Søren Espersen and Jyllands Posten

What the hell are 16 943 Somalians even doing in Denmark?

by Søren Espersen

It suddenly hit me this morning when I read a story about some systematic tax evasion by a group of Somalians: in Jyllands-Posten: What the Hell are 16 943 Somalians even doing in Denmark…?

Suddenly? Like, you woke up one morning and thought “You know what? I have NEVER thought like this. But nearly 17 000 people can be generalised into a bloc and told to go home!”

It wasn’t so much that a group of them had cheated their taxes, that’s something that even Danes excel in, nah, it was more about what are 16 943 Somalians doing in Denmark instead of being home in Somalia because of the Jyllands Posten’s side story next to the big story on tax.

So in many ways, those Somalians are pretty much integrating properly as tax evasion is almost a national sport here in Denmark.

In the article: “Somalians are the least well integrated in Denmark” it was reported that the Somali community in Denmark is a total parallel society, made up of people who are completely isolated from the surrounding country and where families and clans rule. An expert from Roskilde University Shahamak Rezaei said to the paper that it is basically about how migrant families place their loyalty in as much as “it looks like they think more about me-and-mine and in that way live in a parallel existence”.

I don’t mean to come over all “but their mommy lets them do it!” but what you are describing is exactly how Danish-background families are in Denmark. They don’t give a fudge about anyone else, beyond their family and sports club… possibly colleagues. I have heard of people breaking bones in the street and being ignored by those who pass by them. Where’s the loyalty to people in Denmark there?

It also describes a lot of immigrant groups of Danes abroad. I don’t understand why you think this is necessarily a Bad Thing, Søren. This is what people do when they expatriate.

The paper reveals that Somalians are completely divorced from other immigrant groups by having a large systematic money collection universe from which millions of kroner every year, via Dubai, are sent to clans in Somalia. The expert from Roskilde said in this connection that this trade is to underline that the Somalian’s loyalty is limited to their network back home.

OF COURSE! They send the money home because they want to stick the middle finger up at Danish society(!) It’s got nothing to do with their families living in god knows what conditions. It’s got nothing to do with continuing to love relatives after moving away from them. It’s all about disrespecting DENMARK(!)

Jyllands-Posten tells us further that the Somalians do extremely poorly in the labour market and they isolate themselves in ghettos, where they can continue their Somalian life, completely without connection to us others.

Didn’t another report just recently tell us that ghettos are caused by white-flight? You know. White people being racist and moving away from Somalis because they don’t want any connection with them.

Hasn’t “doing poorly” in the labour market at least a little to do with Danish employers having prejudices against Somalians for some reason? (God knows where they would get prejudices about Somalians from)

Don’t all Danish families isolate themselves so they can continue their Danish life, completely without connection to us others? Why is it different when a Somalian family does the same?

For me, who has read Aayan Hirsi-Ali’s books and has interviewed the strong and brave women, amongst other things about this peculiar Somalian world, the Jyllands-Posten article with this shocking information makes me wonder.

So all Somalis are the same. Except the brave, strong ones. Except the writer ones. The rest of them are the same. All of them.

  • I wonder why we even have Somalian residents in this country, when they don’t have the least interest in Denmark or in the Danish people.

Refugees. They are refugees. They are fleeing for their lives. It’s really not about “you” or “interest”, it’s about your country offering to take in a certain number of refugees so they don’t die. 

  • I am surprised that Denmark entertains and supports a giant group of people who only have contempt for us and our way of life.

Even if that were true. Even if you could say that approximately 17 000 people have exactly the same beliefs. Even if you could say that those beliefs about this country were “contemptuous” or “scornful”, it’s really not about that.

Taking in refugees and asylum seekers isn’t about their gratitude afterwards. It’s about fulfilling international obligations and basic human compassion for those in need.

Besides, what you have described as your evidence for contempt: the parallel society, ghettos, sending money home etc is more accurately described as “disinterest”.

  • I wonder why the Somalians don’t just go home when all their life, journeys, thoughts, language -and work in general – is in Somalia.
I expect as soon as it is safe to do so, many of them will do just that. How is this not hate speech, Søren? Not all Somalians are the same. Some of them like Denmark, some of them identify as part Danish, some of them want to stay and pay back the community.
How do I know that? Because I know some actual Somalians. And I’ve spoken to them in Danish (and English) about Denmark. So much for isolating themselves from all other immigrant groups. So much for not knowing the language.

