Have you ever heard about the Jante Law? Unless you're from one of the Nordic countries, I wouldn't be surprised if you haven't . If you're Scandinavian on the other hand, I bet you have.
It goes like this:
- Don't think that you are special.
- Don't think that you are of the same standing as us.
- Don't think that you are smarter than us.
- Don't fancy yourself as being better than us.
- Don't think that you know more than us.
- Don't think that you are more important than us.
- Don't think that you are good at anything.
- Don't laugh at us.
- Don't think that anyone of us cares about you.
- Don't think that you can teach us anything.
This "law" was created by the Norwegian author Aksel Sandemose in the novel A fugitive crosses his tracks, which was written in the 30's. I hardly know anyone that has ever read the book and I think quite few of my fellow countrymen even know about the origins of the Jante law. But the law has gotten a life of its own and become a saying that is commonly referred to.
In the novel, the ten commands are used to describe the mentality in a small Danish town called Jante, where no one is anonymous and no one is allowed to stick out from the crowd.
However, I think that not only those who have lived in small communities can recognize those attitudes. And that why it has become so established. Starting at school, we are many who have relentlessly been picked upon as soon as we've dared to differ from the "normality" in any way - by excelling, or by daring to believe in ourselves. We learned to arrange ourselves into the line, aiming to reach the roof rather than the stars, so that no one would hold it against us.
I've always lived in the maybe somewhat naïve illusion that the American culture was different. I thought that rather than questioning and trying to pull down people who excel to Earth, you would encourage them and let yourself get inspired by their example. A sound and generous way of looking at success, with a mindset that "there's always room for more people on the top. If he can do it, I can as well".
Lately I've began to wonder though. I would have thought that the WoW community was pretty much influenced by the US approach to the world. After all, without any scientific evidence, I would argue that there are more US bloggers than European, and the visitor statistics for PPI tell the same story. Blizzcon are mostly held in US and all the WoW podcasts I know of are broadcasted from the other side of the ocean.
But how is the atmosphere? Look at some of the responses that Ixobelle has gotten from his Blizzard Crusade adventure. Look at some of the trolls frequenting Gevlon's inn. Look at the constant picking on Ensidia - regardless of if they succeed or don't succeed to be number 1, you can bet that there will be something to complain about. Look at the forums. Look at how Ghostcrawler finally has decided to shut up because he can't take any more of it.
No matter what crazy achievement, no matter what astounding performances players and bloggers and developers do, as soon as they dare to tell the WoW community about it, you can bet that the Jante Law will trigger and they'll get a cascade of criticism thrown in their face. Sure, there will be a few cheers and some applauses as well. But far too often they won't be heard because it's owerwritten by the loud voices crying: "fail, fail".
So what can we do about it? Well, I'm humble enough not to think that I can change the mentality of millions of WoW player. (Or maybe I've been too infected by the Jante Law, so I don't believe in my own capacity in that matter.)
But at least I can keep an eye on myself. I've got a choice. I don't need to join the villagers of Jante. I can encourage excellence whenever I see it. I can believe in the people who build this wonderful world - gamedesigners, bloggers, guild leaders and ordinary players. I can believe in myself.
The Jante Law will only rule us if we allow it to do so.