Stupido!

I blame the media.

If every time someone in the public sphere said something what is technically known as “effing moronic”, the journalist would either say

“Haha, good one. But really….”

Or went in for obliterating their argument in the article (obviously, they have more wiggle room in an opinion piece but straightforward news can also subtly highlight logical inconsistencies and other detritus of an untidy mind), then people would demand much better media training and stop saying stupid things to the media.

Unfortunately, journalists are short of time and so we get cruddy arguments printed up next to well-thought out ones with no way of distinguishing the two.

For example. Last post, I wrote about a new thesis about the nature of nurseries with some pretty damning criticisms.

Some people have welcomed the report, they believe that daycare should be better and they are hopeful this study is the catalyst for real change. They also start their criticisms with what sounds like the set up to the world’s most specific joke “What’s the difference between a  daycare worker with a diploma and a daycare assistant without a diploma?”

Other people are not happy about the report and disagree with the main findings.

Fine, these two viewpoints seem reasonable to me.

But where I lose my shit, to the point of getting so world weary I start to take on the countenance of Morgan Freeman, is when they say things like:-

“It’s a simplistic picture.”

“The sample is not big enough.”

“He has only concentrated on one aspect, the working conditions of the professional daycare workers has not been addressed.”

and

“He has been very disrespectful.”

Deutsch: Morgan Freeman bei der deutschen Film...
So much pain in the world

Simplistic, is it? Why is it simplistic? It’s “simplistic” because the report only looks at how the children are interacted with. I don’t know if anyone here has ever done any actual science beyond finding Ohm’s Law. Let me tell you something about science. In science, it is all like that. In science, you test one thing at a time. If you had just experimentally determined Ohm’s Law and some vinegardick came out of nowhere and said it was “simplistic” because you did not take into account the magnetic field around the variable resistor; you would be well within your rights under international law to pop them on the nose with your fist. Yeah, it was “simplistic”. No, that still doesn’t invalidate it.

You were not trying to find out the SHINING TRUTH of all electromagnetism. You were trying to see how voltage, current and resistance were related. Who gives a fuck about the magnetic field? That experiment can wait, buddy.

Like this study. He was not trying to experimentally determine “How does it feel to work in a Danish nursery and what happens to the children who go there and do daycare workers have enough time for everything and blah blah blah?” he was trying to find out something about how children are interacted with by adults paid to interact with them. No doubt he wanted to address  these made up concerns about how terribly difficult it is to have to balance both baby rocking and coffee drinking in your working hours but sadly, he was up against his maximum word allowance and had to leave it out. Have you checked the appendices? It might be in there.

Yes, ok, if you want to call testing one thing at a time “simplistic”, you fill your boots. It’s just that everyone will think you are a moron for not understanding how science works, ok? It’s probably fine. Yeah, no, you’re right, he probably should have spent the same amount of time superficially addressing every aspect of daycare instead of going deeply into one of them. It’s not like “How do infants and daycare workers interact” is a particularly important question about daycare. No, you’re right. It was simplistic. Let’s forget he ever spoke.

Sample size. I could look up the sample size but I cannot be bothered. Look it up yourself. As if you would know a big enough sample size in this field if it bit you on the face. Come on.

The person making the complaint that the researcher neither saw enough daycare institutions nor followed enough children is not saying that HE has a better set of data. He is not even saying that he has read a report that had a larger sample and different findings. He is not even saying that he would support the setting up of a large scale study to get to the bottom of this deeply troubling report.

He is saying that deep in his heart, he knows the findings are wrong because they just are because he and some of his best friends are daycare workers and none of them have said that they emotionally and intellectually neglect the infants they are paid to emotionally and intellectually stimulate.

Now, let’s put it this way. If he was following so few children at so few nurseries, how come those daycare workers couldn’t pull their thumbs out of their arses for the short time he was observing them and put on a good show? It really isn’t rocket surgery to give the observer what they want to see. The horrible truth is that the daycare workers that he observed not doing their jobs properly (due to what he suggests is poor leadership and planning); probably went home with a spring in their step and a song in their hearts. They probably do not recognise that their professional practice is dire. Because they did it in front of cameras. That is a tiny bit concerning, considering that one of his observations include watching a child shutdown emotionally and completely withdraw entirely due to how they were treated by a daycare worker.

Whether it is widespread or not, I cannot tell you. But neither can you, so shut the fudge up, okay?

The plight of the daycare worker. Some people have claimed this is a witchhunt. Now, I have worked as a teacher in a very hostile country. Nothing we did was right. Nothing we tried was enough. We worked ourselves into the ground, trying our best to give everything we had. There were lazy teachers, sure, but not at my schools. Everyone was hard working. A lot of our time was spent on bullshit makework that detracted from our real responsibilities and that was terribly unfortunate. But that is not what we are dealing with here in nurseries.

Nursery nurses are rocking up to work, “planning” to take things as they come, ignoring children when they need them, taking ridic coffee breaks and trying to break the world record for numbers of meetings during “teaching” time. Maybe they need that many meetings. Maybe they should have them after the kids have gone home. Your man here is suggesting that they introduce a little more structure into their professional practice and prioritise human contact with the children.

That is probably fine. If a daycare worker thinks that it is not their responsibility to interact with a child to prevent them becoming emotionally stunted; then they probably need that called to their attention. “Hey daycare worker: that’s pretty fucked up, yo!”

