The Nordics

Who are the Nordics and is it fair to claim that we are in any way special?

The Nordic countries are Iceland, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Sweden. Together some 25 million people, each country having a population of approximately: Iceland 0.3 million, Norway 5.2 million, Finland 5.5 million, Denmark 5.7 million, and Sweden 9.8 million. Greenland and the Faroe Islands are autonomous regions of Denmark, and together the Nordic countries are bordering Canada to the west, Russia to the east and Germany to the south. To the north, Greenland and Norway circle the waters and the ice caps around the North Pole together with Canada, the United States and Russia.

Norway, Denmark and Sweden are also known as Scandinavia and the three languages are so similar that linguists are tempted to call them dialects. Especially Norwegian and Danish are close enough that reading each other’s’ languages is no problem, if we speak slowly enough we can engage in conversation. To the Swedes, both languages are a bit of a challenge, and so is Swedish to Norwegians and Danes. No more so, though, than with a little effort, some accommodation and maybe a couple of days’ focused work, we can read each other’s’ newspapers and follow the day-to-day debates in each other’s’ media.

Historically, the three countries have been united in the Kalmar Union 1397-1523, in a monetary union 1875-1914, and in a passport union (including Iceland and Finland) since 1952. The latter has been temporarily dissolved by Sweden as of January 4th 2016 due to the European migration crisis. Since the Viking Age, Sweden and Denmark have very often been at war with each other and until its modern independence in 1905, Norway has been independent as well as under the Danish crown and under the Swedish crown. All three countries are to this day constitutional monarchies.

The ties are not quite that close with Iceland and Finland, unless something really important comes up. When Iceland was about to collapse completely in the financial crisis 2008, Finland, Norway, Denmark, and Sweden stepped in and loaned Iceland 2.5 billion USD , and the Faroe Islands (population 0.05 million) loaned them 53 million USD. All five countries also collaborate extensively on defense, even though Iceland, Norway and Denmark are NATO members, and Finland and Sweden are not. We also collaborate through The Nordic Council and The Nordic Council of Ministers, which are made up by parliamentarians from Iceland, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and Sweden plus representatives from the local governments in Greenland, Faroe Islands and Åland (autonomous region of Finland), and the three Baltic states Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania.

The language barriers between Iceland, Finland and Scandinavia are considerable and neither of us can just pick up the two other languages. However, since Iceland was Danish until 1948, Danish is mandatory as the second foreign language in Icelandic schools, and Swedish is an official language in Finland and mandatory in Finnish schools. Whenever Fins and Icelanders participate in Nordic collaboration, though, we tend to speak English together, and when Scandinavians meet among themselves, unless participants are experienced with the other Scandinavian languages, even we tend to speak English too (everybody finds this embarrassing, but it is a fact).

For the sake of clarity and the length of this book – and, let’s be honest, due to the language barrier – beyond this first chapter we will focus on Denmark, Norway and Sweden only (and hope that the Icelanders and Fins will forgive us). We also have to admit that given our Danish and Swedish backgrounds, the historical development in Norway is new to both of us and neither of us has a deep sense of knowing where to look for the right sources. On the other hand, it has been an eye-opener for both of us to discover how the conversation among Nordic intellectuals has waxed and waned for more than 200 years and how this conversation has been of great importance to the development of the Nordic countries. There actually is such a thing as The Nordics in much more than a geographical sense.

The picture featured above is from an October morning, 2014, when the Nordic Council assembled in the Parliament in Stockholm. The Council does not have legislative power but it was fascinating attending a meeting never the less.

 

Ekskäret – the Amazing Island

Tomas owns an island. Which is pretty cool. It is in the Stockholm archipelago, it is called Ekskäret, and the REALLY cool thing about it is that he has built a small conference center on it where he invites all kinds of interesting and knowledgable people.

My first visit to Ekskäret was the summer of 2012 when there were no activities out there for a couple of days and we could just hang out in the awesome nature and talk about grand issues:

This video is in Swedish but enjoy the view:

When we first met

Tomas and I met in Stockholm in November 2011 at a meeting at the Fri Tanke Tankesmedja / Freethinking Think Tank, which is a part of Fri Tanke Förlag / Freethinking Publishing, a publishing company Tomas co-owns with two others.

Our first real meeting was in Spring 2012 in London, when we went out to dinner and ended up talking until 4 o’clock in the morning – the picture above was taken minutes before we went out.

Tomas lives in London and I was there for a Jewish youth conference (not that I am that young, but I was responsible for the youth activities in the Jewish community in Copenhagen at the time).  Later the same summer, I borrowed Tomas’ apartment when I went to London in order to interview Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks. (Article in Danish.)

One of the people and whose work Tomas and I talked about much of that first eventing together, was just Jonathan Sacks, not least his encounters with Richard Dawkins. We are both great Sacks fans and if you don’t know him or his work, his books can be highly recommended! We suggest these two to begin with:

jonathan sacks The-Home-We-Build-Together  jonathan sacks - great partnership

 

 

Dr. Beate Richter connected the dots and wrote about it before us

In 2014, Beate Richter wrote a Ph.D. dissertation called Bildung relational denken. Eine strukturtheoretische Präzisierung des transformatorischen Bildungsbegriffs anhand von Robert Kegans Entwicklungstheorie, Dissertation an der Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin in which she connected Bildung to the developmental psychology of Robert Kegan.

As soon as we found out, we contacted her and I met with her in Karlsruhe on March 18th. We talked for about 5 hours about German philosophy, Bildung, developmental psychology, Kegan and Hans-Christoph Koller and his book Bildung anders denken. We look very much forward to collaborating with Beate.

I forgot to take a picture of Beate an me at this, our first meeting, but we had coffee at a wonderful little cafe and dinner at the hotel next to the main station.

A scientific workshop on Bildung and ego-development

We want to connect with the best researchers in Bildung and ego-development – and we wish to connect them with each other. We also want to explore Bildung from several scientific angles.

So, we applied for a workshop about Bildung and ego-development at the Lorentz Center in Leiden, Netherlands. Our co-organizers are Jos van den Broek from Leiden University and Michiel Tolman from De Bildung Academie in Amsterdam.

In October 2015, I co-organized a workshop at the Lorentz Center about how new technologies are transforming our societies. The workshop was very much based on the BINC Manifesto, which I wrote together with professor Steen Rasmussen from University of Southern Denmark and which, based on our work in Leiden, was slightly modified.

We see Bildung and ego-development as some of the answers to the challenges imposed by the increased complexity of the new technologies, and our new workshop is thus a follow-up on the first workshop.