give the younger generation in a world where half the population lives below the poverty line and the other half practically drowns in materialism and excessive consumption?

According to an old parable a frog that is dropped into boiling water will immediately jump out again and so save its skin.  But if the frog is placed in a pan of cold water which is gradually brought to boiling point, it will be unaware of the danger and be boiled to death.

Is our generation like that frog?  Is modern art and culture such a frog?  Or the modern entertainment industry?  I don’t know, but it really is down to us to decide.  We can’t count on any outside help.  We’re not likely to be saved in the final second before boiling point – either from outer space or by some form of supernatural intervention.

Human beings are largely social creatures, and authors are no exception.  But we can’t continue only to relate to each other.  We also belong to the earth we live on.  That, too, is a significant part of our identity.

To a large extent we modern human beings have been shaped by our cultural history, by the actual civilisation that has nurtured us.  We say that we have a cultural heritage.  But we have also been formed by the biological history of the planet.  We also pass on a genetic inheritance.  We are primates.  We are vertebrates.

It took several billion years to create us.  But will we survive the third millennium?

Human beings are possibly the only living creatures in the universe with a universal consciousness.  And so it is not only a global responsibility to preserve the living environment of this planet.  It is a cosmic responsibility.

Literature is nothing less than a celebration of mankind’s consciousness.  So shouldn’t an author be the first to defend human consciousness against annihilation?

Jostein Gaarder

Tale av Vigdis Finnbogadottir, 9. september

Voices of the World

We should care for the reduction of language diversity and dying languages for the very same reason that we care when a species of animal or plant dies. It reduces the diversity of our planet. We are talking about the intellectual and cultural diversity of the planet now, of course, not its biological diversity. But the issues are the same. Enshrined in a language is the whole of a community’s history, and a large part of its cultural identity. The world is a mosaic of visions. To  lose even one piece of this mosaic is a loss for all of us.

We can learn so much from the visions of others. Sometimes the learning is eminently practical, such as when medical treatments from the folk medicine practices of an indigenous people spread to other parts of the world to the benefit of all. Sometimes it is intellectual- an increase in our awareness of the history of our world, as when the links between languages tell us something about the movements of early civilisations -or as when oral literature or myths or just the meeting with another foreign mindset, philosophy or poetry open up new inner universes. And of course, very often we learn something new about language itself – the behaviour that makes us truly human.

That’s why it is so important to document these languages as quickly as possible. With every language that dies, another precious source of data about the nature of the human language faculty is lost – and don’t forget, there are only about 6,000 sources in all.

There are nine different words in Maya for the colour blue in the comprehensive Porrua Spanish-Maya Dictionary, but just three Spanish translations, leaving six butterflies that can only be seen by the Maya, proving beyond doubt that when a language dies, six butterflies disappear from the consciousness of the world.  (Earl Shorris, Professor of Anthropology)

A widespread effort is being made to document «indigenous knowledge» (IK) and see its use in sustainable development in the form of a world-wide and rapidly expanding network of IK-resource-centres. The initiative is based on the growing international reconnection of the link between cultural and biological diversity, and the IK-system’s role as cultural capital. These IK-resource-centres secure national and international contacts between individuals and institutions working with IK.

The cultural, biological and linguistic tendencies of development all point in the same direction: A notorious growth in mono-cultures that all too often disregards local conditions. In the long run this may lead the globe to a state of biological, cultural and linguistic desertification, for with the local languages and cultures, disappears also the knowledge about local biological conditions that is necessary for survival. When a language is moribund, it is often a sign of a milieu crisis, or -to put it the other way about -where there are indigenous peoples with a homeland, there are still biologically rich environments.

The dangers threatening small communities are bigger than ever: a growing number of languages are becoming extinct, in line with the general tendency towards assimilation into bigger national states. To maintain linguistic diversity is not just an idealistic wish, but rather a necessity -if we want to keep the variety on which humanity depends. Language, culture and nature are interconnected, and if one is obstructed it will have consequences for the others.
Thousands of years of accumulated knowledge disappears every fortnight, because the last speaker of a language dies. This is not only a problem from a humanitarian point of view. This is knowledge that is being lost to the world. Any effort to maintain languages is an effort to prevent the intellectual and practical knowledge they have inherited from disappearing from the consciousness of the world.

PRESENT SITUATION OF THE LANGUAGES IN THE WORLD

Languages have died off throughout history, but never have we faced the massive extinction that is threatening the world right now. As language professionals, we are faced with a stark reality: Much of what we study will not be available to future generations. The cultural heritage of many peoples is crumbling while we look on. Are we willing to shoulder the blame for having stood by and done nothing?’ (Opening statement, Endangered Language Fund, USA 1995)

Statistics suggest that over half of the world’s languages are moribund: i.e. not being passed on effectively to the next generation. We are living at a point in human history where, within perhaps two generations, most languages in the world will die out.

Language is a fundamental part of life, common to all humans, and an identity and culture- defining factor unique to the species of humankind. Without language you cannot define yourself as a human being, without language you cannot express your cultural identity. All languages are rich with characteristic creative grammatical and phonetic ways of organising and categorising human experience, and specific ways of expressing their conceptions of the world. Language might very well have been the crucial element that made it possible for Homo Sapiens to become the most successful species in the world, because language made possible communication about new findings and insights.

There is nothing unusual about a single language dying. Communities have come and gone throughout history , and with them their language. Hittite, for example, died out when its civilisation disappeared in Old Testament times. But what is happening today is extraordinary, judged by the standards of the past. It is language extinction on a massive scale.

Estimates as to the total number of languages spoken in the world today range between 4,000 and10,000, depending on how the exact border between ‘language’ and ‘dialect’ is defined; but most recent linguistic publications agree on a total of just under 7,000, which breaks down as follows:

Asia                33 %               2,197 languages

Africa             30 %               2,058 languages

Pacific             19 %               1 ,311 languages

America          15 %               1 ,013 languages

Europe            3 %                     230 lanauages
Total             100%                 6,809 languages

The biggest tropical rain-forest region on earth, which holds the majority of the species of the world, is also the home of the highest range of linguistic diversity. Most of the world’s languages are spoken in two zones – one running from the West African coast via the Congo to East Africa, and the other from southern India and the south-eastern Asian peninsula via the Indonesian islands to New Guinea and the Pacific.

The 17 largest countries in these regions account for 60% of the languages of the world, but only for 27% of the world’s population, and only 9% of the world’s area.

Nigeria                       427 languages

Cameroon                  270 1anguages

Zaire                          210 languages

The Ivory Coast           73 languages

Togo                           43 languages

Ghana                         72 1anguages

Benin                           51 languages

Tanzania                    131 1anguages

India                           380 languages (incl. 3 on first languages top 15)

Vietnam                         86 languages

Laos                              92 1anguages

The Philippines             160 languages

Malaysia                      137 languages

Indonesia                     670 languages (incl. 1 on first languages top 15)

Papua New Guinea        860 languages

Vanuatu                       105 languages

The Solomon Islands      66 languages

Australia represents another 250 languages, Mexico 240 and Brazil 210 languages, while Europe represents only a modest 3% of all languages, and China with it’s 21.5% of the world’s population and 8.6% of the world’s area, holds only a mere 2.6% of the world’s languages (96 languages). So 70% of the world’s languages are gathered in only 20 nations, which include some of the poorest in the world.

