Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Hard Core Tradition - 18-year-olds go crazy!

May in Norway is a month of celebration. It’s a month when all Norwegians celebrate Norway's constitution adopted in 1814. It is also a month when thousands of younsters go totally wild!

Popularly known as "russ", these final year students traditionally wear red or blue overalls and now buy buses to paint them and decorate interior in order to win the competition for the best russebuss (you can see pictures of those here and here). Both clothes and this bus makeover cost them fortune. Those russ machines do not only have to look cool but they must sound as hell! (Yeah, I live next to the car park where these teenagers make parties. Or maybe I should say – where Sodom rules in her mayhem). I think this picture can illustrate what Oslo citizens (and not only, of course) have to tolerate. One of the buses that dominated last year’s craziness was equipped with enormous sound systems from Roskilde festival. You can imagine power of this bus!

In order to help pay for their mobile party bus more and more girls decide to take part in a porn film. And actually t is not strange that they do not hesitate to use their bodies to help in maintaining tradition. Pressure within this young environment is so big that they have to redefine both social values and their own image. This conversion of body into a symbol of being an adult takes hold also in the 101 knot-earning challenges. Russer compete with each other in extreme drunken debauchery, with certain tasks earning them the right to add knots to dangle from their caps. When earlier those task were quite innocent and harmless (history of russ in pictures - really funny!), today’s task challenge them in a new way. Some of the new tasks are for instance having sex with at least 17 partners, picking up a tender teen, getting a vagrant drunk and vomiting on the person next to you.

Social anthropologist Allan Sande wrote his doctoral thesis on the russe phenomenon. He explains this in terms of a transition ritual marking. The passage from childhood to adulthood typically marked with breaking rules. He argued that "the more traditional rites of passage are transformed into a passage to friendship, in which expressive individualism is stressed as a value, making the intoxication and fraternisation among youth a ritual of its own. Therefore, the use of alcohol can be defined as a key symbol in these ritual processes, offering an opportunity to communicate meanings between members in society and culture."

We read in Aftenposten that almost everbody agrees that russe time is a non-stop booze-fest but the traditional emphasis on earning recognition for drinking is gradually being replaced by an emphasis on sex. Social scientist have also explanation to this.

"They come to grips with taboos like sex and intoxication," Sande said. He isn't shocked by the latest wrinkles in the knot stakes. "It is a form of ritualized play, very organized and regulated. The recognition of the one with most knots, the elite russ, reflects our career society - the knots can be compared to a résumé," he said to Aftenposten.

Ethnologist Anne-Sofie Hjemdahl also sees this as a mirror of today's society.

"It is connected to the greater sexualization of society. Running naked down Karl Johan (Oslo's central, royal boulevard) would have been much more provocative 30 years ago. The taboos that the russ challenge are always changing," Hjemdahl said.

And a majority of Norwegians accept this reality. Police and fire brigades cooperate with thousands of wild Norwegians. Institutions use their middels to promote safe sex and pass out free condoms to help keep the revelry under control. Even authorities are going to "help the children play tradition" and want to move final exams in order "to improve results and modify party habits". It's funny that event that once was secondary to education, now has become central and is more important that the final exams. Funny is that the adults do tolerate this. Funny is that while government is really strict on us who want to smoke in the pub or to drink a beer in a park, thousands of drunk youngsters roam about in the city at night, sorry, in 3 weeks. Funny is when I recall my celebrity of my school graduation in Poland. We had and I believe there is still studniówka. It is a a formal dance held a hundred days before the school-leaving exams. 100 days! And it IS formal. A pair of parents from each class has to be there, when their foster childs try to celebrate their maturity! Well, every country has its own customs... hihi.