Disrespectful. Oh holy moly, my eyes widened like saucers when I saw that one. I will give you “disrespectful”, son!

I am almost certain he is not saying they are all like that. If it isn’t about you, it isn’t about you.

GOOD WORK, DAYCARE WORKER WITH PROFESSIONAL PRIDE, you are such a clever boy! Is that better?

Firstly, it’s not “disrespectful” to those who are discharging their duties in a professional and humane manner. Those guys are doing it right and no one is disrespecting them. The question on everybody’s lips is: “How can we get them all to be like that? Do we need more of them or should they work in a different way?”

Secondly, it is acceptable to be “disrespectful” to those who emotionally stunt the child left in their care. Those are the sorts of people you want to disrespect. You want to make them feel humiliated and exposed and derided. It’s sort of the point.

Let us not forget: Danish daycare workers are the best trained daycare workers in the entire world! They have diplomas in child psychology and development. They actually understand better than most what happens if you ignore a child. They are not blundering fools trying to do their best. They are not depressed or unwell, unable to provide for the child. They are choosing to do the least possible work and they have a highly educated understanding of what happens if they choose to de-prioritise individual attention. They are very much undeserving of respect, is where I am going with this.

There we are. People say all sorts of stupid things and we let them usually in the hope of a quiet life. If only we could get the media to tease a much more thoughtful discourse out of those they interview (or else rip the terrible arguments to shreds), we would have a much more enlightened world.

News Translation: Danish Nurseries

Denmark, we’ve got a problem. Daycare in many countries has to compete with stay-at-home parents, nannies and childminders. In Denmark, childminders are the only real competition. With no serious competition, daycare has been allowed to race to the bottom. A researcher has studied what is going on and the Danish media has gone bananas. 

Taken from politiken: Expert “Break with ‘legalise hash and free milkshake’ pedagogy”

Many children in Danish nurseries go around like senseless “penguins” and the loss of adult contact is so pronounced that it damages the development of the children’s brains.

So says the PhD Ole Henrik Hansen from the Institute for Education and Pedagogy (DPU) at Aarhus University. He has video footage and a good 8000 observations spread over 26 children in nine nurseries in the greater Copenhagen area together with questionnaires from 40 000 daycare workers in the country-wide investigation on how it really is in nurseries here.

And it’s not an uplifting picture that Ole Henrik Hansen can give of the conditions.

“It’s only 12.5% of institutions that plan their work. Most daycare workers turn up to work in the morning, sit in a circle and plan their work from there. Imagine if that went on in your child’s school. It would definitely be totally outrageous,” said Ole Henrik Hansen to politiken.

Anything goes in nurseries

The expert certainly doesn’t handle Danish daycare workers with kid gloves.

For many years he has investigated – and criticised – conditions in Danish nurseries. According to Ole Henrik Hansen the problem is that children experience a “legalise-hash-and-free-milkshake-pedagogy” in institutions.

“Anything goes in nurseries. An uneducated colleague can come in and be listened to in the staff meeting- and be taken seriously. At the same time we hold the world record for how early with put our children in nurseries. But we ought to reflect on if institutions are going about it in the right way,” said Ole Henrik Hansen.

He suggests that many Danish nurseries be closed because the level of provision of stimulation and child development is so low.

“We have the attitude about child development in Denmark, that children have to explore things for themselves. It’s fair enough for constructive, strong children. But for the quiet children, and those that are crawling up the walls, it is unfortunate. And it means that years after what happened in nursery, we must use an enormous amount of money on including those children,” said the expert.

Free play or organised activities?

Ole Henrik Hansen’s goal is to do away with unengaged daycare workers who according to him can be found in a large number of institutions country-wide.

But also, that we at the municipal and regional do away with what he calls “hippy-pedagogy”.

“We need to plan daycare worker’s time better and create relationships with smaller groups of children, so that daycare workers have a better opportunity to monitor children. At the same time, there’s a need for leadership that can separate the professional from the personal. It’s a problem when leaders cannot see to it that children  thrive and afterwards pass the buck,” said Ole Henrik Hansen to politiken.

“Child-centred”

The only upside in relation to this problem, according to the expert from Aarhus University is that there is actually is a will to do something. And that people, including politicians have already started looking at whether free play or organised activities are the way forward.

He is currently engaged with yet another study with 20 borough councils that goes under the name “Child-at-the-centre”

Simultaneously he is sitting on a task force group set up by Children and Teaching minister Christine Antorini (S)

“We will soon have some recommendations and I really hope that Christine Antorini understands what has happened in the area. Luckily we can see that many daycare workers are ready to look forward instead of back. Also even though I say many hard things to them about how they work,” said Ole Henrik Hansen.

Taken from politiken: “Expert: Conditions are shocking in Danish nurseries”

Small children are left to themselves to a high degree and met with rejection and indifference by daycare workers.

Daycare workers in the country’s nurseries fail the youngest which results in them shutting down emotionally, shows a new PhD thesis.

Small children all the way down to 10 months are being left to themselves a great deal and met with rejection and indifference from daycare workers, documents video footage and a good 8000 observations spread over 26 children in nine nurseries in the greater Copenhagen area and the questionnaires from 40 000 daycare workers over the entire country, according to Berlingske Tidende.

“Danish nurseries are so miserable that a great deal of them ought to be closed,” said PhD Ole Henrik Hansen who is behind the report.