Mandarin is on the top-1 O-list of ‘first languages’, representing 726 million speakers, followed by English with it’s 427 million speakers, and Spanish with 266 millions, Hindi has another 182 million speakers, Arabian 181 millions, Portuguese 165 millions, Bengali 162 millions, Russian 158 millions, Japanese 124 millions and German 121 millions.)
(The list does not include second-language speakers, totals which in many cases are considerably higher.)  In effect, the statistics mean that

96% of the languages of the world are spoken by 4% of the world’s population
4% of the languages of the world are spoken by 96% of the world’s population

52% of the world’s languages are spoken by less than 10,000 people
28% by less than 1,000
10% by less than 100

This implies that well over half of the world’s languages, i.e. some 3,500 languages, have 10,000 speakers or less; and that a quarter of all languages have only 1,000 speakers or less. At present, linguists suggest that there are around 50 languages which have only one speaker left.  Estimates about the number of languages in the world must be treated with caution. There is unlikely to be any single, universally agreed total. As a result, translating observations about percentages of endangered languages into absolute figures, or vice versa is always problematic. Nonetheless, one fact is clear and solid: the number of living and spoken languages is diminishing at an alarming rate.

Estimates have it that only around 600 of the world’s languages are not threatened by extinction. Statistically, one language dies every fortnight -which means that some 50% of the languages of the world will be gone by the end of the twenty-first century, and with them the cultures, that they embed. Somewhere between 20% and 30% of the languages of the world are not being passed on to new generations, and because this natural transmission is not taking place, the languages are moribund. So we are reaching a critical point in human history, where, if we do not take action, numerous languages of the world will have vanished within 2 generations, taking their cultures with them.

Why are so many languages dying?  The reasons range from natural disasters, through different forms of cultural assimilation, to genocide.  Small communities in isolated areas can easily be dicimated or wiped out by earthquakes, hurricanes, floods and other cataclysms.  A habitat may become unsurviveable through unfavourable climatic and economic conditions – famine and drouht especially.  Communities can die through imported disease.  Cultural assimilation is an even bigger factor.  Much of the present crisis in language loss stems from the major cultural movements which began 500 years ago, as colonialism spread a small number of dominant languages – English, Spanish, Portugese and French – around the world.  The extinction of languages and cultures is symptomatic of the social process following globalisation.  Great numbers of the worlds languages are threatened by the spreading of a small handful of major languages.

This radical change is not a question of ‘survival of the fittest’, or the result of a sound concurrence between equals, but, on the contrary, largely the result of unequal social conditions both between the industrialised countries and developing countries, and, more especially, between developed and undeveloped regions within the same country.

REVITALISATION & MULTlLINGUISM

The figure of 100,000 when talking about endangered languages, sometimes takes people by surprise. Surely a language with 100,000 speakers is safe? The evidence is to the contrary. Such a language is not going to die next week or next year; but there is no guarantee that it will be surviving in a couple of generations. It all depends on the pressures being exerted upon it -in particular, whether it is at risk from the dominance of another language. It also depends on the attitudes of the people who speak it -do they care if it lives or dies?

Problems arise when the mother tongue is not being passed on effectively to the next generation. This may either be because the parents find it futile to speak their mother tongue, or perhaps because the children abandon it when they find that their mother tongue is seen as a social and/or economic stigma.

Can anything be done? Obviously it’s too late to do anything to help many languages, where the speakers are too few or too old, and where the community is too busy just trying to survive to care a hoot about their language. But many languages are not in such a desperate position. Often, where languages are seriously endangered, there are things that can be done to give new life to them. The term used to describe this process is ‘revitalisation’. A community, once it realises that its language is in danger, can get its act together, and introduce measures which can genuinely revitalise. You’ve seen it happen in Australia, with several aboriginal languages, and it’s happening in other countries, too. Conditions have to be right, of course, for there to be a likelihood of success. The community itself must want to save its language -that’s the absolute first step. The culture of which it’s a part must also need to have a respect for minority languages.

An endangered language will progress if it’s speakers:

.have access to media

.increase their wealth

.increase their legitimate power in the dominant community .have a strong presence in the educational system

.can write their language down

.can make use of electronic communication technology

Breton, in France, is a classic case. At the beginning of the 20th century it was spoken by as many as a million people, but by the end of the century it was down to perhaps a quarter of that total. Breton could be safe if enough effort is made – the kind of effort that has already helped Welsh to recover its growth. It not, the downward trend will just continue, and Breton could be gone in 50 years. This scenario has already happened, in recent times, to two other Celtic languages in Europe- Cornish, formerly spoken in Cornwall, and Manx, in the Isle of Man.

Language diversity, like a gene pool, is essential for our species to thrive. If we are to prosper, we need the cross-fertilisation of thought, that multilinguism gives us. Linguists have for a long time been calling attention to the fact that it is a benefit to master more than one language, as long as there is a balance between the mother tongue and the second language.

Today, English is the main contender for the position of world lingua franca. There are few competitors. Several other languages have an important local role as a lingua franca, such as Russian in Eastern Europe or Spanish in South and Central America, but no comparable international level of use. Mandarin has more speakers than any other language in the world, but is too unfamiliar in western societies to be used there. German and French are still widely used, but far less than they were a century ago.

The world has diminished. We exchange information globally more than ever- through news,
trade agreements and political associations. Art, culture and religion are constant carriers of discussion, and the electronic media will bring us together even more closely in times to come. We cannot deny this fact -using it wisely is a task we have to face.

The ideal of globalisation is that each culture should be able to guard its own cultural and linguistic heritage, as well as all its embedded knowledge, expressional individualism and traditional poetry , keeping its own individual taxonomy alive -while at the same time everyone is empowered to communicate with the rest of the world in at least one or two major lingua franca, for the benefit of all. The ideal is certainly not that the price to be paid for the currency of the lingua franca should be the demise of linguistic -and cultural- diversity.

VOICES OF THE WORLD

VOW proposes to take effective action towards maintaining cultural and linguistic diversity. In order to help revitalise moribund languages and create an archive of those which are beyond hope of resuscitation, it will begin by initiating positive global dialogue on linguistic and cultural diversity in the world today, and laying the foundations for a lasting archive resource for study. Central to the VOW concept are the audio-visual media and broadcasUdigital networks which will ensure that the profile of this dialogue is high, and has a significant impact at a cultural level, all over the globe.

The VOW organisation and network offers to co-ordinate people, ethnic groups and cultures, UN- agencies, different kinds of NGOs, research-centres, universities and educational establishments

A crucial aspect of the project is the process that VOW will generate in each participant culture, enabling each language-group to:

* appreciate its mother tongue as unique and ‘identity creating’
* increase attention to the development of the individual languages
* raise awareness of the transmission of the language to coming generations encourage language care (for instance establishing written vocabularies, education, administration, information, cultural practices, artistic productions)
* identify foreign language influence and exchange
* formulate the importance of multi-linguistic environments
* establish appropriate legal and cultural rights to a mother tongue
* generate scientific documentation where it is neede

A crucial element of VOW will be an Archive of Language & Languages, a collection of existing knowledge and documentation accessible through one portal, with the aim of facilitating contact between people from all over the world. Over the years, many individual initiatives have been
made towards true international co-operation on this front, but none have reached full fruition. In order to have our network in place and the content ready for dissemination by October 2005, VOW hopes that the challenge of this new initiative will be taken up with full commitment to the necessary collaborative work.