  • Yes, I wonder what the hell 16 943 Somalians are even doing in Denmark.

I expect you do, Søren. I expect you wonder about that a lot. I expect your lack of thoughtfulness, logic and basic human compassion does lead you to those thoughts.

Why the hell don’t you ask a Somalian instead of “wondering” aloud on your soapbox, you stupid self righteous prick? 

~

Now, of course Søren Espersen has the right to express himself and Jyllands-Posten have the right to publish but holy shit, guys. This is the basest form of hate speech. How on earth isn’t there a health warning all over this? Have we become so inured to racism that this is acceptable? Have we become so inured to poor argumentation that this is not laughable?

Not only is it poorly argued and constructed but it lacks basic insight into the issue. It is total garbage. 

The original article about the tax evading Somalis was irresponsible, given how many Danish-background tax evaders there are in comparison.

What sort of impression do JP wish to give of the Somali community when they highlight the actions of a minority of a minority in such terms? And never one to be left out, several papers even “left wing” ones, have covered the story in exactly these terms. And you know the drill: “What!? They ARE Somalian. It’s not RACIST to describe them as Somalian when they ARE.”

Perhaps not. But it is certainly irresponsible to portray the entire Somalian population as cheats.

There are just under 17000 Somalians in the country and 269 of them cheated on their taxes. That’s a tax fraud level of just 1.5% in the Somalian community.

98.5% Somalians are honest in their tax affairs. And that’s not news?

I would DEARLY like to know the stats for Danish-background tax evasion. A study in 2006 showed that 8.4% of people living in Denmark gave too little in tax, and about 1% of those were deliberate cheats.

A more recent study found (but this also did not exclude immigrant groups):-

“that the tax evasion rate is very small (0.3%) for income subject to third-party reporting, but substantial (37%) for self-reported income. Since 95% of all income is third-party reported, the overall evasion rate is very modest.”

 It goes on to make the point

“overall tax evasion is low, not because taxpayers are unwilling to cheat, but because they are unable to cheat successfully due to the widespread use of third-party reporting.”

The article about the parallel society, again is trolling of the worst kind. It is not available on the Internet but I have access to all newspaper articles in Denmark because of my job.

All it does is innocently set out the findings of Shahamak Rezaei (from a paper that is not available publicly), that Somalians send money home and perhaps have more connection to their families than Danish society, right next to articles about Somalian tax evasion.  

Free speech is one thing but this is a terrible abuse of it. It is a deliberate and cunning way to get nice people like my mother-in-law to see problems with the Somali community when before she might have taken each Somalian she met on their own merits. It is a malicious way of allowing “people” like Søren Espersen to innocently inquire “Why don’t they GO HOME?” 

It is racist. It is lazy. And it is dangerous. 

Related articles

Racism in the Danish Press

A new report has highlighted racism in Danish society. One of the problems they point out is that the media promotes racism.

With the report stating that “some media have continued to portray minority groups, in particular Muslims and Roma in a negative light,” Jacob Machangama from libertarian think-tank Cepos, argued that the reports findings are biased.

“It’s a deeply biased view that Danish media promotes racial discrimination,” Machangama told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “There is no justification for it. If you spoke to the chairman of [the journalists’ union] Dansk Journalistforbundyou would probably get a different point of view.”

Taken from the Copenhagen Post (by Peter Stanners)

Report finds immigrants suffer discrimination

Let’s take that point slowly, shall we, because it’s a good one. Cepos say if you ASK the chairman of the Danish journalist union “Is some of the Danish media racist”,  you would get the answer ‘no’.

The report compiled by an international group from the Council of Europe found the answer ‘yes’ by taking reports from at least two independent sources. As we all know, the answer between ‘yes’ and ‘no’ is ‘sometimes’, so the “right” “unbiased” answer should be ‘sometimes’.

You have got to be fucking kidding me. What on EARTH aren’t they teaching them at schools these days?

Halfway between a lie and the truth isn’t also the truth. If at least two independent sources are saying that some of the Danish media is racist, polling the Danish media yourself isn’t going to get the bottom of the matter.

Well, just for comparison’s sake, here’s what a Danish newspaper (Jyllands Posten) allowed an extreme-right politician write in their online paper.

What the hell are 16 943 Somalians even doing in Denmark?

by Søren Espersen

It suddenly hit me this morning when I read a story about some systematic tax evasion by a group of Somalians: in Jyllands-Posten: What the Hell are 16 943 Somalians even doing in Denmark…?

