Last days at Österlens Folkhögskola

The last few days at this folk high school. It’s been an experience, that’s for sure. Started out trying to figure out how the group dynamics work in a place like this. In the end I got more or less dismayed over the whole thing. Everyone here is depressed. They are wallowing in eachothers’ depressions. So now I know how this thing works. No wonder these people came here, it’s a sanctuary from life. In this place you’re safe, it’s ok to be depressed here. You won’t lose your job or fail your education, because this is outside society.


In Cultural Theory-terminology, this place is an enclave. An egalitarian cosmology where deviancy is the norm. A large lack of respect for societal rules, but alot of rules within the group itself.

When we came to Miloli’i, the small fishing village in Hawaii, I saw the same kind of structure there. People who have been exposed to structural violence are put in this small area, out of harms way so to speak. There they eventually build their own way of looking at their world, and start to rationalize that it was for the best after all. The people on the outside are viewed as threats to the group’s life style, and the people inside the group are induced to conform.
If anyone in this group of deviants starts to stand out as an individual, claim too much space and attention, then this individual is shunned. Not only shunned, but gossiped about, no matter if the gossip is true or not. Gossip is not just a way of passing time in enclaves like these, it’s a way of staying alive socially. You spend time with these people 24/7. You eat breakfast, lunch and dinner with them. They are there at your work/classes. And there’s no social life outside of the group. The only thing that propels the group in any direction, is talking about other people, even though they are not really that fun to talk about. Because, it’s not the conveying of messages, or getting a point across, that is the main idea behind talking like this. No, the main idea is talking for the sake of talking. You notice this when you start talking and noone listens, no matter how or what you talk about. And that’s ok, for the people in this kind of group.   This life is probably not for me though. I can’t just play and pretend. I want something more, something substantial.


Don’t get me wrong though. I’m mostly talking about the folk high school here. Hawaii was similar in many ways, but atleast the people there had an understanding of what this kind of environment does to a person. At first when I got there, I said to them “It’s so peaceful and relaxing here” and they just Hmm-ed. Now I know why they Hmm-ed. Sure it’s peaceful, but it’s also kind of small and stuffed. Your choices are limited. You can’t feel fully free.   At the same time, there is another kind of freedom in this life. You’re not bound by society’s constraints in the same way. There are no boundaries to cross, except the one to the outside world. Inside the group, you can do whatever you want. As long as it is on the group’s conditions ofcourse. Everyone knows everyone, for good and bad.

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About RobinOberg

M.Sc. Social Anthropology M.A. Applied Cultural Analysis
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