9th September 2004

Vigdis Finnbógadottir

 

Departementsråd Helge M. Sønnelands tale 7. september

Dette er manuskriptet til departementsråd Helge M. Sønnelands lunch-tale i Tromsø.  Talen ble dessverre ikke holdt pga. sykdom

Tromsø 7.september 2004

Your Royal Highness
Dear writers,

It is a pleasure for me to have been invited to disturb your luncheon today. My task is to present in a few words ­ and no more than 15 minutes ­  the Norwegian literary system, as seen from the desks of the Ministry of  Culture and Church Affairs . According to the organizers, this is to be done in a light-hearted way, preferably with a touch of humour. Not a very usual prescription to a bureaucrat. And also close to impossible, taking into account that the current situation in the Norwegian book market is seriously uncertain, calling for profound contemplation rather than a bright mood. So ­ as there is no such thing as a free lunch ­ there is probably no such thing as a lighthearted, entertaining description of the literary scenery in  this country.

Anyway: When the invitation came, the Ministry felt ­ to the extent that a Ministry can feel ­very honoured ­ and so did I ­ I also felt humble to be asked to speak to such a prominent assembly as yours ­ and the task felt slightly overwhelming, taking into consideration that I would have liked to have had a few more hours speaking time. So this will necessarily be somewhat superfluous ­ not for the first time in bureaucratic history. I will take the liberty of expanding the time frame to 17 ½ minutes, of which 2 ½ will be devoted to humoristic  attempts.

I will address you in the most spoken language in the world, namely: English as spoken by foreigners.

The title offered to me – “The state of the book and the book of the state” – might evoke associations of literary systems which PEN-members would instinctively want to dissociate themselves from. Let me therefore hasten to underline that Norwegian governmental policy in this area is to provide the basis for a literary production characterized by breadth, multiple choice and quality, and to uphold and enhance the endangered Norwegian languages ­ and Sami and not to interfere with what is to be published, or  in any way censor literary expressions. (On the contrary: censorship of printed material has been prohibited by our Constitution in 185 of its 190 years of existence ­ the exception being WW II.) And in any matter of allocations of funds, to beneficiaries of say literature scholarship, the policy is an armlength’s distance between the government and the decision makers.

My immediate response to the question: what is the state of the book in Norway? would be to declare that overall the situation is not bad. This is an understatement for close to excellent ­ but only late at night and without witnesses would my friends and counterparts in the author’s organisations subscribe to this .However, new literature of all kinds is written, published, praised ­ and condemned ­debated, bought, read, borrowed ­ the old analogue book survives ,simultaneously with the electronic distribution of texts .”The book is dead ­long live the book”, Norwegian author Jon Bing stated 20 years ago. He now proves to be right.  I note that he sounds sad when he predicts that the Norwegian language will be -if not dead, so at least seriously ill   in less than 100 years ­ and I am convinced too that it might deteriorate as English is gaining new ground in our daily – and nightly life. Norwegian governmental cultural policies include steps to avoid this ­ at least prolong the longevity of our languages. Supporting authors and literature is instrumental in this respect.

Let me then revert to my task, and draw your attention to some main features of our system:

1. No VAT on books ­ and for the publishers: payed VAT is deductable.

2. Financed by the state, 1000 copies of new titles of  fiction literature for adults in the Norwegian languages are bought and distributed to public libraries

3. 1500 copies of fiction literature for children and adolescents in the Norwegian languages are bought for public libraries and School libraries

4. Plans are made to introduce a similar purchase scheme for non-fiction literature

5. Royalty to authors of the purchased books is paid by the state, and 5% added to the normal royalty according to the so-called “ standard contract” between Norwegian fiction authors and the publishers

6. Authors are among the groups  eligible for guaranteed income, and governmental scholarships

7. Norwegian libraries ­ including all kinds of libraries ­ hold a stock of 50 million units of material published in Norway. For this material, held for loans or reference use in the libraries, the government pays a public lending right, presently resulting in ca. 8 million Euros/ 9,5 mill. USD. This money is distributed to funds managed by relevant rightholders’ groups, and are mainly given as scholarships to authors. The rightholders decide themselves how to do this ­ as long as there is no discrimination on the ground of nationality within the European Economic Area, and as long as the money is accounted for. (Allow me here a slight digression, in the form of a lovely story concerning  reporting  the use of scholarships and grants. It is contributed to the author Odd Eidem, who had gotten a travel grant. The Ministry wrote: One can not see that one has received a report, one ask you to submit one promptly. The author replied: One have received the travel grant. One has bought a boat. One is still travelling”.)

8. How is the sum of money to public lending right decided, you may ask. The sum to be paid pr lending-unit is negotiated between the government and the rightholders ­ as a part of a general negotiating right provided for Norwegian artists of any kind.

What I have mentioned, are examples of how the Norwegian state takes an interest in securing a plurality of voices in the public sphere. The Norwegian Parliament is currently putting the final touches to a new Article 100 of the Constitution, protecting freedom of speech in Norway. One of the proposals which the Parliament is considering is to include the state’s obligation in this respect ­ to secure the infrastructure of freedom of speech ­ in the Constitution itself. Although more of a political than a legal obligation, it would mean that the state i.a. should continue to contribute financially to art, culture, newspapers, public service broadcasting and literature.

I mentioned the negotiating right of the artists. Here you may ask ironically: what is the negotiating power of artists ?Do they have any ? Part of my answer is to point to the power of this organisation: the power of words. Time and again, the word has proved to be powerful and influential ­ also when used for the purposes of defending artists’ rights in this society- and not least words in the form of head-lines in nation-wide newspapers….

Furthermore, I would like to point to the fact that Norway has for many decades had a well functioning copyright legislation . It is not an exaggeration to say that the Nordic countries ­ which uphold a strong wish to have a harmonized copyright legislation ­ have been in the forefront in securing the rights of the authors ­ as well as in finding practicable solutions for the users. This legislation will be brought up to “Information society-standard” shortly, and thereby the rights of authors will be strengthened. This does not imply that Internet is presently law-less country ­ but it has some similarities with the Wild West ­ it is  hard to be the sheriff.

Norway has a strong copyright legislation, and in addition to being a small and transparent country, we are also extremely organized. The average Norwegian is member of 2,4 organizations. This is also valid for authors, who have formed not less than 4 fiction-writers organizations if the same organizations are included. For the purpose of management of intellectual property rights, you will find well ­functioning collecting societies all over the field-from performance rights of texts and music, to photocopying, where the umbrella organisation is named KOPINOR.

The remuneration collected for photocopying in this country exceeds (USD30 Mill).One of the reasons for this world-record level, is a special Nordic legal solution implemented in our copyright law ;the so-called extended collective licence system. Under this system, the effect of agreements between  a user ­i.a. a university  or government administration-  and a relevant rightholder’s organization ­like Kopinor ­ is extended to cover also non-members of the relevant category of rightholder’s -the result is a strong bargaining power for the rightholder’s, equalled with the possibility for the user to clear all rights needed in an effective way. Through the agreement necessary flexibility can be achieved.

The Ministry intends to propose shortly a similar system to apply to electronic copying.

A characteristic of Norwegian remuneration schemes is solidarity between the artists, and a pragmatic approach in search of solutions. In a majority of cases we have chosen collective solutions, which ­ is my postulate ­ is a characteristic not only of the government’s policy, but also of the policy of the organizations-slightly in contradiction to major trends in other countries.

Concerning photocopying, however, we know from surveys the national origin of the material which has been copied, and payment is made accordingly to relevant organisations representing foreign rightholder’s. We did not dislike it when US publishers received a check of some million USdollars from Norway and ­in the absence of individual data – had to use them for collective purposes ­ which they did by successfully bringing  copyright infringers to court.

