(English version of previous post)
«Are you relieved now?» asked an acquaintance just hours after the Norwegian government had presented their proposal to Parliament describing their new Long-Term Defense Plan for the Norwegian Armed Forces on June 17th. Eight months ago, the Chief of Defense recommended shutting down all of the military bands except for the one in Oslo. The government decided to keep three and shut down two, and my band is in the first category. I needed to spend some thinking about the question. Relief is nothing close to what I feel. Outrage is.
Outrage because the Music Department of the Norwegian Armed Forces is once again facing drastic downsizing in order to save a fraction of three thousandths of the entire military budget.
Outrage because the government ignores a unanimous decision of the Parliament from 2009, which says that the Military Bands will not only be kept, but continue to develop and expand.
Outrage because the government chooses to lend their ear to McKinsey – a foreign consultant agency with no knowledge of Norwegian culture and tradition (as they themselves admit), which transfers most of its profits out of the country to avoid Norwegian taxation.
Outrage because the media regularly discovers scandalous levels of financial waste in state agencies related to the military. In May alone, the Norwegian newspaper Aftenposten uncovered unnecessary spending equal to what the government expects to save by slashing the Armed Forces’ Music Department.
Outrage because the government does not see that we are the ambassadors of the Armed Forces to all Norwegians. From the youngest to the eldest. From Kvæfjord to Dverberg to Berlevåg to Korgen to the tiniest place in the country who wants us to visit.
Outrage because the government does not recognize the sense of pride in our country that we instill in those who hear us. It does not matter how many guns we buy, if our citizens are not willing to carry them in defense of this nation.
Outrage because the government walks in the footsteps of the Islamic State by showing a willingness to demolish our cultural heritage without raising an eyebrow. I know we are not a thousand years old and not carved in stone. Had we been the latter, the Norwegian Directorate of Cultural Heritage would already have placed the bands under the protection of the Cultural Heritage Act.
Outrage because the government has presented an official recommendation for Armed Forces’ Music Department that is neither cohesive nor consistent, showing signs of copy and paste from reports from several official committees.
Outrage because the government refuses to see the importance of our efforts towards the civilian society, and focuses instead on a future Armed Forces’ Music Department with only ceremonial duties, resulting in an institution which can never work together with other civilian cultural institutions.
Outrage because I have to put my life on hold for the tenth time. I started to work in the Armed Forces Band North in 1987, and already the year after, the first shutdown threat came.
Outrage because of the inhuman pressure that we are exposed to. For more than a year, we have had to handle suggestions, one more terrible than the other, without being able to comment or fight back. At the same time, it is expected that we will perform at the highest level, like athletes second to none.
I love my job, and I know that what I do is important for the Armed Forces. I also know that there are far too many people in positions of power that do not have a clue about what we are doing, making decisons about our future which they do not grasp the consequences of. Is it hard to understand my outrage?
Photo: Tom Helstad