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Scandinavian Attributes

December 29, 1988

Marshall may be right about the blandness and degree of cooperation in modern Scandinavia, but is wrong to relate them to Aksel Sandemose's "Jante Law." For the record, here is the full text of the Jante Law.

"1. You shall not think that you are anything.

2. You shall not think that you are equal to us.

3. You shall not think that you are smarter than us.

4. You shall not get any ideas that you are better than us.

5. You shall not think that you know more than us.

6. You shall not think that you are more than us.

7. You shall not think that you amount to anything.

8. You shall not laugh at us.

9. You shall not think that anyone cares about you.

10. You shall not think that you can teach us anything."

In his commentary on the Jante Law, Sandemose describes each citizen of Jante as hanging on his own cross. "There they hang, screaming, with bloody sweat on their foreheads, they writhe in their pain, wheeze to their crucified brothers, 'Maybe you think that anyone cares about you?' "

The bitter autobiographical novel ("A Fugitive Crosses His Trail") that contains the 10 commandments of Jante describes a socially deprived, suppressed working class with no prospects for advancement. The Jante Law is hardly a prescription for cooperation, but rather a way of ensuring that your neighbor suffers as much as you do.

Marshall, in commenting that the Swedish prime minister carries his own bags, also seems to equate unpretentiousness with conformity. Standing above the crowd involves superior accomplishments, not grabbing all the perks you can get.

HENRY I. ABRASH

Los Angeles

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