He says that rejection from the daycare workers gets the children walkring around like senseless “penguins” and the loss of adult contact is so serious that it damages the development of the brain.

Rather have better leadership than more workers

The answer is not more daycare workers, believes Ole Henrik Hansen:

“It’s about organisation and leadership.

“With how things work in many nurseries, we could employ as many daycare workers without the children getting anything out of it,” said Ole Henrik Hansen.

At the Daycare Worker Group Bupl, they are familiar with the recordings.

” Ole Henrik Hansen points out some important things to get the focus onto the children,” said the chair of Bupl Henning Pedersen to Berlingske Tidende.

“But he paints somewhat of a simplistic picture which does not take into account the working conditions of daycare workers in nurseries,” he added.

14 month old boy closed into himself

The chair for the National Parental Association , Fola, Lars Klingenberg, has seen a recording of a small boy of 14 months closing into himself after he was ignored by a daycare worker.

“It really affected me a lot because it is totally clear to see what has happened. It goes straight to the heart of everyone – especially us parents,” said Lars Klingenberg to Berlingske.

Arrested Development

When I was a kid and first started reading newspapers, so this will have been in the nineties or so, they often referred to the “race” or background of the person in the story.

As crime stories are more interesting from a news perspective than stories of who is teaching physics at the local college or who just spent one evening every week for five years volunteering at the homeless hostel; most of the newspaper was about crime (and politics of course).

Funnily enough, they never referred to the background of the person in any story if they were a “default” human being. You know, just a dude, just one of us folks, a normal person. That is, if they were white British, what was the POINT of revealing that they were? Of course they were. That’s what people are.

The upshot was, that when ever I read a crime story, the only time the journalists became masters of description was if someone non-white or non-british did the deed. This inevitably gave me skewed ideas of what being non-white or non-british meant for a person. And what criminals looked like. But, you know, I was a kid and I had a think and de-programmed myself patiently but it took a lot of time and heartache to get there. Thanks a LOT, Today newspaper!

At some point, the newspapers had to cut that shit out. They now have to reveal the information obliquely, and quite a few newspapers thrive on feeding the stereotype monster they created. There are lots of dog-whistle ways of doing it. The newspapers also have a problem with who they consider to be white-trash, so they get subtly revealed in stories. There is an art to it, I’ll give you that. You can include photos, if the deal is that they are not white. The name of the suspect/convicted goes a long way. Little details about background.

Denmark. Denmark’s not so big on subtlety. If they know the nationality of a foreign crim, it goes in the headline. If they are not sure but they sort of “look foreign”, they will say the police know the person was of “foreign appearance”. I have seen “Bosnian-Turkish” appearance in a newspaper and I have never really got over that. If the person was white but OBVIOUSLY foreign, they will say their Danish had an accent. If they spoke English, it will be described as “gebrokken engelsk” (coming from Danes from my town, that is an act of extreme chutzpah)

NOTE: None of this shit helps the police identify the criminal. Bosnian-Turkish, you say, why! I saw a gentleman fitting that description only last week! I will call the police forthwith.

“Spoke Danish with a foreign accent”, that’s a minority, sure, but it really has not narrowed the field enough for police work.

They are saying it just for the sake of saying  it.

Cf, when it is a Danish-Dane-Dane from Denmark and they catch the dastardly deed do’er; he’s so-and-so from Kolding. If they are not sure who he is, he either did not speak Danish with a foreign accent (note to editors, it is simpler to write “He was a native speaker”) or was “30” or “tall”. You know, a default human being. A dude. They do not even write “white” or even “dirty blond hair”, for descriptive purposes. They leave it out because it’s obvious.

Roskilde local newspaper wrote the headline

“Negro stole car from 80 year old”

Only this week. HOLY CHRISTMAS.

NB: Some people translate “neger” as “nigger” and I think those people are probably correct but I don’t want to be derailed on the grounds that “neger” is softer than “nigger” because that is not the point. 

This country is stuck in a state of arrested development. People learned lessons in the rest of the developed world that have not been learned here. It is commonplace to dehumanise groups of people for not belonging to the tribe and it has major knock-on effects in terms of the lives people from those groups have. For example, the people who read Roskilde local newspaper (and my local newspaper), might not intend to become racist. Indeed they might be black or from other minority communities. They read about crime in their town and all they are getting to see is a spotlight on certain groups, highlighting “criminality”.

Even people who would like to think of themselves as enlightened or thoughtful, are being poisoned by their media. They are being trained like those unfortunate puppies in the salivation experiment to hear the bell tinkle of “foreign” with the kibble consequence of “criminal”.

And thusly, foreigners cannot get jobs. Or they can but not jobs they are actually qualified for.

This means that an entire generation of “foreign” (they’re not foreign but that’s a whole other post), Danish kids are not getting jobs or if they are it is for jobs that are neither dream-jobs nor boring “they pay the rent” jobs. They can only expect to get so far in life here.

What is happening is on two levels. Firstly, on the sort of people who choose employees who see a foreign name and place the cv in “the round file” and secondly on the foreigners themselves who learn to know their place.

I do not suppose I need to state what happens when you create an underclass.

Danish journalists are not stupid, they are not evil. They have been exposed to the same brainwashing as everyone else in this country. But I think a little bit of thoughtfulness goes a long way. I dearly wish they would grow up, snap out of it and de-programme themselves.  Then maybe we can progress from this frankly embarrassing “white-danes are the only real people” child-like assumption.