It wasn’t so much that a group of them had cheated their taxes, that’s something that even Danes excel in, nah, it was more about what are 16 943 Somalians doing in Denmark instead of being home in Somalia because of the Jyllands Posten’s side story next to the big story on tax.

In the article: “Somalians are the least well integrated in Denmark” it was reported that the Somali community in Denmark is a total parallel society, made up of people who are completely isolated from the surrounding country and where families and clans rule. An expert from Roskilde University Shahamak Rezael said to the paper that it is basically about how migrant families place their loyalty in as much as “it looks like they think more about me-and-mine and in that way live in a parallel existence”.

The paper reveals that Somalians are completely divorced from other immigrant groups by having a large systematic money collection universe from which millions of kroner every year, via Dubai, are sent to clans in Somalia. The expert from Roskilde said in this connection that this trade is to underline that the Somalian’s loyalty is limited to their network back home.

Jyllands-Posten tells us further that the Somalians do extremely poorly in the labour market and they isolate themselves in ghettos, where they can continue their Somalian life, completely without connection to us others.

For me, who has read Aayan Hirsi-Ali’s books and has interviewed the strong and brave women, amongst other things about this peculiar Somalian world, the Jyllands-Posten article with this shocking information makes me wonder.

  • I wonder why we even have Somalian residents in this country, when they don’t have the least interest in Denmark or in the Danish people.
  • I am surprised that Denmark entertains and supports a giant group of people who only have contempt for us and our way of life.
  • I wonder why the Somalians don’t just go home when all their life, journeys, thoughts, language -and work in general – is in Somalia.
  • Yes, I wonder what the hell 16 943 Somalians are even doing in Denmark.
Yours Faithfully

Søren Espersen

One from the Vaults: Subscribing to Feminism

I wrote this four years ago and I still believe it! I guess that means I’m a grown up now, that I’m not overwhelmed with embarrassment at the shit I wrote in the past.

Some of the trouble with feminism is what it is called.
It sounds a lot like “hey, we’re the women and we’ve come here to install a matriarchal society! pip pip!”
The first women’s movement in my culture was called “Universal Suffrage” if my history lessons serve. The name is a lot more “equal ops” because it does not promote women over men, just says “hey, equal rights!”
But when universal suffrage was ticked off the “how women are worse off than men” score card, there was still more to do.

Feminists could be called anything and maybe it would be better if they were called something more inclusive but they aren’t and I don’t think a rebrand at this stage is a good idea.

If they changed it to “humanist” even though that’s, like, already taken… people would say “hey, what makes you different from feminists” and they would be like “nothing, we just rebranded because we like men”
(or more accurately “we just rebranded because we were sick of men saying ‘but what about the men!'”)

Even though feminism is about human rights, it is about how females have fewer human rights and would like some more. It is not really about the human rights of men because usually they have them unless they are really unlucky, disabled, old, poor or dark skinned. And then we’re onto different equality movements.
Sexism against men does happen and the movement against that is called feminism. Or it is when I do it.

Essentially, I don’t like semantics. I think it is a waste of time. I would quite like people to quit killing women for wanting to choose a husband and also I would like to have hairy legs and to feel comfortable within myself at the same time. If we are going to call these aims “feminism” or “nazism” or “capitalism” I am on board. I am not really thinking about the headline.

Maybe instead of having Privilege Olympics when people try to work out who is the most disenfranchised out of black people, women, disabled people, poor people, fat people and the gays; someone (me?) should suggest a movement called Equalitists. Where crack teams of the middle classes go around enforcing equality by running badly attended marches, forming committees which fall out within three meetings and making buttons/signs/tshirts.
Oh and blogging about it.

Once the Women’s Group at my uni released balloons to remember important women. You got to take a balloon and write the name of your heroine onto the label.
They made a big thing of women writing “MY MUM”. But what they should have made a big thing out of was how essentially crap that gesture was.
Great, so we have polluted South Wales, used up irreplaceable helium and made women feel guilty for not knowing any famous women heroes.
Meanwhile, where the fuck is the rest of my pay?

I am so getting kicked out of feminism.

The Next Great Depression

Everything seems to be functioning as normal. People going to work, seeing their families, eating and sleeping. I am anxious though: cracks that appeared in the world economy in 2008 are not healing, they are getting worse.

