Chapter  9

Sad and good news from France

 The sad news of the suicide of a 20 year old female Norwegian student has reached us from France. The poor young woman took her life by jumping out of  the window of the fourth floor apartment where she lived.

         Today, Wednesday April 16th, the story is for the second day in a row on the front pages of Norway’s two nationally circulated tabloid newspapers, Dagbladet and VG. What has put this tragic event in the headlines of the tabloids, is that there is a connection to the Scientology Church. Normally Norwegian newspapers do not write about suicides. This case is exceptional, also because the young woman was the daughter of a member of Stortinget, representing Sosialistisk Venstreparti (Socialist Left Party). This politician has given his consent that the papers write about his daughter’s fate.

         She was a student in Nice, on the Mediterranean coast. In her age of puberty she had severe problems with anorexia. Norwegian student friends in Nice have said to the newspapers that she seemed to have put those problems behind her and that she had no obvious mental trouble.

         One day in late March she passed by the office of the Nice branch of the Scientology Church. Outside the office there was a poster advertising a personality test. She entered the office and answered the 200 questions of the test by filling in a questionary. Then she went home and ended her life.

         In the apartment she jumped from, two documents were found. One was the Scientologist questionary. The other was a sheet of paper on which she had written that she felt completely useless.

         In the Norwegian press experts on psychology  have said that the Scientology personality test is a pseudo-psychological test. The test questions are arranged in such a manner that the result will most often be negative for the person who takes the tests. The representatives of the Scientology Church will then use the opportunity to offer the person assistance to improve his or hers life. This might be a costly affair. Scientologists have repeatedly been accused of recruiting new members to the church to make money on them by offering expensive courses of self development.

         The test results for the young woman were very negative. The Norwegian tabloids have written that this may have led to her committing suicide.

         The case is under investigation by the police force in Nice. Dagbladet quotes the Nice police as saying: ”She may have been encouraged to commit suicide.”

         This is strongly denied by representatives of the Scientology Church in Nice and in Norway. They will take no responsibility for the suicide affair. They have replied by saying that the young woman must have been in an unstable mental condition.

         VG, the most read Norwegian newspaper, runs a headline where the young woman’s father, the politician, says that the Scientology Church insults the memory of his daughter.

         Are the Scientologists really to be blamed for a tragic event like this? I have never been in touch with the Scientology Church. What I know about it, I know from newspaper stories over the years about people who have come forward to accuse the church of having robbed them for their money and sent them into bankrupcy. I also know the church from stories about its most prominent members, the actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta.

         I read the story about the young woman as a story of how one drop may get the bucket to overflow. The Scientology questionary may have been this drop. But in my opinion the church founded by L. Ron Hubbard cannot be made fully responsible for the tragedy in Nice. The soul of the young woman must have been a troubled soul. Other factors than a bad test result may have pushed her over the limit between life and death.

         I feel very sorry for her. I have thought about her since the story broke in the newspapers.

         What I write should not be considered a defense of the Scientology Church in general. Experts in the field of religion have expressed themselves in Norwegian newspapers calling the Scientologist belief, dogmas and teachings pseudo-religious. I do not doubt that they have a point. But where to draw the line between real religion and pseudo-religion?

          All religions try to recruit new adherents, and all religions offer the new recruits something extraordinary in the way of improving their lives. More than that; the representatives of religion offer to save the souls of the new believers.

          Christians offer the promise of eternal life. It is a heavy and very serious promise. The dark side of the matter is also very serious; if you are not saved, you perish.  I am confronted with the promise of eternal life every day, in the letters and emails I receive from Christian readers. I do not take this lightly. I think a lot about it. I brood on the question. Yes, I have become something of a brooder. I feel that I am pushed. But my pondering has so far not led me into changing my disbelief into belief, and I do not think it will do. My stubbornness is deeply rooted in me.

         I remember the title of the book by the black American revolutionary Eldridge Cleaver, ”Soul on Ice”. I feel like a soul on ice.

          What happened to Cleaver, who was world famous in the 1960’es? I do not know. So many things I do not know. 

         Now to the good news from France. Do you know a competition called the Eurovision Song Contest? In the Scandinavian languages it is called Melodi Grand Prix. It is a yearly television event that I do not care too much about. You may call me a snob, but I do not feel an urge to indulge in the kind of pop music the competition presents.

          France participates in the Eurovision Song Contest, and as far as I remember France once won. Nowadays countries from the east of Europe tend to win. Among the winners of the last years I recall Finland and Latvia, both situated on the shores of the Baltic Sea, and both considered unlikely winners. Last year’s winner was Serbia. This year’s finals will therefore occur in the capital of Serbia, Belgrade (Beograd), in the middle of the  Balkans.

          To Belgrade France will send a male singer whose full name I unfortunately have not got. His contribution has aroused a controversy in his homeland. I heard the news about this on the radio, on our state broadcaster Norsk Rikskringkasting (The Norwegian National Broadcaster), the NRK. The news was presented in a serious NRK programme called ”Kulturnytt” (Cultural News), which normally do not deal with Melodi Grand Prix topics

          NRK had a reporter on the streets of Paris. He mentioned the singers name, but did it so rapidly that I didn’t get the name properly. The first name was Sebastian or Sebastien. Let’s say it’s Sebastian.

          The crux of the matter is that Sebastian from France will sing his song in English. To me that was very good news. If France can perform in English in the Eurovision Song Contest, why shouldn’t I write in English once awhile?

          People on the streets of Paris condemned the use of English by the French candidate for the Belgrade finals. They called it a shame and a scandal. Perhaps people on the streets of Oslo will attack me in a similar way when this book i published on the web. Hopefully I’ll survive those accusations.

          A representative of the Conservative Party in France said on the radio that he was afraid that the use of English by Sebastian was a sign that the French language will die if measures to protect French are not taken. I hope that no one will say that my book in English is a sign of the immediate death of the Norwegian language.

          The French minister of cabinet Christine Albanel, head of the Department of Culture, said that the rules for next year’s competition have to be checked. Her intention clearly was to avoid the further use of English by French competitors in the national contest where the winner who goes to the finals is elected.

          In my heart I support the Parisians on the street, the representative of the Conservative Party and the minister Albanel. The French should sing in French. The world should not be so globalized that everybody sing in the global language, which is English. An English song by a Frenchman in Belgrade should be the exception to the rule, just like my book is an exception to the rule.   

          For many years Norway’s contributions to the Eurovision Song Contest have been in English, and we have not been ashamed by this fact like the French have. But the one time we won, way back in the 1980’es, our song was performed in Norwegian (with some familiar English words in the text) by a duo called Bobbysocks. The song’s theme was ”La det swinge la det rock and roll”. It is remembered not so much because of its musical splendour as for the great enthusiasm shown by the performers.

          NRK played a short sample of Sebastian’s song. To me it sounded pretty awful. But I am not a good judge of  Melodi Grand Prix material. I think, however, that a winning melody should have some significance, something that makes it stand out.

          What is good for French patriots, is that Sebastian’s song is so insignificant that it cannot possibly win in Belgrade. The French will be saved from the national shame of having a song in English winning on their behalf in Serbia.

          Let France be beaten by Russia and Ukraine, Slovakia and Slovenia, Croatia and Albania, Hungary and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

          Vive la France! 


       Chapter  8

Chapter  10