Dear Aid Minister Solheim,
Normally I do not write open letters to foreign ministers, generally preferring to chat via instant message while savoring a glass of port, or, even better, to match wits face to face over a game of canasta. But then, just days after I learned the United Nations had ranked Norway as the best country to live in for a sixth consecutive year, I came across a newspaper article in which I read these words:
There are unsolved problems in Norway, but let us battle this culture of whining, and look at the future with optimism.
Sound familiar, Solheim? It should. It was you. (“Stop Moaning About Best Country in the World, Norwegians Told,” Associated Press, 9 November 2006.)
Solheim, this time you have gone too far.
I have never visited Norway, nor had I any desire to do so until reading of your apparent brand of “aid ministering.” But now I am planning on coming, and it is not to see your nation’s supposedly stunning fjords or blond-wood catty-corner desks. No, I am coming to bring your countrymen a message of hope, a message that runs counter to the narrow, satisfied, glass-ceiling purview of one Aid Minister Erik Solheim, a message from the United States of America, or should I say the United States of Whining About Wanting More?
Perhaps you are familiar with some of our achievements: the cotton gin, global military air supremacy, Arbor Day … Do you know what these have in common, Solheim? Hmm? Do you, Solheim? None of them would exist today if a great people had not whined greatly about wanting more, and then, later, whined yet again. More cotton for mittens and turtlenecks and U.S. paper currency that is in fact composed of, yes, 75 percent cotton; more military air power to save people and do other things; more days to reflect on the splendor of trees, days to sleep in, to bathe luxuriously.
Solheim, do not be lulled by yet another “best country to live in” ranking for your beloved Norway. The whining that you simply cannot explain or accuse away is not just a sign of the unquenchable thirst for progress that exists, yes, even within Norwegians, but of that thing you fear most, which you bury down in the tidy corner of the cozy Norwegian ice house (or igloo?) that is your soul. That maybe, just maybe, things not only could be better but should be better, even in Norway.
Let me ask you, Solheim: In Norway, is it possible today to communicate telepathically with fruit? To engage in wordless thought exchanges with a peach or a plum about whether it is at optimal ripeness and eager for consumption? To, possibly, share secrets?
I understand health care in your country is universal, cost-effective, and of high quality. Yet your winters are long and freezing and scary, unlike those common to, say, South Padre Island, Texas. And is it true that Norwegians cannot hold their breath indefinitely, or go invisible to solve crimes and influence sporting events? Please, tell me.
Are all Norwegians famous, either for their sexual stamina or for the frequency with which they close magnificent real-estate deals?
Right now, Solheim, I am thinking of a number between one and four. Can you tell me what it is? Could you even hazard a close guess?
To all Norwegians I say whine for all of this and more. And know there is a nation that whines with you. For even more whipped cheeses and skewered meats, for pet robots schooled in karate, and bed sheets with a thread count of … infinity. A nation whose people ask not what it can do for them but why it can’t be done more deliciously, with fewer calories; a nation for which the sky is not so much the limit as a place for carbon; a nation whose military can never be stretched too thin.
America, Solheim, a nation that, above all else, proudly whines for freedom—freedom from the tyranny of those who would “battle this culture of whining.” So of course it is our whining way of life that you despise, because whining is the spark that becomes the brush fire that cannot be contained by borders, or snuffed out by roving bands of soul-crushing current and former Olympic biathletes.
Hopefully, this Christmas will be the one that sees whining’s fire take hold on Norway’s shores, purging the scourge of the merely content and humbly appreciative once and for all. For whining is on the march, Solheim, and even you can’t stop it. Though I can’t help but suggest you stop trying, because when it comes to whining for more, you are either with us or against us. And history, Solheim, is written by the whiners.