I am a child of a recession in the 1990s, so I feel like I should know better than to cry that the end times are upon us. We will probably be fine. They can print some more money and we will most likely pull ourselves from the brink.

In Denmark, it is all going wrong. Once a Scandinavian Socialist Paradise, it is now a place of high income tax and medium-to-low-to-none corporate tax with poor public services. The workers are being asked to put in more hours for the same pay. Some workplaces are relocating to cheaper countries. The heavily state subsidised public services are undergoing massive cuts which leads to a major reduction in quality.

In the UK, a civil servant leaked the plan to transfer the state’s debt into the personal accounts of everyone in the country. The way they would do it: reduce services so that individuals must make up the shortfall. Hey Presto! Debt dissolves into the bank balances of everyone else. It was leaked and almost no one cared because hardly anyone understood.

In the US, massive tax breaks have been awarded to the richest whilst debt is being redistributed to those with middle incomes.

Capitalists continue to crash economies like Greece’s with sleight of hand and bad faith.

Some people are getting incredibly rich and the people in charge are too greedy or too whipped to do anything about it.

I have read and seen several great arguments for what to do, including several pleas from the rich to be taxed more fairly, in line with everyone else.

Does no one know their history? Imperialism and income inequality never goes very well for those on top. Peasant revolts, guerrilla warfare, revolutions and uprisings. If the rich do not sort themselves out, it will end very badly for them.

This is an occupation, the people at the top do not belong to our countries. They do not pay our taxes. We pay tribute to them. We keep them there on top out of fear and habit.

There are probably hundreds of potential Che Guevaras out there, ready to take up the cause and it is going to be a blood bath if even one of them gets hold of the popular imagination. It is so avoidable.

There have also been leaders who suggested pacifist solutions to such problems. One such leader still has many adherents, people who say they believe in peace and follow his message of sharing. Despite his failure to overthrow his occupation, they say they believe that his message was true and worth following thousands of years later.

The Church’s abject failure to address the financial crisis is stark evidence of its corruption. All they want to talk about is who is having sex with whom. Jesus’ only message about sexual conduct was ordering hypocrites to put down their rocks and stop the execution of an adulteress. What did Jesus do when he saw people unfairly making money from financial transactions? He fucked some shit up, is what he did.

The fact that the Church does not occupy the banks shows how far they have come from the original message and how little they have learned. It’s not just the Christian churches to blame, all the established religions are twisting the messages of their prophets and leaders for the same end. They rely on the supernatural, freaky-deaky stuff because you can baffle the most people with it. They ignore the very basic messages of courtesy, equality and respect. They even ignore some of the excellent economic advice.

If there were a God, surely we have lost our novelty. Certainly our charm.

In many nations, the “religious” are tightening their grip around everyone’s reproductive organs whilst allowing the transnational imperial forces to take what they want. The personal consequences for me are less and lighter than in other countries but it is the same bait and switch. Attack our reproductive rights whilst taking wealth away from us. And to have the gall to blame it on Mohammed or Jesus or whoever! How fucking dare they?

So, this is what will happen. A leader will emerge. (We just love waiting for someone else to come and free us.) Maybe they will be a guerrilla like Che or maybe they will be peaceful like Gandhi if we are so very lucky. And they will help us out of our fix and then they will be killed. And then we will forget everything they had to say and go back to focusing on who is having sex with whom. We are the worst.

Danish Mainstream Culture is Quite Racist

Discuss.

I mean, I can think of a lot of examples which highlight that Danish mainstream culture is quite racist and have written about them at length.

So, let’s have a heated debate. Do you readers out there think that Denmark is quite racist in the mainstream? Or is it just little pockets? Can one say “It’s not racism in this country to do x”, if anyone has been offended by it? Is it just individuals making mistakes and not indicative of the culture as a whole?

Strictly no derailments!

Examples include personal attacks and the following:-

1) America/the UK/every other country is the same/worse

2) That’s not racist! You’re overly sensitive/can’t take a joke.

3) Shut up and go home.

Like my main man Lao Tzu says:-

“A great nation is like a great man:
When he makes a mistake, he realizes it.
Having realized it, he admits it.
Having admitted it, he corrects it.
He considers those who point out his faults
as his most benevolent teachers.
He thinks of his enemy
as the shadow that he himself casts.”