News Translating: Parents need to be involved

From the Department of the Bleeding Obvious comes the news that if you want children to succeed, it is probably not a good idea to treat their parents like animals. And besides, most of them are already doing what you want and it’s still not working.

Terms of Reference

“Bilingual” doesn’t mean “someone who speaks two languages fluently” in Denmark.

Here, it means “someone with no Danish parents living in Denmark who intend to stay here longer than a five year contract”.

So, a child of a Dane in a mixed couple, is not “bilingual”. A child who travels the world with her Danish parents and picks up the local languages is not “bilingual”. Children born to “expats” are not “bilingual”.

“Non-western” means people from South America, Central America, all of Africa and parts of Asia.

“Western” means people from North America, Europe, Australasia and (possibly) parts of Asia. If they move to Denmark they are considered “expats” unless they marry a Dane.

Taken from Politiken: Expert: Parents must be involved if bilinguals have to learn Danish

No good comes from forcing parents to send their children to daycare.

More than half of bilingual children with a non-western background have large problems speaking Danish when they start primary school.

“If this development is going to be turned around, it is necessary to act in cooperation with daycare and parents.”

So says Agi Csonka. She is the director of Denmark’s Evaluation Institute which investigates and improves the quality of daycare and schools.

“Daycare cannot do this all alone. So there has to be a close cooperation with parents.

“A close cooperation can support the parents to develop their children’s language competences,” said Agi Csonka.”

Good experiences with suitcase of reading-books

The director tells that previously they had good results, when parents and institutions cooperate.

“They had a trial where a group of children got to take a suitcase of reading books home.

The trial showed very positive results. It shows that if parents get support, then their child’s level actually improves,” she said.

She thinks that three things need to be in place to help children on the right path: The right stimulation of children’s linguistic development, that staff have a high professional qualification – and as already stated a close cooperation with parents.

Parliament decided in 2011 that it should be possible to force the bilingual into day care but the Kommunernes Landsforening (KL) has no information on how widely this has been enforced in practice.

And amongst others, Venstre demanded that more of the bilingual children go to daycare.

Warning against forcing parents

“But force is far from the solution because most bilingual children actually already go to institutions”, points out Agi Csonka.

“So, we will not catch that many by forcing parents to send children to institutions,” she said.

There are several political initiatives to lift bilingual pupils’ linguistic competence. These include a large research project and a bilingual task force.

Noble Savages

I’ve got a riddle for you. When is an international public relations disaster not a public relations disaster?

Give up? When it happens in Danish!

Denmark is not perfect. But the image projected far and wide of the country is glowing, as if it very well might be. All the green energy and social democracy and liberality! Imagine a functioning welfare state! Imagine a country where women are just as equal as men! What a wonderful country, I wish I lived there.

When the Danish state or a Danish company very publicly shit the bed, there are no international consequences. What happens in Denmark, stays in Denmark.

If you are stupid enough to write about what goes on in English, you will be labelled as bitter, hateful, negative, racist and sometimes even asked to leave. It is not enough for Dane-enthusiasts to disagree with you, they have to bring your character in to disrepute. Nice, guys. Nice.

Bringing the foibles of Denmark to a wider audience is not without its risks, people get really emotionally involved in explaining how because they recognise that Denmark has a good work-life balance and you did not mention it when you were writing about forcible ECT; they are actually “objective” about Denmark. So, that is one reason why not many people do not write about the dark side of Denmark. It’s often emotionally taxing and occasionally dangerous.

Another reason, is the language factor. If I tell you that “hold din kæft” translates as “shut the fuck up” and then the person that said it says “actually, that’s a lot softer, it’s more like ‘shut up'”; what are you supposed to make of that? Is there a difference? Does the difference matter? Why is everyone shouting?

Along with not being sure which translation is closest, there is the no small factor of having to put a lot of Danish news through google translate to check your facts. Google translate is okay but it can only do so much. So, unless you have a Danish speaking correspondent on the ground, you are not going to know what is going on. And that’s only if you know there is something you need to put through google translate. You are never going to read all the Danish news output on the off-chance someone shat the bed.

The last factor, and the most important, is the “noble savage defence”. When Denmark, Danes or a Danish company do something that is socially unacceptable, if people from another country inquire “What happened there? Why are you doing something socially unacceptable?” the answer is “It is our culture. We cannot help ourselves. No one will have been hurt by what happened. It’s how we roll.”

Having no idea if that is true, the interlocutor must take the Noble Savage at face value. They just do things differently in Denmark. We do not understand their ways and we must not impose our cultural values upon them. They know not what they do.

And thusly, this is how “everyone” knows that women’s rights have won in Denmark. Even when clear evidence shows that a major computing company (Dell), has no respect for women in technology because they invite someone (Mads Christensen) to “provoke” by disrespecting women. And then nothing happens because “everyone” knew it was a “joke”. (I knew it was a joke, didn’t stop it being stupid)

Firstly, there is plausible deniability “the translation you have is subtly wrong” and then there is “Danish people have no concept of “bad form” because we are so utopian!” and lastly there is “The illusion of people being offended/thinking it was stupid is caused by people not understanding how jokes work. It’s their problem, we did not mean any disrespect when we massively disrespected women. Many people weren’t offended by it, it’s fine.” (I wasn’t “offended” but it still isn’t okay)

This isn’t just about Dell. This also goes for police abuse of power, beatings and use of pepper spray on protestors. If you spray irritants on a sit-down protest in the US, it sparks memes and outrage. If you do the same in Denmark, literally no one outside gives a fuck. Because it’s just their way. Those savage Danes, they have so much free speech, it’s not at all a worry when the police torture protestors with stress positions and chemical weapons.  It’s just their culture.

