NRK veteran Jahn Otto Johansen: The world of today

lifted from vå

The world of today
In NRK, which is generally a humanistic and friendly and environment, I once experienced that a colleague who insulted Jews , Muslims and gays and called me a dirty Jew and none of my other colleagues reacted .

I have over the years read many times Stefan Zweig’s book , ” The World of Yesterday ” and also immersed myself in his friend Joseph Roth’s books. As I pass the eighties , which no longer is considered an advanced age in our medicated welfare , I am frightened by how relevant also today their observations are, especially when it comes to anti-Semitism and xenophobia in general. The world of today is just as dangerous as the world of yesterday.

Stefan Zweig could not bear it any longer imposed on himself a life in exile and finally killed himself and his young wife . Although he never towered as tall as another exiled poet, Thomas Mann, who believed suicide was cowardly, Zweig’s observations and reflections are still eerily relevant even today.

Stefan Zweig was a Jew who adapted to his environment , whether in Vienna or abroad. He was never provocative and was least of all Zionist . He married a Catholic and was considered a convert by other Jews. Perhaps he thought that his environment would forget that he was a Jew .

Stefan Zweig came out of the Nazi grip earlier than most and he managed to take with him considerable wealth which ensured that he could live a materially comfortable life in exile. He was never out to provoke . Not even Hitler’s Germany, he would criticize for along while, while Thomas Mann and many others launched frontal attacks on the Nazis. Stefan Zweig was a friend of the composer Richard Strauss who many at the time considered a friend of Hitler’s. Recent evidence has shown that it simply was not the case. Richard Strauss saved many Jewish musicians and wanted the Jew Zweig to write the libretto for a new opera.

As we now know, Zweig fooled himself by not attacking Nazism, and at the end of his life he probably realized this. At least he understood the problem the Jew , the wandering Jew , faced when he when he one day in Germany came in at an exhibition of old furniture with playwright Otto Zarek . Zweig asked his friend if he could tell which of these furniture that had belonged to Jews. Zweig pointed out a few and said, ” These have wheels! ”  Jews could never be sure when a new pogrom was brewing hastily had to flee. Therefore, they have focused so much on art and culture, and they have excelled as pianists , violinists , researchers, physicians, dentists and lawyers – characteristics they could take with them on their flight.

The same is true today . When so many Jews have received the Nobel Prize and so many of them belong to the world’s finest musicians , it has nothing to do with Jewish conspiracy and cronyism. Yet I find that many Norwegian, who insist they simply are not anti-Semites, suggest that Jews advance in society due cunning and smartness . Often I encounter the people, also media colleagues , who believe that Jews gang up .

Similarly, we can also see in our own country how old ghosts reemerge when it comes to circumcision and ritual slaughter. It is striking that the young members of the Center Party have forgotten the ugly ways of the Farmers Party. Why are they not protesting the cruel treatment Norwegian cattle get, especially when they are transported to the slaughterhouse?

It’s also scary how many in Christian circles, most recently the YMCA and YWCA , call for a boycott against Israel, who undoubtedly imposes very tough conditions (the text says little humane, which is not the same as inhumane, but difficult to translate accurately to English so therefore the approximate meaning of the sentence) policies in Gaza and the West Bank. I constantly observe how good Norwegians confront Norwegian Jews to compel them a reaction against Israeli colonization policies. Many of them are critical of the Nethanyahu government and especially the even more extremist Israeli politicians.

We do not require from every American we meet, that he or she will tell you what they really think about their president. And we do not , or should at least not, make all Egyptians responsible for what the Muslim Brotherhood stands for. We certainly do  not require every Iranian we meet to explain their views of the ayatollahs. Neither do we demand or should at least not demand that every Russian we encounter, that he should explain his views on Putin, or that all the Chinese people will distance themselves from Beijing’s human rights policies .

We can now witness how anti-Semitism comes creeping back across Europe. In Ukraine anti-Semitism shoulders beneath the surface on both sides. Even in our own country , I find this more and more. It’s bad enough with neo-Nazis who call me out like a ” f***ing Jew … ” quisling , traitor etc. and who demand to know if I am a Jew because I once wrote , “My Yiddishe mama .” They do not even know that it is a metaphor for the caring Jewish mother who takes care to provide you with hot chicken soup and tea with honey when you have a cold or wraps you with wool scarf and mittens so that you won’t be cold.

I now experience more of this than ever , and good Norwegian citizens are not even ashamed to say that. Threats I have long since learned to live with ; I’m really so old that I will soon die anyway. But I feel for Jewish friends who must hide their Jewishness and who do not dare let the children go with the religious headdress the kippah or a Star of David . In NRK, which is generally a humanistic and friendly environment, I experienced once a colleague who insulted Jews , Muslims and gays and called me a dirty Jew and none of my other colleagues reacted.

Do not blame Muslims, even if there is a dangerous form of anti-Semitism in Islamic communities in our country, and the Arab states continue to spread the most primitive Semitic propaganda such as ” The Protocols of Zion .” Studies show that ” Norwegian Norwegians from Norway ” have equal prejudices about Jews as Muslims. Otherwise, it is my experience from the Middle East that most Muslims are peaceful, kind and hospitable people, and they are as much victims of Islamism as Jews and the rest of us are.

Why do not radical Norwegian women show greater solidarity with Muslim girls who face threats on their life because they dare to come forward? And why do they romanticize and worship a man like Tariq Ramadan who constantly speaks with two tongues? Why not support the Jewish mothers who feel that their children are being bullied because they are Jews ? Why are they not in solidarity with young Jewish girls who simply are not Orthodox, but want to live a normal life in our society ?

An eighty – year-old who thought we were done with anti-Semitism and racism in 1945-46 when the gas chambers and crematoria were displayed on the weekly film review, just asks.


1 comment for “NRK veteran Jahn Otto Johansen: The world of today

  1. martin
    May 1, 2014 at 3:26 am

    What a wonderfully written, yet sad testament to daily life in the supposed decent country of Norway. I feel this elderly gentleman who is “on the way out and not on his way in (to life).

    How typical of the cowards who bully an elderly man by calling him a “F*****g Jew and other insults. I always impressed my two daughters the importance of standing up to bullies and even confront them. The bigger the bully, the bigger the coward.

    There really is something quite vicious and hateful in Norway that will not disappear at all. It is so part of the Norwegian psyche and I now have to laugh at Saudi Arabia condemning Norway at it’s inhumane treatment of Muslims. Even more laughable is the response, as if this is the first time a Muslim country can make such outlandish, malicious allegations about a non Islamic land. If this Norwegian believes it is ridiculous, he should take another look at the way Israel is treated by the international media and organisations

    Oh have a happy today……. The elderly gentleman needs to be grateful and happy that is still is Jewish and recognised as such by the jealousies of his compatriots.

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