Even in the copyright field, where individual management and individual remuneration is the starting point, we have found practical solutions based on solidarity. Most organizations have chosen to distribute the i.a. photocopying money in the form of scholarships, even if individual payment is possible when a specific act of copying can be proven. This collective way of thinking is even stronger represented when you look at remuneration schemes based on cultural policy, outside of copyright, like the Public Lending Right.

But in my eyes, in these times of individualism, when I comes quicker to mind than us and we ­ not to mention they and theirs- it seems that Bob Dylan was and is right: Times, they are a-changing. Mine is the trendy word, and some of the Norwegian schemes may so to speak become minefields, capable of slowly undermining the system.

Also, there are dark clouds in the literary horizon. For many years bookstores and publishers have had fixed price-agreement on newly published books.

The present agreement terminates by January 1. 2005 ­ the start of our 100 year anniversary as an independent nation.

Long lasting negotiations between the parties failed in June.

The Minister of Culture has met with the different parties ­including the authors although they are not directly involved in the negotiations – to listen to their views. The outcome is presently uncertain ­ it is a difficult matter, not least in political terms.

It is my hope that common ground is found for a renewed voluntary agreement. If not, a possible outcome might be the death of the literary system as we know it.

On the other hand ­ speaking as a bureaucrat in the ministry of Culture and Church Affairs ­ I should know that without death, there can be no resurrection…..

This brings me to the end of this quick run-through of some of the elements of our literary landscape. Other speakers will fill out ­or give a more nuanced picture later in this conference.

Anyway: Anyone dealing with and trying to find his or her place in the exciting part of life that cultural policy and literature represent, may get the feeling that it is hard to keep one’s head above water. Be it then a comfort to recall that a person who has her head above water, only sees the tip of the iceberg.

Thank you for your attention.

HKH Kronprins Haakons tale under åpningen av kongressen 7. september

HKH Kronprins Haakons tale under åpningen av International PENs 70. Verdenskongress i Tromsø, 7. september 2004

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,

The freedom to publicly voice political opinions is a fundamental right. In order to create just societies a host of liberties and freedoms are vital. Freedom of political speech is a prerequisite for creating the future we want. How else would we be able to find the right solutions to complex problems? We are dependent on the best arguments and insights we can get. So we definitely need to hear from the people that are right. We also need to hear from people that are partly right because there are lessons to be learned from them as well. We even need to hear arguments that are wrong so that they can be debated and identified as invalid.

Freedom of speech is a source of power. If used constructively it is amazing what speech can do. It can fight corruption, free political prisoners, and make oppressive regimes crumble.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan has said that: “Freedom of speech is a right to be fought for, not a blessing to be wished for. But it is more than that: it is the essential vehicle for the exchange of ideas between nations and cultures. And without that exchange and interaction, there can be no true understanding or lasting cooperation.”

Freedom of speech is, however, not a good in itself. As other forms of power freedom of expression can also be abused. Freedom of speech does not mean that it is OK to do or say whatever you want. There are ethical boundaries that are important to keep within. At the same time we should not be scared of outing truths that are needed to create a better society.

To protect human rights and liberties we need watchdogs to protect them. International PEN is such a watchdog.

International PEN is, mainly through its Writers in Prison Committee and its many centres, working for about one thousand individual persecuted writers, journalists and editors at all times. You can boast of many spectacular successes – writers saved from unjust prison cells or life-threatening refugee camps, some times at the last moment – some of them are even with us here today. I know that the two main themes, on which you will be working during this week, are «Writers in Exile» and «Writers in Minority Languages», respectively. Neither of these problems are new. The work which is done by International PEN and its many centres is indeed needed.

In Norway, International PEN is represented by the Norwegian PEN centre, which today is known as one of the most active PEN centres. Norwegian PEN is also administering the Norwegian cities of asylum for persecuted writers. Scandinavia has a tradition for this sort of work, and it is important that this tradition is carried on. This is the responsibility which follows from our privileged position in a peaceful and relatively wealthy corner of the world, and I am happy to see that our responsibility is taken so well care of as this congress week in Tromsø seems to prove.

It is a pleasure to meet so many delegates from International PEN in Norway, and in the city of Tromsø. International PEN is an organization which has turned out to be able to change during its 83 years of existence, from being a literary club at a high level to become today’s powerful agent in the fight for freedom of expression with almost 140 PEN centres all over the world, most of them represented here today.

I wish every one of you a most happy stay in Norway, and I wish you all a fruitful week and all imaginable luck in your important work. I hereby declare International PEN’s 70th World Congress open.

Tale av Elisabeth Eide, UiT 6. september

LETTER TO AN UNKNOWN FRIEND

Dear friend,

It may seem strange to you that I should call you a friend, since we have never met and do not know each other. However, this week several hundred writers, cultivators in the world of words – are gathered near the Northern tip of the world. And today some of us are urged to discuss a topic formulated as like this: Should writers stay in prison? I thought you should be informed since it is about you. May be this headline provokes you, since you are barred by thousand walls from being here. However, the question may be formulated as it is just to remind us here that people like you exist. But it may also function as a word play hinting to the story of suffering and art. Or should we call it not a story but a myth? Does not prison tear apart more than it stimulates in any human being?

Come to think of it, there are undoubtedly prisoners who became artists while in prison. For some the prison years compelled them to write, like many survivors from the Nazi concentration camps in WW II. French-Jewish writer Fania Fenelon’s story of the women’s orchestra in Auschwitz-Birkenau is one brilliant example, not the least because she dares to explore also how the dark sides of the human soul appear in detention, that is, not only humanity but also greed and vanity, the presence of solidarity and the opposite.

One living proof of becoming a writer in prison I met recently, the president of East Timor, Xanana Gusmao. For seven years he was confined to a cell in Cipinang prison in Jakarta, Indonesia. During these seven years he gradually got access to canvas and paint, to a typewriter and later a computer. But he does not tell a prison story, he becomes a poet. One result of this period is a collection of poetry called Mar Meu, My sea of Timor, illustrated by his own paintings, dream-like images of his longed-for country:

Timor / where flowers also bloom / to make beautiful / the unknown graves / ‘in cold, endless nights’.

The longing for what you cannot see, but imagine with your baggage of experience, the longing for where you cannot be but have belonged to. I imagine this longing takes a huge part of the day in a prison cell. It made Xanana an artist.

But my East Timorese friends tell me the best book written about East Timor, its suffering and courage, was created and published by a writer who has not even visited the island. The person is Timothy Mo, with his novel The Redundancy of Courage. In this book he is deeply inspired by the seemingly madly courageous East Timorese guerrilla movement, that is; of mountain men he has never met; a couple of hundred men challenging Indonesia who occupied the country for 24 years, a world power. He writes of them with a blend of critical empathy, admiration and humour. Timothy Mo, born from a Hong Kong Chinese father and an English mother, has never spent time in a prison cell. But he has lunched with Timorese exiles. And they must have left quite an impression.

At present Xanana, the president-poet longs for somewhere else, a place beyond a position he did not really want, but felt compelled by his people to take on. Being an old guerrilla fighter in Timor’s mountains he has become a national Icon. He now expresses his need for a room of his own, a retreat in which he can write and paint. He will have to wait for the 2007 elections. But he should not have to go back to a cell block.

For in prison the horrors overpower the blessings of the dream world, a world Jack London generously let his straitjacketed prisoner escape to almost a hundred years ago. Did you ever read his The Star Rover, in Norwegian actually called the Strait jacket? In this novel a man on Death Row writes of a soul wandering across the world and across history, while physically he was confined to a small dark cell.