Anyway. I thought that was interesting. (Note to angry Dane enthusiasts: Start your own blog about the good things in Denmark, put the links in the comments, thanks)

Terrorism and the Mainstream

You know when idiots demand that “moderate” Muslims, condemn the beliefs of the murderous minority of people who say they share their religion? Of course, I think who they mean are all Muslims who do not commit or support mass murder: so a couple of billion people. The chances that all non-murderous people from one group that size can be described only as “moderate” in their religious beliefs is probably quite low. Anyway. You know when they say that? Even though a lot of Islamic organisations get up every atrocity and say something to that effect every time?

Now that a terrorist has claimed that Danish immigration policy is admirable and exemplary, it would be nice for mainstream moderate Danish politicians to get up and condemn him for his beliefs, wouldn’t it? Of course they have condemned his actions, that’s easy: he’s a terrorist. It is also easy to add “but” at the end of that condemnation.

I am not taking a cheap shot at any one politician or any one party or any one political side. Most of the Danish politicians have been forced rightwards and they share a lot of  their beliefs with an unhinged terrorist.

If Venstre or SF got up and just said “Multiculturalism is not a bad thing. There isn’t a war to be fought. There is no real interest in turning this country Sharia, for example, so we do not need to be on guard against that. There is no special problem with criminality or benefit fraud amongst the non-Danish background Danish people and foreigners. We are sorry for letting you believe that for cheap political points.”

Patriotism is probably okay (though I personally think it’s a bit stupid), but nationalism is very dangerous. Okay, usually all that happens is you get a pub-bore who goes on about  creeping Sharia or bangs on about burqa as if they really give a fuck. Nevertheless violence is a consequence associated with dehumanising groups in this way.

This guy was probably going to go off at any time. Blaming nationalist politics for his actions seems to make about as much sense as blaming World of Warcraft (or the Koran for his “Muslim” counterparts, for that matter), so that is why I am not blaming them and speed readers need to be clear on that.

But. It is simply not the case that what he did was evil and insane but what he believes was good and sensible. The beliefs about Muslims, non-westerners, immigrants and descendants of the mainstream Danish political establishment are crazed. They are literally the rantings of a madman.

If the reaction to Islamic terror is anti-radicalisation, such as preventing teens from going to summer camp to learn about the Koran in their parents’ country by confiscating their passports and banning certain public speakers with dangerous views; then there is certainly room for preventing young people from other backgrounds from accessing radical indoctrination from the extreme right.

That means the Danish mainstream needs to stop exposing Danish people to extreme-right indoctrination.

Denmark’s political parties need to have a meeting, brew some coffee and reach a new consensus which is not tainted by paranoia, dehumanisation and hatred. I believe there are maybe two or three parties where the meeting will be short (shall I name them? Ok: Conservatives, Red-green alliance and the Radicals), the rest of those reactionary, opportunist idiots might need to book a hotel.

Get it sorted, Denmark.

Special commenting policy:

Lazy idiots, don’t waste your time, I am well aware that other  countries are in a comparable state but terrorists have not been praising THEM, so I am talking about this country.

I also have a no-platform policy for the extreme right because I don’t want to find out about an terrorist atrocity committed by one of my commenters. I would rather have no link to you, if it is all the same. Save your rantings for your Knights Templar/Defence League circle jerk blogs, so those bloggers can feel a frisson when you kill someone.

Five Arguments which are Wrong about Racism

Full disclosure: I have white privilege and so I have no idea what it is like not to have it. If I bugger this post up, PLEASE tell me, okay?

Note to speed readers: this post is not actually about Denmark (or Sweden even).

1) There is no continuum of racist-ness. All stereotyping is equally wrong.

I remember back when I was 16, our religious education teacher tried to tell us that “black people can’t be racist” in our society because to be racist requires power. We were unconvinced by this argument because a punch in the mouth is just as painful from someone in a marginalised group as someone from the privileged group (and for whatever the reason for getting it.)

Of course, everyone can be racist and everyone can suffer from it. But there is a major difference between someone making fun of the tea-drinking ways of Brits vs saying “ooga-booga” to a black person in a street.

You see, some types of stereotyping strips a person of their humanity and some shows understanding that you are talking about a human being.

I mean, shit, they are not ideal but there is definitely a continuum situation at play here.

Now, I am not an anthropologist but there are cultural differences between countries and peoples and talking about them is probably okay. If it comes from a place of respect at least.

There is a difference between discussing how Jante law affects the workings of Scandinavian society and simply stating “America is fat and stupid”.

Power is important, respect is important and showing you understand that the people you are talking about are real humans is important. Stereotyping cannot be stereotyped as “good” or “bad”.

2) If a black person says it isn’t racist, it isn’t racist.

I will be honest. I have been guilty of this. Over and over. It wasn’t until The Office, actually, that I understood what a dick I was being.

