Newspaper headlines are increasingly taking the "why" form: "Why such-and-such is so-and-so". Threadbare as it is becoming by now (and patently serving as "clickbait"), it makes good journalistic sense: it raises a topic and at the same time promises an explanation. Two recent contributions to the Dutch Volkskrant show its questionable side in using the form "Why such and such a cultural group behaves in this or that manner".
The one that prompted this blog entry was Natalie Hanssen’s piece "This is why Danes are so happy: Be normal", with the sub-header "Don’t ever think that you are better than the others or that you amount to something special" (Dit is waarom de Denen zo gelukkig zijn: vooral normaal doen / Denk in godsnaam niet dat je beter bent dan een ander of überhaupt iets voorstelt); posted 17 November; online here). It adds its mite to the hygge hype by presenting the timeworn Danish cultural meme of Janteloven or “the law of Jante” [a fictionalized small town made famous in a 1933 book]. Not exactly a staggering new discovery - the wikipedia article on the topic has versions in 30 languages; nor so very Danish after all – the Dutch have their “doe maar gewoon” convention, and any small-town mentality will look askance at pretentious neighbours; but hey, don’t be a grouch, it’s good enough, apparently, for some diverting weekend reading.[....]
The imagology site will maintain a “Black book” of contemporary manifestations of national essentialism – the spread of ethnotypes and the belief in ethnicity/“culture” as a social explanation.