CHAPTER TWO
TOLERANCE AND SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY

Scandinavia with a combined population of approximately 25 million including nearly three million immigrants divided into five countries of Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and three home ruled islands (The Faroe Islands, Åland, and Greenland). The Sami (Laplanders), Inuit (native Greenlanders) and Faroese are the natives Scandinavian in flesh and blood. The region is still fairly homogeneous, having a high level physical, cultural, and linguistic similarity. The liberal, orderly, and law aboding citizens have a collective mindset for work, fairness, recycling, wind power, voting behavior, gambling, cohabitation and social benefit. Sexual liberation and physical beauty of Scandinavians projects some images of being prone to public expression. Common people, however, hold a similar preserved Lutheran modesty with the attitudes of not to engage in public dispute. The collective traits of fairness and equality all kinds tend to be the most common practices among ordinary people both in their private and public lives.

Across the Nordic region, there is a collective mindset suggesting that inequality is rooted in competition, economic climbing, uneven distribution of resources, private property, a division of labor and other human selfish desires. Therefore, the role of the state includes to restrict competition and to punish high earners by imposing deadly taxes. To verify this claim, Scandinavian inequality recorded to be the lowest in the capitalist economies. The phrases such as equality, orderliness, social responsibility and communal interest are so typical of the Nordic societies, manifesting an optimistic and socialistic nature of human beings. In the World Value Survey of 1981-84, for example, nearly 82% of Swedes simply agreed: “claiming government benefits to which you are not entitled is never justifiable.” Today, however, equality, work ethic, and social responsibility continue to be the fundamental features of social life in Scandinavia. Where did these equalities and good charters come from? How do these collective traits manifest in today’s Nordic societies?

Historically, ethical principles such as fairness and social justice most likely evolved toward social bond before the advent of agriculture. Most anthropologists and social psychologists claim that fairness and work ethic are cultural phenomenon rather than biological or genetic. Our collective form of living in small groups began some 250,000 years ago, forming social and ethical principles for our survival. Millions of people died in conflict and combat because issues such as fairness, social justice, and human rights have been justified, ignored, or interpreted differently. With the start of human civilization, family-based groups emerged and formed hunter-gatherer tribes. Agriculture appeared, tribes gave way to bigger societies and nations came into existence. Colonization began and territorial expansion remained popular. The entire world dominated by only a handful of kingdoms, empires and dynasties until around four or five hundred years ago. As the cultural evolution progressed, our society transmitted beliefs, knowledge, skills, attitudes, languages, religions and so on. Evolutionary psychologists generally agree that our cultural evolution was survived because of the adaptive nature of our cultural norms and values. That is because we developed a collective sense of ethics and fairness to treat our neighbors and strangers in the same manner as we did with our family, friends and tribe members. Scandinavian culture of social fairness and work ethic are akin to that cultural legacy, back to prehistoric time.

A sense of fairness and equality still picture the very foundation of our society. From the violent and civil war-stricken places to the peaceful corner of Scandinavia, these terms often come into dialogue for developing and maintaining an ideal society where citizens can be granted for the rights and possibility to work, earn, build a family, be independent, be responsible and pursue happiness and integrity. Ordinary Scandinavians, more than any nation in world, initiate programs and projects aimed at helping as many people as possible in developing countries. That ideal society of fairness and equality not only dominated the mind of ordinary people like us but also the inner desire of many philanthropists, philosophers, politicians, and policymakers in their own way. For example, a study on wealth inequality carried out by Michael Norton and Dan Ariely at Harvard Business School in 2011. Over 90% of American politicians, both Republicans and Democrats, agreed to live in a society with far less income disparity than the US, much like that of the Nordic countries. The distribution of wealth is central to both American and European welfare state politicians although the physical reality on inequality is more visible to the naked eye where the world is becoming more and more unequal...

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