Ok, Ricky Gervais’ character starts telling a racist joke and a new member of staff pops over to hear what’s so funny and because this man is black, Gervais loses his bottle and stops telling it. The embarrassment is such, that he ends up telling the joke and the new guy supplies the punchline. Gervais is relieved.

Gervais is called into his boss’ office to explain himself. Gervais is shocked, a black person said it was funny, why would he then go and COMPLAIN? The boss tells him that another (white), member of staff had complained and just because one person did not find it offensive, doesn’t mean it wasn’t.

And *PING* the penny dropped.

Isn’t it, at least a little bit, racist to poll a very small sample of the target group to check for offensiveness? It’s not like all white people think alike about what constitutes offensiveness, how could asking less than a handful of black people “is this offensive?” speak for all black people? That’s just plain stupid.

3) What I said/did wasn’t racist because I’m not racist.

Also known as “some of my best friends are…” It is truth universally acknowledged that very few people want to think of themselves as stupid pricks. But we are very able to hold amazingly stupid prickish opinions even whilst simultaneously having friends from different cultures. Being open-minded and thoughtful is probably correlated with having friends from all different walks of life and backgrounds but it is not a prediction or guarantee.

Having an Asian friend might help you realise that “they” are not all the same but it does not guarantee that you won’t go around with dodgy assumptions about their upbringing or values.

Even the biggest racists out there insist they are not racist. But they still hold eye-wateringly racist opinions and whether they want the ego-kick of a label or not; they do need to face up to their flawed prejudices.

4) I can say whatever I like about Sikhs and Muslims, they are a religion not a race.

Race does not exist. It is a cultural construct. I mean, we have so many cultures and backgrounds in the world, it is useful to put people in groups for the sake of discussion. But these labels are completely arbitrary. The idea of “race”, comes from the idea that there were different species of humans, whose different characteristics were immutable by virtue of their genetic code. Science proved this idea wrong.

Now, if someone wants to say mean things about groups of people they do not know individually, they criticise their “culture” or their “religion”.

Understand, real cultural or religious criticism does not occur. The people I am talking about never say “Within the Iraqi Shi’a community, I believe there is a problem with the interpretation of the Koran about…” or “The Twi culture is set up to …..”, they say “Muslims are like this and Non-westerners are like that. WHAT? They’re not RACES.”

But, it is exactly the same flawed thinking. The idea that you can “The Muslims” are like this or “The Sikhs” are like that or “People from non-western cultures” are the other. It is on very shaky ground. There are lots of groups, factions and inter-relations between all these groups. It simply isn’t possible to pronounce The Muslims against women’s rights, for example. Sorry. But it doesn’t work.

Calling it racism might be clumsy and technically incorrect but it is coming from the same misfiring neurones.

So, instead of fighting the semantics, maybe look at if what you are saying shows you understand you are talking about human beings, shows respect and that you have considered the power dynamic in your pronouncements.

5) But they ARE like that, though.

This is the most childlike of all this misconceptions. If seven red cars go past me in a row, I’ll say “Wow, there are a lot of red cars today!” but I did not count the dozens of cars of different colours until I saw a funny pattern. I have misled myself into thinking my evidence is stronger than it is.

You may encounter a lot of thieving Roma in your life but I guarantee it, you walk past dozens of Roma everyday who are not stealing anything. You do not see them because they are just “folks”. You only notice people who are doing the thing you expected to see or you build up the significance of seeing a lot of one group of people doing one particular thing.

TV doesn’t help because the stereotypes are not really ever challenged in programmes, so you get a lot more exposure to “them” doing “what they do”. Even if it is not a reflection of life.

Six Stupid Arguments that are Damaging Denmark

6) There are plenty of countries that are the same

I like to call this the “but their Mommy lets them do it!” gambit. This argument is usually made in response to someone who has made the observation that, in line with other countries, Denmark is not perfect. This argument is given because the person has misheard and believes that the observation “Denmark is the worst country in the world!” has been made.

Why is it damaging Denmark?

Denmark is not perfect. No country is perfect. Everyone knows that. Some countries do things better than others. And some do things differently enough that it is just a matter of opinion which country is doing it better.

The argument is damaging because people use it as a shield to avoid having to think of ways of to improve Denmark at all. Other countries have problems with depression, Denmark never has to look at why it is true here.

5) There are countries that are worse

5) and 6) arguments are kissing cousins. This argument makes the point that in failed states, developing nations and war torn countries; conditions are much poorer.

Why is it damaging Denmark?

People who make this argument are setting the benchmark way too low. Instead of looking to Scandi cousins like Norway and Sweden or up-and-coming emerging markets like Brazil and India; we can simply look to the worst country in the world and pronounce things “good enough” in comparison.  Children do it, when they ask each other their test scores. As long as they don’t have the worst mark, it’s fine. Never mind that in another class, their mark might very well be the worst. WOO! Not Worst!

4) I agree in part but you are just being idealistic

Appeals to pragmatism are a common technique. Come come now, they say as they set up their strawman, you can’t honestly want the MOON ON A STICK, can you?

Why it is damaging Denmark

The person making this argument never offers anything pragmatic in  terms of a solution. They agree “in part” that it is a sorry situation. They do not explain how your solution is impractical (even if it is, they have no idea how to examine ideas critically), and never suggest a more practical solution. They just insist that since any attempt to improve things is like “wanting no more war and free everything”, it is time to stop and just enjoy the status quo.