If someone is telling you that you have shat the bed, you probably don’t say

1) Other people (e.g. babies) shit in their beds all the time

2) I was joking when I shat the bed/it’s my culture to defecate here

3) Get out of my bedroom if you don’t like shitty beds!

But rather: please tell me more about developing my voluntary nocturnal anal continence.

Let’s do that here. (But for racism and not recumbent bowel evacuation. )

News Translation: Mads Christensen Interview

Now the English speaking world has started to become aware of what Mads Christensen said. Great.

The point wasn’t that his stupid “jokes” were damaging or offensive or injurious. Just that Dell were stupid as hell for booking him and mega-cowardly for not turning off the mike when he started his schtick.

Unfortunately, people have come out in support of him with “He’s just the Danish Stephen Colbert!” OMG, I fucking wish. He is more like the Danish… who was the last American to say “some black people do look like monkeys” again? He’s the Danish version of that. Omar Marzouk is Denmark’s closest equivalent to Colbert, in that he says edgy things to get people to think.

Christensen is not even Denmark’s equivalent of Sasha Baron Cohen. My boy Sasha is MOCKING the people who humour him. He is making fun of narrow minded and priggish attitudes. Mads Christensen is glorifying them. If you take a look at this interview, you can see where he manages to dig himself a lot deeper in an attempt to apologise. No one was in any doubt that he was trying to joke, it’s just that what he said wasn’t that funny and didn’t work on any level.

This was written in the tech magazine Comon, and as far as I know, is the only public comment Christensen has given (though it’s possible he gave more interviews). More to come, eh, Mads! Eh? Eh?

Women have to shut up. Children should have weapons. And we should screw unconscious bitches. 

“Blaggard” Mads Christensen apologised for his controversial contribution to the Dell conference. “It is satire and humour, don’t take me seriously.”

By Kasper Villum Jensen

 18th April 2012

Mads Christen has cast the computer company Dell in an unfortunate light by recommending that the branch’s men teach their little boys to say “shut your face, bitch” at a conference yesterday.

At the same occasion, the 800 male (and 40 female), participants were urged to keep the IT-industry free of women because according to Mads Christensen, it’s the last bastion that his gender has left.

The words stood in very poor contrast to the growing work done to encourage more women to choose the IT-industry. Both Mads Christensen and Dell are apologising now for how his show was received.

“I’m awfully sorry if anyone took my words too seriously. I bear no ill will for anyone and especially not women. So, I’m sorry if Dell is going to get badwill because of this. These were not their words.”

He is also annoyed that the sentence has been translated to “shut the fuck up, bitch,” in an English post which made the sentence “shut your face, bitch” seem a lot sharper than it was intended.

Give weapons to 10 year olds

“If someone is looking for a fight and takes one sentence out of  15 minutes without looking at the context or the mood of the room, you could imagine that I am a psychopath.”

“When I use the expression “shut your face, bitch”, it came out of a piece that, in my opinion, is dripping with satire and humour. In my opinion, this is a piece of standup comedy,” said Mads Christensen and added that he also got a lot of positive feedback on his presentation and never has before received criticism for similar shows.

“I used some very caricatured and massively overdriven images. I started talking about Cro-Magnon man. About how things were in the right order in those days and that men could bash their woman in the head and screw her while she was unconscious. I really hope no one takes that seriously. It’s a caricature.

“I also talked yesterday about inventions, when I said all the good inventions were by men. For example, aquaducts, the alphabet, telegraphs, light bulbs, Sony Playstation and the anthracite-coloured alloy wheels. When I named the Playstation and anthracite-coloured alloy wheels in that connection, I thought it was very obvious it was a joke. I know well enough that it wasn’t the world’s best joke. I recognise that now.”

Q:Have you yourself taught your son to say “shut your face, bitch”?

“What I said yesterday was that you should do your son a favour and give him a moped for his 10th birthday. So, I continued to say that he should also get an indoor rifle when he’s 10. Obviously he shouldn’t. It speaks for itself.
“The third thing I said was that you should teach him to say “shut up bitch”. Of course he can’t run around the whole time saying that but only when it is necessary for him to stick his heels in and believe me, his future wife will thank me for that,” said Mads Christensen with regards to his favourite topic of current men that in his view have run themselves into a siding.   

I kick men in the pants

“It’s now been suggested that I am a male chauvinist, a sexist and that I want women back in the kitchen but if you hear the story to the end, you see it’s about a loser. This is a man who got a clip around the ear.”

