Arne O. Holm says We Can Afford Most Things, but Our Hearts are Lukewarm

Innvandrermonumentet/kvenmonumentet i Vadsø
In Northeastern Norway one finds a proud monument, erected in gratitude to and remembrance of immigrants coming from Finland to Norway. (Photo: Arne O. Holm)

Commentary: The question about whether or not to use Corona passes as access key to beer and loud music has triggered an important debate about democratic rights. As Europeans, we already have a golden pass that we take for granted.

In Northeastern Norway one finds a proud monument, erected in gratitude to and remembrance of immigrants coming from Finland to Norway. Here, in Vadsø, the local representation of the governmental Center Party in a recent vote said ‘no’ to receiving “traumatized and war damaged” quota refugees.

Simpler still

They will rather take care of their own, they say, than help children and young people born outside the safe, European fellowship.

Taking care of one’s own becomes increasingly simple in a part of Norway where dwindling population figures leave increasingly few people to take care of.

Fleeing from war and hunger is to some extent voluntary, just as getting vaccinations is a matter of a personal choice.

We hesitate because it offends some of the democratic ideals

However, where Europe is willing to use Libyan dictators as border posts against fleeing people, to stress the advantages of having a European golden pass, we hesitate using Corona passes to sort people.

We hesitate because it offends some democratic ideals.

Getting the vaccine is a voluntary choice, yet it is no longer voluntary once the opportunity to move freely about in society is regulated by whether or not you are equipped with a Corona pass. The scheme has already been introduced in many countries. I myself have experienced how a restaurant table is et or a meeting room is opened exclusively for those of us equipped with a Corona pass.

Corona pass

In Norway, we have hesitated in introducing that very same scheme. Even after the latest government press conference, the Corona pass has not been moved from the toolbox and into society.

There are good reasons for that.

It is in particular some businesses that have been keen to start using a pass separating between those who are vaccinated and those who are not. Their material arguments are understandable. If using a Corona pass can prevent lockdown, with all the consequences it entails for culture and business, that should triumph over the democratic challenges laying in a separation of the population.

Those following the governments recommendations, and those who for various reasons refuse to get vaccinated.

The freedom and equality we are used to be surrounded by are transformed into an exclusive right for the obedient ones if we start using Corona passes.

The fact that Norwegian authorities refrain from introducing the Corona pass has several explanations, not only those about principle. An important reason is that we can afford not to challenge democratic ideals.

We are, to a high extent, governed by check book policies

We can afford, by and large, to compensate the economic losses inflicted on society by extensive lockdowns, just like we can afford most things these days.

We can for instance afford to write a check from the state when the price on electricity increases. We can afford to spend hundreds of millions, not to say billions, on reversing box-fresh political decisions that have barely had time to enter into force. I am, of course, thinking of the forced merging of counties that recently took place. Or, for that matter, of a recent legal system reform, which is also to be reversed.

We are to a high extent governed by a check book policy in which it is politically possible to pay one’s way out of any riot or any protest against the government that finds itself in office at any given time.

Yet there is, we find, something that we cannot afford – such as receiving traumatized victims of war when they knock on our door. In Vadsø, this was mainly about children and young people who – if the Center Party were to have its way – would not be allowed to enter Norway at all.

European golden pass

Whether or not you have the right to a safe adolescence, cheap electricity, or state aid with or without a ravaging pandemic hangs on whether your passport was produced inside or outside the borders of Europe.

Around this passport, we build walls to protect or own success.

In Vadsø, the majority of the municipal council should be credited for its voting down the pathetic attempt from the governmental Center Party to disclaim any responsibility for children and youth who have managed to find a way through the microscopically narrow opening still exiting in European walls and barbed wire fences.

Vadsø has a long and proud tradition for helping refugees

 It is in particular the High North and Northern Norway with its dwindling population figures that have good reasons to demonstrate international solidarity and generosity. To consider people without European passports a resource, not a problem.

The debate about the use of Corona passes is a timely reminder that we should govern our exclusive privileges as carriers of a European golden pass with generosity and respect for those on the outside.

Even we who can afford most things, yet sometimes appear to be found pathetically wanting of warm hearts.


This commentary was originally published in Norwegian and has been translated by HNN's Elisabeth Bergquist.