Janteloven, Jantelögin, Jantelagen, Janten laki… all those names sum up to Law of Jante. It’s not accidental that all those synonyms are Scandinavian or Nordic. It’s all began there. In the simplest words, it’s all about being ordinary, negative look on individual success and generally speaking, equality of everyone i every life aspect.
There are rules. To be specified, ten rules, which were written by Aksel Nielsen (later known as Sandemose) in his novel A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks (En flykting krysser sitt spor). This Danish-Norwegian writer from 20th century was one of the most famous in Norway, he even won a Nobel Prize in 1963.
Before we will speak about the rules themselves, we should dig the source of them. Sandemose’s 1933 novel En flykting krysser sitt spor portrays a little Danish town called Jante (based upon a real city, Nykøbing Mors). So imagine this little village (below hundred of people maybe) by the coast, somewhere in Danmark. All those people are full of arrogancy, pettiness, envy, backbiting, gossip, inverted snobbery, and small-mindedness. And those people were living by the fictive ten rules. This was meant to be a satire, however, it ended up being a rule-creating piece of art, which changed not only Danish society (which it was based upon) but also whole Scandinavia, with Norway included.
- You shall not believe that you are someone.
- You shall not believe that you are as good as we are.
- You shall not believe that you are any wiser than we are.
- You shall never indulge in the conceit of imagining that you are better than we are.
- You shall not believe that you know more than we do.
- You shall not believe that you are more important than we are.
- You shall not believe that you are going to amount to anything.
- You shall not laugh at us.
- You shall not believe that anyone cares about you.
- You shall not believe that you can teach us anything.
Those rules seems to be really out of this world, really negative and with socialist-communist wibe to it. But to understand it better, one must know that it was created in 1933, which means even before Second World War. As we can read “Sandemose really nailed the Danes. And not just the Danes: Jante Law sent ripples of recognition beyond Denmark—the Norwegians are all too familiar with them, and they act as an even more powerful normalizing force in Sweden.” (theparisreview.org). So those rules were with a dose of truth to them.
However, one must not look on them with only negative notion. It’s not negative nor positive. It’s against the individual success, with strengthening of society and its power. It’s about not being høy på pæra which means not looking on someone down, like one is better than other. Those are harsh rules, especially for young teenagers and adult, whom still try to fnd their true self, experimenting with all stuff and looking for acceptance. You have to accept that you’re same as others, you have no special powers (while almost every boy dreams about having some powers, like in the comics).
Those are really down-to-earth, reality-harsh rules.
However, those rules seems to slowly dissappearing from modern society in Scandinavia, as because the rules are from past century. You can still experience janteloven in small villages, for example in Denmark, while in capitols and bigger cities it’s almost gone. Usually it’s more common amongst the older generation so to speak.
My honest opinion is, that those rules are pretty outdated. We’re living in the times where creativity is one of the best qualities in employees etc. In order to be creative, you have to be innovative and think different than others. Also, the rule You shall not believe that you can teach us anything is clearly against any progress itself and it’s denying a postion of a teacher in the society. The only good thing, that one can take from the rules, is that you should never look down on other people as you are better than them.
Hope you all will have a nice week.