3) We have to do it like this because this is how it is done

If you point out something, especially as an outsider, of how things could be improved or changed; even if you make no ego-bruising references to other countries. Even if you come up with a practical solution. Even if you cover all these bases…. You are going to bang up against this argument.

Why it is damaging Denmark

This is also known as “we fear change”. Even if someone offers an evidence based, elegant solution to a niggling problem; the argument that “it is just the way it is/this way is better because we have always done it like this” is proffered. Denmark stagnates until it has no other choice but to change its ways. To save face, those who execute changes ignore ALL evidence based ideas and try to reinvent the wheel.

The result is that improvements are sabotaged by change-averse people in organisations. If improvements are somehow forced through, they will most likely fail anyway because no one feels like they have anything to learn from others and they will repeat their mistakes.

2) The reason we have so many people on antidepressants is because old people are given them to be able to survive nursing homes and the drug companies have made up new diseases like gambling addictions

Ok, this seems like an overly specific example. In general it goes like this “The reason we [xyz] is because of [pqr]” where [pqr] avoids the point [abc].

In that specific argument, old people in nursing homes are DEPRESSED and people with “new diseases like gambling addictions” are DEPRESSED. It doesn’t really matter if the disease was made up by drug companies to sell product or if a run around the block and nice cup of tea would sort them out; they are not being sorted out and they are suffering and that is why the Danish antidepressant stats are so high. Because a high proportion of Danes are DEPRESSED.  Missing the point of “Shit son, there are a lot of depressed Danes” with the claim it is “only” the old or the addicts pulling up the average, misses the overall point . Yeah, genius, that is who we were talking about. The depressed people.

Why is it damaging Denmark

Simplistic reasoning makes me angry. Think of how long it took you to learn how to speak, walk and count. From zero to hero in a few months. You’re a prodigy! When someone tries to give me an explanation for something that misses my point entirely; it makes my fists itchy. This is NOT what your brain is for. I can think of a few more examples, like when the police attacked some peaceful protestors and everyone went around saying “Ahh yes, but the protestors had mobile phones and they texted each other and were organised.” Or when there was an anti-Islamic protest and a counter protest on the same day and everyone went around saying “Yeah, extremists on BOTH SIDES are bad.”

It is sloppy logic and destroying Denmark. Do you think H. C. Andersen, Blixen, Bohr and Ørsted went around thinking stupid thoughts like that? They bloody didn’t! They thought and thought and made sure that their arguments followed. Stop being so lazy.

1) If you don’t like it/if it makes you angry: you should leave Denmark

This is pulled out with depressing regularity. I have only been blogging in this reboot for ONE MONTH and I have been told to leave the country twice by concerned Danes. I am not atypical. The aim is either to shut the other person up (you don’t belong here, you have no right to comment), or to shame them into admitting that Denmark is the best of a bad lot (it bloody isn’t, but I’m stuck here for the foreseeable).

Why it is damaging Denmark

Critical thought does not necessarily denote anger or hate. Looking at a problem and thinking of a solution can be an emotionally detached, neutral process. That is not always true, of course, but it is not always a bad thing to be “angry” or even “hateful”. The point of life is not to avoid these emotions but rather to make peace with them.

Feeling angry is Step One, doing something is Step Two.

The instruction to leave if I don’t like it; encourages the belief that Denmark can NEVER change and nothing can ever be improved. Meanwhile, people make deleterious changes to Denmark all the time. Look at my kommune! The only changes which are unwelcome are those that might make things better? This is a particularly vicious circle. Things are destroyed by incompetents but then no one is allowed to fix it because “if they don’t like it, they should move.”

This sort of thinking is destroying Denmark because people are following the advice and leaving. In droves. Taking their skills and their insights with them. Not just foreigners, you know.

All you will have left are the old, the gambling addicts and the fuckwits who make stupid arguments like this and expect to get away with it.

Dell and Sexism

A very stupid man (Mads Christensen), whose only real achievement to date seems to have been to upset some survivors of a massacre by suggesting that they should have fought back, was invited to speak at a tech conference for Dell the computer company.

This is bad publicity for Dell, they must be very happy that it “only” happened in Danish.

Why he should be invited to speak at a tech conference I am not sure because he has naff all to do with tech. He is just some wanker. I think he got invited so he could make some jokes. You know, because people who work in tech can’t make jokes, let’s just get any old wanker. And he’s cheap, is he? Great. Book him.

Anyway. The stupid wanker made some jokes. And the jokes were the following (as live tweeted by @christianevejlo):-

“Men have invented everything worthwhile. All we can thank women for is the rolling pin.”

“You are the last bastion in IT, boys. Hiss it through your teeth. Shut your fucking face, bitch”

Same report in English from Christiane.

As is usual in such “jokes”, the reason he was able to make them was total ignorance of the facts. The reason that wankers feel the need to tell everyone to “calm down, it was only a joke,” is because they believe he was making an edgy point grounded in at least a little reality. The reason that the 800 or so men in the audience laughed… well, I will come to that in a minute.

The facts: IT and invention (especially in tech), is not the last bastion of men at all. Of course women have been inventing things since prehistory. I am guessing if Stone Age women were in charge of “gathering” like everyone likes to tell me, then they probably had a lot to do with the invention of agriculture. You know, the invention that kickstarted the Neolithic Revolution. The history of recent tech started out with a lot of women initially but as it became seen as desirable, women got pushed out. How were they pushed out, you ask? The usual. Everyone saying that women cannot wrap their heads around science, maths and technology because of their biology and people “joking” around like this assclown. (Not to mention hissing at them to shut the fuck up and calling them bitches.)