The horrors of such a place may follow a person throughout a life time, as it has to this day followed the Afghan writer Razak Mahmoon. In his novel “Asr-e-Khodkhoshi” (The Era of Suicide) he makes an account strongly based on his personal experience from Kabul’s Poul-e-Charkhi prison. His own story is sad, but also carries a string of irony. Being part of a radical underground movement, he was mistaken for an extreme fundamentalist, then arrested by the Soviets, tortured and imprisoned at the age of 16. For the first four years he was in a dark place, in solitary confinement. Then one day a Russian doctor came to see him and concluded that if he was left there much longer, he would turn blind. So his guards had the sense to transfer the young boy to a cell with 150 other prisoners. Razak Mahmoon did not like it much, he detested the smells of the other inmates, their behaviour, their fundamentalism. Sometimes he even wanted to return to his small cell, where he had nursed his imagination; to prevent himself from turning mad. But in the new, crowded cell books were allowed to circulate. He started reading. In his home there had not been many books, but he had been obsessed with listening to radio and thus discovered a larger world. Now the guards brought in literature. Since he was not a very devout believer, Mahmoon took to philosophy, the Russian classics and even Lenin for a while. – I am the son of Dostoyevsky, he told us as we meet him in Kabul. His new novel Pardai Haftum, the seventh curtain, is too radical for this country, he tells us, since he is a critic of orthodoxy in Islam. He struggled with his prison book for years, but got his award when an Iranian critic thought his name must be a pseudonym for a Russian writer.

Through his novel he tries to control his traumatized mind. He is restless, does not trust the future in his own homeland. And without doubt, say other Afghan writers, his eight years in prison, the best years of his youth, have given shape to great literature – and a tormented soul. So who am I, dear friend, to say that any such suffering is worth while?

You have obviously reflected more deeply on these questions than I have. Maybe you would even – in spite of your own miserable situation argue that some of the great art of this world is created from people’s sufferings. Slave labourers and quarry workers whipped through endless days of toiling. In the end for me it is impossible to imagine. But if we happened to be in that moment of history we would have sided with the slaves but admired their skills, wouldn’t we?

A different kind of irony of history has been lived and experienced by Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer. In his four novels called the Buru Quartet he explores Dutch colonialism mainly through a young and ambitious person’s mind. Through their schools the main character Minke learns of the freedoms that the rulers will not allow people like himself. Thus his subversiveness grows. But do you know where he started writing these four volumes? We may not even call it writing, since for several years the dictator Soeharto denied him access to pen and paper. When he was imprisoned the police destroyed eight unfinished manuscripts and his great library. But like you, he did not give in. From his arrival in 1967 to the prison island Buru, in the Malaccan archipelago; he was compelled to take part in unpaid slave labour with his fellow prisoners. But then, in the dark and damp evenings, rather exhausted, he sat down with fourteen of his compatriots. Under these circumstances Pram Toer started telling his stories of Minke’s life at the beginning of the 20th century, chapter by chapter. One prisoner became so intrigued from hearing about Minke’s experiences that he disappeared in the jungle of Buru. When his friends luckily found him before the prison guards did, he explained to them that he wanted to be Minke. A free person.

In the year 1973, after eight years of imprisonment, Toer was allowed writing utensils, and his fellow prisoners started taking over some of his work in the fields, while he was still responsible for providing his group with firewood. His novels were produced in four copies, helped by carbon paper, and smuggled out of Buru and Indonesia by a German priest. After another six years Toer was released 1979, but had to live under restrictions resembling house arrest until Soeharto’s fall in 1999.

But why do I only tell you about the man and his writings? Writers are beings of flesh and blood. They need protein to survive, especially when forced to do hard physical labour. Today often mentioned as a candidate to the Nobel price, Toer hunted rats and reptiles to survive at Buru. He was arrested when the youngest of his seven children was two months old. Throughout his stay in prison he tried to reach them, scribbling on insides of cigarette packs, smuggling out small notes and thus showing how he cared. Not the least he was trying from his awkward position to give them advices about the future. In short; all the things a parent should be allowed to do face to face.

Do not remind me, you say. I am a mother and a father and the thought of my children is the worst part of being in this place.

I answer you that I know, but then again I don’t. It just came to my mind as I had the privilege of meeting Toer this summer. I also feel helpless; I can do little to comfort you but saying that Pram Toer eventually learnt to know his children again after fourteen years away. But what these relations might have been with him living with them in Java, and what kind of literature he could have created without the prison years, with his library and his eight unpublished manuscripts intact, nobody will ever know. All those ‘might-have-been’s’ must surely haunt him at times. I have read some of his pre-prison works: He has always stayed close to the Indonesian common man. He did not need imprisonment to learn to know him. Only now, when he declares he is too old to write, when his fingers will no longer willingly follow the signals of his brains, he is living in a style more typical of a famous writer.

When shifting my focus from the president-poet in East Timor and young Razak Mahmoon in Kabul to Pram Toer, I also shifted from men who became writers in prison or as a result of prison, to an established well-known writer from whom everything – his writings, his research, his family and his right to let his voice be heard – was taken away by his tormentors. I do not know, however, whether Mahmoon the Afghan would have published a first novel or a volume of short stories in his early twenties if it had not been for the brutes who arrested him. He probably does not know himself either.

And between the two ways of relating to prison that I have just described,  there are the in-betweens. Like Partaw Naderi, another Afghan writer who was a grown-up family man when he was thrown into Poul-e-Charkhi, south of Kabul, on the Logar road. He ended up in prison accused of being a Maoist, since he had some friends belonging to one of their groups. He himself did not believe in them, since they seemed to adhere to the same ideology as the Soviet invaders of his country. But his name was found in the house of one of his friends, and this was enough to get him arrested. His friend, like many others, was shot. In prison Partaw met other, more experienced writers and was thrilled when at times he was able to have his poetry evaluated by other, more experienced authors who shared his prison experiences. Partaw, the leader of Afghan PEN, is a very sociable man. He did not dislike so much the company of 149 cell mates. In prison he became a tailor. He and his fellow prisoners had access to books and newspapers, and they were allowed to work, sewing uniforms for the army. The trick in the sewing department was breaking needles, a kind of mild sabotage that had to be performed with care, not too many, and – if one wanted to be considered a good Muslim – not too few, either.

Partaw seemed more eager to become a good poet, writing on the silver paper of the cigarette boxes, on the small empty spaces of the newspaper, on wrapping paper, on whatever he could lay his hands on.

All kinds of scrap paper were in high demand. You surely know that – since you have at times been denied even reading, and since your hands have not been allowed a pencil to hold and to move. At this stage I wonder whether all these stories do you any good, or if they just increase the pain you must feel. I am not able to stand inside your shoes, you can not hear my voice and the other voices being raised in this room. My hope is that we both have the power of imagination and thus we are somehow able to communicate.

Partaw did communicate in Poul-e-charkhi prison, and one of his favourite writers spent nine years in another block, Assadullah Walwaliji. The first two months he spent in a cell on the Kabuli version of Death Row. Often at night the guards came to pick up a new victim, and his cell mates knew they would never see him again. Walwaliji says that many of the survivors have not recovered from this experience. Somehow, he himself says he learnt what it meant to be a human being while in prison.