He thinks that all the trends and signs point to women storming ahead and men being on the way to the coal cellar and he gives that development and its reasons a comic treatment.

Q: But you don’t think your sort of presentation negatively shapes the debate?

“I think that to a great degree, I break the stereotypes and try to illuminate them with a smile, so we can smile a little bit at them and smile a bit at each other. I think we need that. So, in my own light-hearted way, I believe I have done the debate a favour.

“I was hired by Dell to keep the momentum, after Michael Dell left the stage. They were perhaps afraid that the energy would leave the room, and so I was hired to come with a cheeky contribution. But if you’re not into my style, so I bring a lot of firewood to the bonfire. I know that. But it was also a humorous attempt to keep the momentum.

“I know that “Rytteriet” was there later in the evening and talked about that there should be more au pairs in the IT industry so there would be more to screw. That’s not anything anyone should take seriously either because we know it’s satire. Maybe it’s because I don’t wear a costume that people think I’m being serious.”

A Realisation

Jim: Do you know what I was thinking?

Selena: You were thinking that you’ll never hear another piece of original music, ever again. You’ll never read a book that hasn’t already been written or see a film that hasn’t already been shot.

Jim: Um, that’s what you were thinking.

-28 days later

I was just thinking. I really enjoy finding fresh new voices. I love hearing a new perspective, learning something about which I have no knowledge, having a familiar concept taken apart. I like it when I hear something I agree with best of all (obviously!) but I also like hearing things I do not agree with. If the argument is made particularly well, it might even be enough to change my mind. Or at least confirm why I am right about everything.

Recently, I have been reading a lot more about abroad. My home country, other English speaking countries, countries that I do not have much in common with. I have even been reading about the past. Maya Angelou surprised me. I thought I was going to read something like The Color Purple all over again and it just wasn’t like that! She said things I had no idea had been said all those years before I was born. Good writing and good discussion changes the circuitry in your brain, it makes you think differently. I think that feeling of discovery feels extraordinarily good.

I just realised. I have lived in Denmark for four years almost and I have heard every original thing about Denmark that exists and will ever exist. I had the realisation whilst reading some comments (that I happened to agree with), on a news website by some Swede I do not know. And I was nodding and agreeing and feeling good. But then I was thinking “I must know this person because she is saying EXACTLY what I think!” Uhhh. No. She’s saying exactly what I think because there are maximum 12 points of view here, so law of averages sort of dictates that I will bump into ideas exactly like mine.

Conversations about Denmark are circular whoever you talk to. If you talk to the militantly pro-Denmark people, it’s one set of conversations. If you talk to the militantly against-Denmark people, it’s another. If you talk to newbies, it’s another set of topics. If you talk to Danes, it’s another one again. The people in the middle, take from all those categories.

There is nothing more to hear.

Jante. Taxes. Welfare state. Rudeness. Institutionalisation. Bikes. Design. Attachment disorder. Racism. Irony/satire (misunderstanding the meaning of). Integration. Poor spacial awareness. Mohammed Cartoons. Language barriers. Free speech. The workplace. The right wing politics. The new left wing politics. THE GODDAMNED WEATHER.

I have heard it all before. No one is going to burst onto the scene with some fresh new beats the kids can dance to. I remember getting really excited when a new foreigner opened a blog and it was AMAZING, fresh insights, clever takes on things… and then they got settled and stopped posting. If they do say anything, it’s about what they had for dinner or about sweet cultural differences that I already knew about. (This has happened so many times, if you are thinking I mean you, it is possible but I might be talking about a half dozen other people and not you at all, so you will literally never know. No, you’re right, I was talking about you. Where do you blog again? Oh yeah! Yeah, you count too.) This goes for grumpy bastard bloggers like me and more cautiously optimistic bloggers like the majority. The fount runneth dry.

So, I generate my own content, in the fervent hope that some new thinking will pop up and instead, I get arguments offered to me that I have heard before. I honestly do not mind when Danish enthusiasts take up the cause but I feel like that Greek dude vs the Hydra. Except there aren’t two new heads growing back, it’s just the same one. Over and over. It’s got so fucking predictable, I am able to place refutations to common arguments  before I press publish. When I read someone else on the internet NOT covering themselves for “worse in North Korea” or “you’re just negative”; I cringe. Then the zombie commenters come out, biting and moaning. We are all going through the motions. I can refute common logical fallacies in my frigging sleep now and that has been achieved through hours of grinding. When a friend made a bullshit bingo card, it took a day of brainstorming and is instantly recognisable even to newcomers.

