The paradox of Norwegian generosity


Generosity has often been considered among the noblest of human virtues. Sometimes however, I tend to question whether being noble and virtuous necessarily goes hand in hand with being sensible… Sifting through the pile of newspapers I haven’t been able to read the past week, I came across an article published in last Friday’s issue of Adresseavisen which seems to prove how being generous (ergo, being noble and virtuous) is at odds with being sensible—especially when such generosity seem to be a misplaced one.

The article was actually about the 110M NOK (roughly US$ 21M) promised as economic aid by a group of countries including Norway to Afghan president Hamid Karzai for rebuilding his country, in exchange for guarantees of putting a stop to graft and corruption within his government. While the exact amount of the Norwegian contribution was never mentioned, it would not at all be surprising if it is pegged at an 8-figure number. Now I have absolutely nothing against our government reaching out to help less fortunate countries; however, I do question the wisdom of such outward generosity when it seems to be cutting down on all possible corners here at the home front. In the past few months, the local papers have been plastered with news about budget cuts affecting such vital sectors as education and health: public schools are closing down and merging with other public schools so as to cut down on maintenance costs; in hospitals some departments have already shortened their service hours—St. Olav’s Hospital in Trondheim, for example, has recently had one of its two maternity wards closed on weekends and open only until 8 p.m. on weekdays (so, if you’re an expectant mother assigned to this ward, you have to make sure you deliver your baby on a weekday, and then it would have to be before 8 p.m.!)

To the average Norwegian it would appear that the government is being extravagant towards other nations at the cost of depriving its own constituents. This paradox can lead to serious consequences—at the extreme, it could lead to ethnic Norwegian hostility towards foreigners and immigrants. At present, any form of racial discrimination is at its minimum, but who is to say that it would never change?

The bottom line is: the government should come to its senses with regards to its misplaced generosity, otherwise its dream of a multi-cultural Norway could go up in smoke.


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