At a Chinese restaurant in Kabul we asked him how and why. He said he had been a thoughtless, wild, undisciplined guy not caring about the next day until he was arrested. His poems from that time were – in his own words – bad love poems that he does not even want to be reminded of today. – I just cared for myself, he said, – and did not give the human condition, human suffering much of a thought. In Poul-e-charkhi I had time to reflect, it was there that I laid the foundation stone for the philosophy that has nurtured my life and my poems ever since. To my knowledge, he still writes love poems!

In spite of all this suffering, does he have a point? Do some human beings have to personally experience suffering to be full human beings? The Indian social psychologist Ashis Nandy in his book “The Intimate Enemy” discusses the impact of colonialism on peoples’ bodies and minds. He sees through Western hypocrisy – colonial and so-called post-colonial – and suggests an alternative universalism based on the experiences of the suffering and oppressed people around the world. That would leave a huge responsibility on people like you, a burden you cannot take on alone, in your small cell. I therefore write to you in the hope that you eventually, when reading these words, will feel a sense of belonging to a world-wide network of experience. Another writer, Gayatri Spivak, says that a prerequisite for more symmetrical human relations in this world of deep inequalities is that privileged people need to recognise their privileges as a kind of loss – that is, there are horizons we as privileged will never discover unless we admit to this complicated fact. This lack of experience due to privilege may make us less full human beings. She adds that one needs to do a special kind of homework, which equals unlearning these privileges. How can one do that? We can not all go to prison, but we can travel to you in our minds, put on a straitjacket and try to see the world as it may be seen from your confined space. The president of PEN this morning mentioned empathy as one of the four key words for further development of the organisation. One special case is the German writer and journalist Günter Wallraff, who during his life has taken on a number of roles to be able to explore the living conditions of people at the bottom of his society. In an interview with two Swedish journalists he says that as a young man he felt his personality was poorly developed, and he lacked self confidence. His work with taking on other people’s identities – for example the Turkish immigrant worker Ali – made him develop into a richer human being. This may be an extreme example, but it still shows how seeing the world from another place can develop a personality.

You are in prison. Excuse me for also taking the opportunity to write a few words about other kinds of imprisonment. My experience tells me that one can be imprisoned in narrowness, in prejudice and ignorance. At times I feel this country, so much trying to be a humanitarian superpower and a peace negotiator around the world, suffers from some of this narrowness. It is more normal than rare for people from non-western areas to be treated with a blatant lack of respect when invited to visit us. Black British writer Caryl Philips has eloquently in his “The European Tribe” described his brutal encounter with Norwegian passport and customs officers. Other writers share his experiences. Only by very narrow margins were we able to have our Afghan colleague attending this conference. There may be other similar experiences.

For me, who enjoys the privilege of travelling so-to-say in any direction, these restrictions represent an albeit modified, but shameful way of erecting walls around the rich and privileged, thus denying writers and all others the right to share experiences across the globe. As the keynote speaker Amin Maalouf, later to be heard at this conference has so eloquently expressed it:

For it is the way we look at others that may imprison them within the narrowest allegiances, but it is also the way we look at others that may set them free!

Elisabeth Eide

Det skrevne ord – fra enfold til mangfold

Tale til UNESCO-kommisjonen

 

Den 4. oktober 1986 mottok redaksjonen for personaliasiden i Rude Pravo, det tsjekkoslovakiske kommunistpartiets avis, et brev fra Ferdinand Vaneks venner, som ba om at avisen måtte ta inn vedlagte artikkel om Vanek på dennes 50-årsdag den 5. oktober. Et bilde av Vanek var også vedlagt.

Avisen trykket hyldestartikkelen, som fortalte om den enorme innsatsen Ferdinand Vanek hadde gjort for Tsjekkoslovakias land og folk. Hele Tsjekkoslovakia lo så landet holdt på å trille av stolen, og hele redaksjonen ble trillet av stolen. For hvordan skulle den kunne vite at Ferdinand Vanek er hovedpersonen i alle Václav Havels enaktere, så lenge det alltid hadde vært strengt forbudt å lese, vise frem eller fremføre disse tekstene? Og hvordan skulle redaksjonen av partiavisen kunne vite at bildet av «Ferdinand Vanek» i virkeligheten forestilte en smilende Václav Havel, som ganske riktig feiret sin 50-årsdag 5. oktober 1986 – det var jo forbudt å publisere noe bilde av forfatteren, slik at ingen visste hvordan han så ut (bortsett fra alle normale tsjekkoslovaker).

«Ferdinand Vaneks venner» utviklet seg til den mer kjente «Foreningen For en Morsommere Virkelighet», som tre år senere ble den direkte foranledningen til «Fløyelsrevolusjonen». Slik kan litteraturen påvirke virkeligheten direkte, forutsatt at den får frihet til å virke. Og denne friheten, også kalt forfatternes ytringsfrihet, lar seg ikke stanse. «Jeg kan si og skrive akkurat hva jeg vil,» fortalte samme Václav Havel meg en gang. «De kan kaste meg i fengsel, men de kan ikke hindre meg i å snakke og skrive. Det er de stakkarene som skal håndheve dette håpløse systemet, som ikke har ytringsfrihet.»

I mars 1989 avholdt det tsjekkoslovakiske kommunistpartiet sin siste partikongress. Partiets anerkjent undermåls generalsekretær Milos Jakes holdt, tradisjonen tro, en milelang tale. Det ingen visste, var at en tekniker fra «Foreningen For en Morsommere Virkelighet» hadde plassert en båndopptager bak scenen. Lydbåndene ble sendt med kurer til Radio Free Europe i München, som kringkastet Jakes’ tale tilbake til Tsjekkoslovakia, flere ganger i uken. Igjen vred det tsjekkoslovakiske folk seg i latterparoksysmer over at det gikk an å holde en så totalt tåpelig tale. Til slutt forbød kommunistpartiet sin egen generalsekretærs tale til partikongressen! Fra kulturelt enfold til kulturelt mangfold, og tilbake igjen samme vei. To skritt frem, og et par tilbake.

Tyrkia vedtok våren 2004 en rekke grunnlovsendringer, bl.a. ble de militære Statens Sikkerhetsdomstoler fjernet, og Antiterrorloven ble opphevet – det var §§ 7 og 8 i denne loven som hadde vært brukt systematisk for å straffe alle som begikk terrorhandlinger og oppfordret til separatisme – for eksempel ved å antyde at det fantes kurdere eller et kurdisk språk. I mai 2004 ble forleggeren og forfatteren Ragip Zarakolu i Istanbul dermed stilt for en ikke-eksisterende domstol, tiltalt for en forbrytelse som ikke var definert i lovverket. Ett skritt frem, og hvor mange tilbake?

I den nye tyrkiske straffeloven er det – etter sterkt press fra EU-kommisjonen – ikke lenger definert som noen straffbar forbrytelse å kritisere landets militære eller politiske myndigheter eller Kemal Atatürks minne. Derimot er det en forbrytelse, som straffes med inntil tre års fengsel, å krenke Tyrkias militære eller politiske myndigheter eller Kemal Atatürks minne. Den 2. mars 2005 står Ragip Zarakolu derfor tiltalt for Domstolen For Alvorlige Forbrytelser Mot Staten i Besiktas, Istanbul. Inntil i fjor vår huset den samme bygningen Statens Sikkerhetsdomstol. Samme dato, 2. mars 2005, står universitetsrektor og forfatter Fikret Baskaya tiltalt for Domstolen For Alvorlige Forbrytelser Mot Staten i Ankara, tiltalt for å ha krenket både militære og politiske myndigheter og Kemal Atatürks minne. Påtalemyndighetens påstand for begge forbryterne: tre års fengsel. Forbrytelsene: Begge har i bøker beskrevet Tyrkias fortid under militærstyret fra 1980 til 1983. Blant andre eksempler på separatistiske krenkelser som trekkes frem i loven, er det å antyde at det kan ha skjedd noe folkemord på armenerne under første verdenskrig eller at militære eller politiske myndigheter kan ha begått overgrep mot andre minoriteter. Og EU virker fornøyd med dette.

