Norwegian pop star Morten Harket has enjoyed decades of fame and fortune but on Friday he talked about how he was far from popular as a child. Harket publicly recalled how he was bullied, as he joined another new state effort to spare other children from what the Norwegians call “mobbing.”
“I was beaten up, and I remember it well,” Harket candidly stated during a meeting of top national politicians organized by Prime Minister Erna Solberg at her residence. The goal of the meeting was to try once again to tackle the bullying problem that has plagued children for generations, and ruined many childhoods.
“During some periods, I was beaten up daily,” said Harket, who grew up in Oslo. “I know what it’s like to be be bullied.” He noted how he has “traveled around the word as an artist for 30 years,” but there was “little to suggest” during his childhood that he’d become so successful.
“I had many difficult years during elementary school,” Harket told his audience that included Education Minister Torbjørn Røe Isaksen, Health Minister Bent Høie and representatives for day care centers, schools, parents’ groups and other relevant organizations. Harket said the bullying he experienced all but destroyed his self-confidence.
He was one of several victims of bullying who spoke at the meeting, including Margit Kristine Axelsen, age 17, who said she was bullied for 10 years. “It was part of daily life, both physically and mentally. It led to me having to change schools. I was branded as ‘ugly, fat, strange’ and ‘completely useless.’ It hurts terribly to be bullied.”
Axelsen said the bullying made her stronger, but new forms of digital bullying present new challenges for today’s children. “Now those who are bullied are bullied all the time,” she said. “They never get any peace, and the bullies are anonymous.”
Prime Minister Solberg, launching the government’s new campaign against bullying, urged Norwegians not to “just see bullying but do something about it. We all have a responsibility to do something.”
Education Minister Isaksen admitted that bullying remains at a “stable and high” level in Norway, even though bullying has been on the public agenda as a major problem for years. He told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) that Friday’s meeting would “lay a foundation for the work we’re doing on entirely new anti-mobbing policies.” He and other politicians wanted to hear the victims’ ideas of what can be done, “to gather ideas about how mobbing can be tackled and prevented.”