The same goes for the people I hang out with (who I love because they’re my people), but we say the same shit every day. Same thoughts, same reactions. Nothing changes here, so neither do our reactions.

Honestly, I am bored. I am bored with hearing how it would be the same in another country. I am bored of hearing how it would be worse somewhere else. I am bored of hearing about Denmark’s failures. There’s NEVER any progress, there’s never change, so it’s the same failures on a constant repeat.

The only two solutions open to me are moving away or trying to change things. Neither of those things are exactly easy on any scale.

News Translation: Controversy!

What strikes me here is

  1. If you’re going to call something “so dire it should be closed”, you need to make sure your thesis is airtight. You cannot fudge the figures because if your survey is exaggerated, no one is going to believe your fieldwork observations and even if you had a point, it’s GAME OVER. So, PhD candidates: raise your game!
  2. You should always go after the figures first! The Bupl chairman was saying stuff like “the study isn’t big enough” two weeks ago, when he could have been saying “there are NOT 40 000 people working in nurseries unless you count the cleaners, so…” and he could have blown this out of the water.

Debate on nurseries built on wrong figures

Taken from information

-Danish nurseries are so dire that a large number them ought to be closed, was the conclusion given by PhD-candidate Ole Hansen from DPU, Aarhus University, which sparked debate two weeks ago.

His PhD thesis documented “shocking relationships in many nurseries” based on video footage, 8000 observations in nine nurseries in the Greater Copenhagen area and questionnaires to 40 000 daycare workers across the country.

But the figures are now turning out to be greatly exaggerated.

According to the daycare worker Union Bupl, they made the questionnaire with the PhD candidate and the questionnaires were given to 5000 daycare workers.

Of those, 1300 answered and of those only came from 400 nurseries. The rest work in integrated institution so in principle may also be kindergarten workers. No matter what, it’s far from the 40 000.

Dion Sommer, a professor of psychology at Aarhus University has seen the questionnaire study and is amazed at how little documentation there is for such a bombastic claims of state neglect.

“This is the thinnest scientific study I have seen. It consists of just 12 questions and that’s not meaty enough,” said Dion Sommer.

Together with 13 other daycare worker experts, he has written an open letter in today’s Information which challenges Ole Henrik Hansen’s conclusions.

“There are not even 40 000 nursery daycare workers in Denmark but only about 11-12000”, estimates Bupl. Therefore the chairman Henning Pedersen also wondered if it really could be their study that was referenced.

“I have wondered about the numbers that have abounded about the 40 000 daycare workers. I couldn’t understand where they came from,” he said.

40 000 is instead the total number of positions in the nurseries and integrated institutions that also have older children. It therefore includes leadership, kitchen and cleaners.

Expat Dinners

Expat in Denmark, the governmental organisation set up to keep highly-valued immigrants in the country, have been running expat-dinners for a couple of years now. The idea is that you can meet Danes socially, make friends and then with a newly gained social life; feel less isolated in Denmark and go on to stay until your contract is up and not a moment before!

I wrote about it when it was new and this is what I said:-

{wiggly flashback lines}

The information pack I received had a crash course (in English) of dinner table manners, what to talk about at the table, gift etiquette and so forth. It is as if the people writing it thought they were writing for aliens.

[…]

There was also an admonishment in the advert email for the scheme:

“There’s still time to sign up to Expat Dinners, or suggest that a friend does so. There is no point, no point at all, in wondering why it’s hard to meet Danes and then not taking the chance when they make an effort to do so. All the details are below, so no excuses!”

[..]

And I got matched! MATCHED! With a *gentlemen* in a town one hour by public transport. Fine. So, I emailed him “How do you want to organise this?” (Hoping he would say “Let’s meet in a public place actually, we’re both single and this set up isn’t that safe”)

Can you guess the punchline? He did not reply. What this organisation did not appreciate when it wrote its passive aggressive “don’t blame us when it is YOUR laziness which is at fault” message is that this is what happens EVERY time.

The next one is this Thursday. It’s no longer in private houses but in libraries as a sort of potluck affair. The idea is the same, to get Danes and “expats” together so they make friends. How lovely!

Now, my Danish is much better and I have looked at what they say to the Danes and what they say to the “expats” and there are differences! Let’s have a look!