Ragip Zarakolu har stående tilbud om opphold i Helsingfors, men eksilet er aldri noen lett eller god løsning, selv om det i noen tilfeller kan være en måte å redde både menneskeliv og det kulturelle mangfoldet på. Lyrikeren, fagbokforfatteren og politikeren Mahmood Salih valgte likevel denne løsningen da han tapte presidentvalget i Uzbekistan for landets evindelige president Islam Karimov for noen år siden. Dermed ble hans brødre og sønner torturert, men flere av dem overlevde, og Mahmood Salih selv kom seg ad omveier til Norge, hvor han fikk politisk asyl og fortsatte å skrive dikt, politiske essays og pamfletter. I november 2000 ble han invitert til Praha for et intervju av Radio Free Europe. Dessverre ankom han den dagen da dataanlegget til det tsjekkiske passpolitiet fungerte, slik at de kunne se at Salih var etterlyst av Interpol for landsforræderi, etter anmodning fra Uzbekistan. Han ble straks forlangt utlevert. Den norske ambassaden mobiliserte sin beste advokat, og regjeringen i Oslo krevet Salih tilbakelevert. I Norsk PEN, forfatternes ytringsfrihetsorganisasjon, ringte vi vår kollega Jiri Stransky i Tsjekkisk PEN, som durte opp på Slottet i Praha til sin gode venn Václav Havel. Denne strenet ned i fengselet til sin uzbekiske dikterkollega og hadde en halv times samtale med ham; på hvilket språk vet jeg ikke, Salih snakker ikke engelsk, og Havel er – med all respekt forøvrig – neppe særlig god i uzbekisk. Men i alle fall, selv om saken måtte gå sin gang, var det ikke lenger tvil om utfallet, og to uker senere fikk jeg tilsendt utskrift av dommen fra Prahas Byrett, som Michael Konupek i Oslo oversatte for meg. Jurister i menneskerettighetsmiljøet forsikret meg om at det var første gang de hadde hørt om en domstol som i doms form forkynte at myndighetene i et annet land var et terrorregime. Man skulle tro at «Foreningen For en Morsommere Virkelighet» hadde inntatt det tsjekkiske rettsvesenet også.

Jeg vet ikke om mange som har beskrevet eksilet bedre enn en av Norges fremste eksilforfattere, lyrikeren Mansur Rajih fra Jemen, i diktet «Eiganes» fra samlingen «Langt borte: Så nær», som kom på Cappelens Forlag i 2003, i samarbeid med Mansurs gode venn Tor Obrestad:

Her i denne stilla er trea stolte av seg sjølv
Hjarta er oppete av lengt
Eksilet gir ikkje noko liv
Lyden gir ikkje gjenlyd
Diktet flyktar mellom hendene, flyktar til Jemens hete
Kjærleiken blir stoppa av spørsmål
Den som kjem er stiv av frost
Ein ny morgon over den stille byen
Smerten slåss i hjarta
Og hovudet er oppete av denne etappen
Vinden i eksil hentar ingenting og fører ingenting med seg

Mansur har bidratt til kulturelt mangfold i Norge, akkurat som Mahmood Salih, men prisen ser vi i diktet ovenfor. Likevel ville prisen for ikke å komme til Norge og eksilet ha vært uendelig mye høyere: Begge poetene ville ha vært et hode kortere – Mansur satt 15 år i fengsel i Jemen, dømt til døden for et mord selv påtalemyndigheten innrømmet at han ikke kunne ha begått. I syv år satt han lenket til veggen! Han ble reddet ut fordi Stavangers daværende kultursjef Harald Hermansen insisterte på at Stavanger skulle være med i et internasjonalt nettverk av fribyer for forfulgte forfattere, for å ha en plass klar til Mansur Rajih dersom han slapp ut av fengselet. Og Norsk PENs styremedlemmer Kari Vogt og Kirsti Blom pendlet mellom Norge og Jemen og forhandlet og lirket; etter en del år fikk de det til, og Stavanger fikk sin fribyforfatter.

Vi har fem fribyer for forfulgte forfattere i Norge i dag: Stavanger, Kristiansand, Oslo, Trondhjem og Tromsø. Molde er på vei inn i nettverket, og Skien vurderer å melde seg på. På den måten har vi kunnet hjelpe forfatterne Araz Elsas fra Azerbajdzjan, Mansur Rajih fra Jemen, Islam Elsanov og Musa Mutaev fra Tsjetsjenia, Iyad Ibrahim Al-Rikabi fra Irak, Carlos Sherman fra Hviterussland og Mansour Koushan, Soudabeh Alishahi og Aziz Sangtarash fra Iran til et liv i eksil, som i hvert fall er et liv. I februar kommer Chenjerai Hove fra Zimbabwe til Stavanger og forhåpentlig Simon Moleke Njie fra Kamerun til Kristiansand. I mars kommer Ayaz Khonsyawashan fra iransk Kurdistan til Oslo og Easterine Iralu fra Nagaland, India til Tromsø. Senere i vår håper vi å få Gilles Dossou-Gouin fra Benin til Molde. Alle frykter for sitt liv. Alle har grunn til å frykte for sitt liv.

Det er Norsk PEN som administrerer det norske nettverket av fribyer for forfulgte forfattere. Utlendingsdirektoratet er en av våre fremste medspillere, Utenriksdepartementet en annen. Begge enhetene er fullt på det rene med at dette er arbeid til berikelse for det kulturelle mangfold i Norge. Fribyforfatterne får gratis bolig med strøm og varme til seg selv og familien (ektefelle og barn under 18 år) i to år, sammen med en god lønn, det hele utbetalt av kommunen med direkte støtte fra staten ved UD. Etter de to årene har fribyforfatterne permanent oppholdstillatelse i Norge. Forutsetningen er at det litterære miljøet i hver enkelt by støtter opp, og Norsk PEN står for kontakten med det internasjonale støtteapparatet. Internasjonalt er dette nettverket under omlegging; i februar vil man sannsynligvis beslutte å legge det inn under International PENs Writers in Prison Committee i London, men med egen administrasjon i Stavanger – etter at det forrige administrasjonssenteret, drevet av International Parliament of Writers utenfor Paris, kort og godt gikk konkurs for noen måneder siden. (Hvordan et parlament kan gå konkurs, hører antagelig også inn under begrepet «kulturelt mangfold».)

Etter at jeg har arbeidet med forfattere i eksil i åtte år nå, og etter at Norsk PEN er blitt mer kjent som den organisasjonen som arbeider for og med forfattere i eksil, begynner det langsomt å gå opp for meg hvor mange forfattere som lever i eksil i Norge. Og da snakker jeg ikke om innvandrerforfatterne, som det også vrimler av, selv om de fleste av dem fortsatt er usynlige i norske bokhandeler. Man finner dem likevel på bibliotekenes innvandreravdelinger, de utgis stort sett i sine opprinnelige hjemland og importeres tilbake til Norge i form av bøker.

