Eighth Post – Series ‘Reloading Mental Health’ – August 2020
The ‘Law of Jante’ is a set of rules endorsed by Scandinavian society, which describe the way that all Norwegians (and other Scandinavians) behave. Scandinavia is a cultural-linguistic sub-region in northern Europe that comprises of Norway, Sweden, and Denmark. Denmark has international honor of being the happiest nation on earth. This is because of Jante Law, which is about acceptance of being average, putting society ahead of the individual, not boasting about individual accomplishments, and not being jealous of others.
Unlike the rest of the world, which is built on foundation of high achievements, being average is well accepted by the Danish. Striving for more reduces happiness index. With the freedom from stress of being someone special, there comes an urge to enjoy life, just as it is. The sense of acceptance brings along a safety and comfort of being who you are. It digs in a natural creativity, wherein people are able to do their own stuff without being judged or labeled as outcast.
Evolution of Law of Jante –
The law of Jante was first formulated in 1933 by a Dano-Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose in his satirical novel ‘A Fugitive Crosses His Tracks’. Inspired by the existing culture of his Danish native town Nykøbing, Sandemose created a fictional Danish town ‘Jante’ in his novel. In this imaginary town of 1930s he laid down a set of rules called the ‘Law of Jante’ or ‘Janteloven’. These were ten laws that enabled people to remain grounded and described the ways to preserve harmony, happiness, uniformity and stability in the town.
The Law of Jante – The ten rules –
- You’re not to think you are anything special.
- You’re not to think you are as good as we are.
- You’re not to think you are smarter than we are.
- You’re not to imagine yourself better than we are.
- You’re not to think you know more than we do.
- You’re not to think you are more important than we are.
- You’re not to think you are good at anything.
- You’re not to laugh at us.
- You’re not to think anyone cares about you.
- You’re not to think you can teach us anything.
Ayurveda endorses the concept of individual disparities based on ‘Mind-Body Constitution’. This says that each individual is unique and has a distinct place and role in the existence as a whole. To look inwards and focus on the strengths without getting influenced by the surroundings brings out the best in each individual. This eliminates the delusion of comparison and replaces it with acceptance of the way one is. Social media has created a constant desire to be noticed and appreciated. There’s a delusion of winning at every cost. The ego forces people to become that ‘special someone’ who is better than everyone else. This plays a huge role in lowering the happiness quotient.
As Jante Law is part of all Danish education, children learn these rules very early in life. Schools have no competition. Social life of children is the main focus. Children work in groups to help the students who are not as good. Danes believe in intimacy, warmth and social gatherings. This helps them spend quality time with family and friends. This kind of system does away with problems of comparison and negative traits in people, as there is no room for selfishness, greed and vanity.
Sandemose made no claim to having invented the rules of Jante. He simply sought to formulate social norms that had stamped the Danish and Norwegian psyches for centuries. We, too, can learn from this and attempt to make the principles of Ayurveda a part of our education system to bring our children closer to culture. This will help them eliminate from future the many delusions of life. Progress does not mean forgetting the culture and teachings from the past. Progress means taking advantage of the knowledge of past and using it to create a new present and future.
It’s the neglect of timely repair that makes rebuilding necessary – Richard Whately