What happens when your wife has knee replacement surgery? You spend a lot of time at home, especially in the evenings, and you get to watch more television than you normally would.
One of the things we watched was the 10-part Norwegian series, “Occupied”, streamed on Netflix, and recommend it highly to you. (We have for years watched “Homeland”, and thought this series in many ways as good, and in some ways more sophisticated.)
I am not going to give away the plot lines, but from the premise, you can see the complexities that can arise.
The time is sort of an alternative now, or maybe not too far in the future. The world is somewhat different from the one we know, but the setting is contemporary. And the locale is, of course, Norway.
Norway. Progressive, prosperous, independent Norway. The prime minister is a member of a green party, determined to end the world’s dominance on fossil fuels, and to turn the primary source of energy to a fuel based on the element thorium (A real possibility, see http://www.energyfromthorium.com). To prod the world along, Norway shuts down its oil and natural gas production facilities, much to the dismay of the European Union (In “Occupied”, Norway is not a member of the EU – in the real world, that is also the case.) The EU and Russia try to pressure Norway to reverse its position, but the Norwegian government is on a long term mission to save the world, so it refuses. The Russians come in on an emergency basis and take over the Norwegian fossil fuel facilities under threat of war. If there is one thing the Norwegian government wants to avoid (other than fossil fuel production and climate change), it is war and wartime casualties. The Norwegians sign an agreement with the EU and Russia to permit Russia to operate the facilities until their output is equal to what it was before the takeover, at which time the Russians are to leave. The United States has become an isolationist country (even pulling out of NATO), so plays no role in the dispute. Oil and gas production increases…….but the Russians never leave.
I find this a unique and compelling premise, but what is most interesting is what happens to happy Norwegian society when faced with this “occupation”. There are those who feel the most important thing is to get along with the Russians, presumably so they will leave. There are those who form the “Free Norway” (“Fritt Norge”) movement to sabotage the Russians and show that Norway, small as it is in population, cannot be pushed around. There are Russians equally stubborn. There are people playing both sides. There are those getting rich off the occupation. There are vicious intra-family disputes. There is incidence after incidence of unexpected consequences. Ambiguity is everywhere. The country, prosperous and beautiful as it is, gets torn apart.
This is a story of how quickly society, the best of societies, can unravel, and how difficult it can be to put it back together. Many lessons to be learned – including the very important lesson that you just never know what is going to happen next.
The first episode was shown in Norway in October 2015, so I assume it ended around Christmas. The show, the product of a joint Swedish-Norwegian production team, has apparently been a big hit in Norway and elsewhere in Europe. Its reviews are strong. Only one country seems to find fault with the series – and that of course is Russia. Russia’s embassy in Oslo called the show “destructive and dangerous”, saying in was creating the specter of a threat where no threat existed, that it was aimed at recreating the Cold War, and that it showed Russia as an aggressive power.
Presumably the show will return for a second season next fall (no details of a second season have been given, although the show’s spokesmen have said it is coming back). We will see how Russia is treated next year – whether the objections from their neighbor on the northern frontier have any effect in changing the direction of the plot lines. My vision is that the Russian objections will lead to counter-statements from elements in Norway, which will lead to more words from Russian sources, etc., etc., and that we will find a parallel dispute between the two countries and the two populations – one in “Occupied”, the other in the “real world”.