Eksilforfatterne blir ikke utgitt i sine opprinnelsesland, og de kan ikke vende tilbake dit. De blir totalt avskåret fra sine røtter. I mer frustrerte øyeblikk lurer jeg på om de kan sammenlignes med tidligere tiders kastratsangere som ble mishandlet for å beholde sine vakre sopranstemmer, eller med fugler man stakk ut øynene på for å nyte den vakre sangen (jf. Bjørneboes forferdelige dikt «En vise om bøndene på Capri ø»). Eksilforfatterne gir mottagerlandet et kulturelt mangfold ved sin blotte virksomhet og ved å gi oss av sin rikdom; likevel får enkelte politikere seg til å tro at det utelukkende er vi som gir dem noe. Vi gir dem riktignok en viss frihet, men både denne friheten og det derav følgende mangfoldet har altså en høy pris – selv om alternativet er verre. (Hvis frykt, fengsel, tortur og henrettelse kan kalles alternativ, da.)

Ved å ta oss av eksilforfattere er vi også med på å opprettholde og holde liv i opprinnelseslandets litteratur. Ved å gi Zimbabwes betydeligste forfatter arbeidsmuligheter i Stavanger hjelper vi til med å sikre den zimbabwiske litteraturens fortsatte eksistens. Ved at Musa Mutaev kan sitte i Trondhjem og skrive sine noveller, bidrar vi til tsjetsjensk litteraturs overlevelse i en desperat tid. Men Chenjerai Hove skriver på engelsk og får utgitt sine bøker i London enten han bor i Harare eller i Stavanger; Easterine Iralu skriver også på engelsk og blir sensurert i Calcutta uansett hvor hun bor; Soudabeh Alishahi og Aziz Sangtarash kommer ut på iranske eksilforlag; Carlos Sherman har sine kanaler for å få ut sine dikt og gjendiktninger i samizdatutgaver i Minsk. Musa Mutaev skriver på tsjetsjensk, og det finnes ennå ingen eksilforlag for tsjetsjenere. Nå er han og Islam Elsanov i gang med å opprette et norsk-tsjetsjensk kultursenter som skal ledes fra Trondhjem; senteret åpnes førstkommende lørdag. Kanskje noveller kan smugles fra Trondhjem til Moskva og Groznij. Uansett blir norsk litteratur svært mye mer mangfoldig ved at norske forlag griper sjansen til å utgi Alishahi, Rajih, Koushan, Mutaev og Sherman – pluss Ali Siddiqui fra Iran, Rais Reza Boneza fra Kongo-Kinshasa, pluss, pluss, pluss …

Oscar Wilde, som visste hva eksil var, skrev følgende strofe i «The Ballad of Reading Gaol» – den står risset inn på baksiden av Jacob Epsteins gravmonument over den irske dikteren på Père Lachaise-kirkegården i Paris:

And alien tears shall fill for him
Pity’s long-broken urn;
For his mourners will be outcast men,
And outcasts always mourn.

Men fremmede tårer er alltid bedre enn ingen tårer. Leve mangfoldet! Og som Stavangers tidligere kultursjef Harald Hermansen så treffende sa: «Vi vet ikke hva vi gjør, men vi vet at det er viktig.»

Takk for oppmerksomheten.

Tale til Ossietzkyprisvinner Stavanger kommune

Utdelingen av Ossietzky-prisen 2003
til Stavanger kommune

Juryen gir tre hovedbegrunnelser for denne tildelingen.:
Den ene er Stavangers snart tiårige tradisjon med å arrangere årlige litteraturfestivaler som uttrykkelig fokuserer på ytringsfriheten. Da Den norske Forfatterforening ønsket å rette søkelyset mot fengslede og forfulgte forfattere i forbindelse med sitt 100-årsjubileum i 1994, valgte de naturlig nok å gjøre det i Stavanger. Siden har Kapittel-festivalene vært en årlig påminnelse til det norske folk og verden forøvrig om ytringsfrihetens avgjørende betydning for demokratiet. De siste årene har dette vært markert ved en egen internasjonal ytringsfrihetskonferanse med tunge navn og sterkt mediefokus.

Den andre hovedgrunnen til å gi Ossietzky-prisen til Stavanger kommune er kommunens nesten like lange engasjement i det internasjonale nettverket av fribyer for forfulgte forfattere, som nå heter INCA (International Network of Cities of Asylum). Stavanger var en av de aller første byene i verden som meldte seg på dette nettverket, og kommunen har siden 1996 vært en av krumtappene i hele nettverket, og i særdeleshet i dets norske del. Byen har gjort langt mer enn det som kreves av en asylby når det gjelder å stille opp med råd og annen hjelp til andre og mindre erfarne kommuner og organisasjoner, og den har konsekvent gitt sine fribyforfattere all den støtte og bistand noen kan kreve av en friby, og mer til. Resultatet er en serie suksesshistorier: Mansur Rajih fra Jemen er i dag en av Norges fineste lyrikere, Mansour Koushan fra Iran leder nå Teater Sølvberget (som også er startet takket være fribyen Stavanger), og Islam Elsanov fra Tsjetsjenia arbeider med sine noveller og sin dokumentarfilm fra hjemlandet.

Det har aldri vært noen tvil i Stavanger om dette engasjementet. Som byens tidligere kulturdirektør Harald Hermansen sa da Stavanger meldte seg på nettverket av fribyer: «Vi vet ikke hva vi gjør, men vi vet at det er viktig.» Og engasjementet for fribyforfatterne og ytringsfriheten har gitt seg uttrykk på alle plan i byen. Enten det dreier seg om daværende ordfører Leif Måsværs entusiastiske oppmøte da Mansur Rajih kom direkte fra fengselet i Jemen til Stavanger 9. februar 1998, eller om nåværende ordfører Leif Johan Sevlands vektlegging av ytringsfrihetens betydning når han arbeider for Stavangers kandidatur som Europeisk Kulturhovedstad 2008, er engasjementet det samme, og gledelig uavhengig av hvilket politisk parti som styrer byen. Og enten den som administrerer fribyordningen i Stavanger heter Harald Hermansen eller Helge Lunde, vet vi hvor vi kan henvende oss for å få råd, hjelp og påfyll av entusiasme.

Den tredje begrunnelsen er opprettelsen i 2003 av det som vel er verdens første ytringsfrihets- og fribysenter, Fribysenteret Xpress på kulturhuset Sølvberget. Igjen er det Helge Lunde som står bak, sammen med kulturhussjef Trond Lie, og igjen med entusiastisk støtte fra de politiske myndighetene. Da Xpress-senteret ble åpnet, markerte en av de virkelig store forkjemperne for ytringsfriheten i verden, den russiske journalisten Anna Politkovskaja, Stavangers betydning for denne helt vesentlige menneskerettigheten, og Xpress er allerede blitt et fristed både for Stavangers fribyforfattere og andre eksilforfattere som byen har tatt til seg. Fribysenteret Xpress har ennå ikke eksistert lenge, men senterleder Elisabeth Dyrborg og fribyforfatter Mansur Rajih har allerede bygget opp en fabelaktig informasjonsmengde på sin hjemmeside www.friby.no, som anbefales varmt.

Jury for Ossietzky-prisen har vært styret i Norsk PEN, som består av:

Leder: Kjell Olaf Jensen, nestleder: Bente Christensen, internasjonal sekretær: Elisabet Middelthon, styremedlemmer: Ann-Magrit Austenå, Håkon Harket, William Nygaard, Thorvald Steen, Kari Vogt, Knut Ødegård, varamedlemmer:  Elisabeth Eide, Anders Heger og Carsten Ohlmann.