Mads Christensen cannot have known that the inventor of programming, Ada Lovelace, was a woman. She invented COMPUTER PROGRAMMING. The stuff that stops Dell’s products from being a very large paperweight. He also cannot have know that the inventor of frequency-hopping spread-spectrum technology was Hedy Lamarr. Who was also a woman. The invention that makes wireless and mobile phone technology possible. He cannot have known that the original word “computer” meant a woman who worked in a computing department, doing all the computing. Before computing machines existed. He cannot have known any of these things because if he had, he would have instantly known that his joke does not work.

Also, as a purist, I like to insist that jokes are “funny”. Advising a room full of men to hiss “shut the fuck up, bitch” at imaginary women who work in IT because that is where BOYS work; that does not even work on one level. It is just bizarre. Don’t give me the “irony” defence, please. If it was irony, he would tell them off immediately for laughing and THAT would be the routine. Making them question their initial response to his awful joke would be pretty interesting comedically speaking (and also, you know, a use of irony).

My problem with the rolling pin joke isn’t so much the fact that John W. Reed (a man) invented it. And it’s not really so much that the history (and current affairs) of tech has so many important and amazing women in it.

My problem is that he, a failed comic, (for indeed you do not dream of working tech conferences when you first start out in the entertainment industry. “oh boy oh boy, I hope I get to warm up the Dell tech conference! Then I’ll KNOW I’ve made it.”), where was I? ahh yes. He, a failed comic, puts himself in the company of Leonardo, Edison, Bell et al by virtue of his peen.

And the 800 or so men who were entertained by the thought of stupid women inventing only a rolling pin in the couple of million years of all human history, those stupid bitches! What have those men invented?

A couple of elegant lines of code at best. Maybe a new way of arranging something that already exists like computer chips. And good luck to them, keep on keeping on, boys! But despite their lack of straight up inventor creds, they were also thinking in the same flawed way.

Leonardo had a peen. I have a peen. Therefore I am like Leonardo. Because of my peen.

Do me a favour, guys. Go and invent the helicopter and come back, you smug fucks. (Or computer programming, for that matter.)

So, why did they laugh? I have my ideas. Many of them will have been tickled by his jokes. Some of them will have found them amusing but hoped he was being ironic. But a hefty group will have been laughing because to not laugh, well, that is a bit dangerous in a room full of men. What might the man next to you think? You don’t think women are more than just for food and reproduction, do you? What are you, some sort of girl?

This is Tony Porter’s  speech at TED women. I think a lot of them laughed because, like Mads Christensen, they are trapped in the Man Box.

UPDATE-ARAMA 23/4/12

Hello everyone!

Firstly, Mads Christensen says that he actually said “Hold kæft, kælling” not “Hold din kæft, kælling” and that is more like “shut up, bitch”; so not at all like “shut the fuck up, bitch”. He also intended it to be said to the wives of men who work in IT, not to female co-workers.

Secondly, some people don’t think that Ada Lovelace exactly invented computer programming because she only wrote the first ever computer program (or “algorithm”), in the entire history of computer programming. Okay, fine.

Apparently Grace Hopper is a much better example. She invented the compiler and the idea of a machine independent computer programming language; and is now my newest hero, go Grace!

So, you know, we’re still cool. Women have a lot to do with the inception of computer programming.

I think also because Hedy Lamarr didn’t invent the frequency hopping jibjab alone, people are taking that away from her. Shit, son. Is nothing sacred? The guy who invented sellotape is revered in our culture and he didn’t act alone, ok?

Thirdly, Danes are desperately trying to claim it is “Danish humour” and “satire” and “irony” and “Danish culture”. They are claiming that only people who can’t get jokes are “offended”. Let’s be clear, fellas, I am not sure anyone IS offended.

Shocked and disappointed, maybe, like a favourite teacher when they catch you mocking someone for cheap laughs.  They make a sad face and they say

“Did you think that was funny, to be so mean? Wow.”

and you go: “Oh man, I should act like a human being in future.”

And you do. And everyone learns something.

Like that.

Danish Hype

Denmark is very “in” right now. It often tops (or almost tops), lists of the Happiest Countries. Foreign journalists have been invited on lots of wonderful trips to Copenhagen after the hype from excellent Danish drama series; and they report back breathlessly about their experiences.

Something curious happens as soon as I blog about something that is not so good in Denmark, even if all I do is translate the news:

Danes think I am picking on Denmark. And they get the hump with me.

When I make the point that Denmark is no better than a lot of countries; they read that as Denmark is worse than other countries. And they tell me that Denmark is no better than a lot of countries.

They dismiss my concerns about privacy, fairness and rule of law as hopeless idealism. As if no other country in the world managed to give depressed people sickness benefits without threatening them with a treatment that their doctor has recommended against. As if no other country in the world managed to balance the different needs of a child in a custody case so that they did not end up full time with an abuser.

If I go too far with them, for example saying that I am afraid of starting a family in this country; they scream at me to go back where I came from.

If you are serious about moving to Denmark, you need to read those comments carefully. Because these attitudes are quite uniform and Denmark is never going to change. You will have to find a way to live with it until you can arrange the shipping container back to where you came from.