Conversation Tips and Topics

Danes love to chat, and as many of you will have noticed in daily life, they can also be quite direct in their conversational approach. Be aware of irony and sarcasm, and keep
conversation positive, humorous, and light. Also remember to compliment and praise
before complaining, and only complain/criticise if invited to do so.
Usually it is a good idea to avoid business, religion and politics unless you know each other well, and are comfortable discussing sensitive topics, or topics of dispute.

Topic suggestions:

  • The weather (!)
  • Infrastructure (public transport, biking, navigation tips, etc.)
  • Vacation – where have you been, where would you like to go?
  • Cultural similarities
  • Cooking / Gastronomy
  • Humour (what’s funny?)
  • How do Danes meet Expats, and vice versa?
  • Kids and schooling (if applicable)

Most importantly – get to know each other, and have fun!

c.f.

Basically it’s a good idea to avoid topics like religion, politics unless you know each other really well. Be careful with irony, it is a very Danish phenomenon and is often misunderstood. Furthermore, it is a good idea to stay away from taboos and historical conflicts.

Hot topics:
• Weather (!)
• Infrastructure (Public transport, cycling, etc.)
• Vacation – Where have you been, where would you like to go?
• Pets
• Cultural similarities
• Cooking
• Humor (Danish humor and what’s funny?)
• How Danes meet Expats and vice versa?
• Children and School

Most importantly, get to know each other and have fun!

Spot the difference?

Did you notice how the foreigner needed warning that the Danes are direct, ironic and sarcastic (or “rude” for the cultural-absolutists out there), without any explanation of what “irony” is, while the Danes are warned that foreigners do not understand irony because it is a very Danish and oft misunderstood phenomenon.

Did you enjoy how the Danes were not warned that foreigners often complain/criticise and make conversations negative and heavy while the foreigners were advised to cut that shit out, for heaven’s sakes?

Now, you know me, I don’t like to generalise but if you grabbed Zog from the southern hemisphere of Aldebaran Gamma and told him “Just make small talk,” he wouldn’t suddenly start a conversation about the shameful occupation of the beautiful snow moon of Deneb 3 by the cruel and terrible Washiballasta ice people or begin a debate about the ethics of castrating fifth gender individuals from the planet Kallagosh. He would almost certainly talk about his pet space aardvark or the beauty of triple sunsets.

The list seems redundant to me. Have Danes never met strangers from other countries  without giving offence? It seems to me Expat in Denmark holds a dim view of both Danes and “expats”: The first group keep fucking things up by being offensive while the second keeps fucking things up by being negative. Well, that’s just lovely, isn’t it?

In my opinion, the first group actually keep fucking things up by not showing any interest in meeting foreigners. The ones who are interested, are usually fine. (Even if their use of irony is awkward and clumsy in their second language). The second group are usually terribly positive and determined to make things work when they show up to networking events like this. The negativity sets in after a long while, it’s not the default state of the foreign worker. If I had to pick something, I think they probably keep fucking things up by not being terribly interested in talking about frikkadeller and summer homes.

If I had written it,  I would give the Danes this advice:-

“Be interested in the other person and what they have to say. Listen to their life stories and ask open questions about them instead of ‘yes/no’ questions. Don’t assume you know anything about them because you have heard of their country. ASK!”

For the foreigner

“If you meet a Dane you click with, get your diary out and schedule a follow up meeting with them ON THE SPOT. Any vague offer of “coming over for dinner sometime” must be formalised or it will never happen.”

Why Does Denmark Need Foreigners?

Of course, there are those that would say “Denmark does NOT need foreigners” but those people usually have recent French, Dutch or German ancestry. They almost certainly have Greek ancestry. So, let’s treat those people with the contempt they deserve, alright?

Foreigners come to Denmark for three main reasons. A job, a partner and fleeing persecution. The Danish establishment acts like it only wants the first group (and only on the proviso that they piss off back home before they get old or sick), but it needs the other two groups just as much. The Danish gene pool has been stagnating for too long. When you hear fuckwits pronounce Denmark as “homogenous” (they are fuckwits because it’s not true and anyone with a library card can find that out), stagnation goes hand in hand with that. Genetic stagnation leads to dangerous situations like illnesses and so on. Denmark is a hotspot for diabetes and cancer. No one has adequately explained to me if this is environmental or hereditary. A lack of biodiversity cannot help, if you did this to beasts you would have to explain yourself to Societies for Protection of Animals.

Genetic stagnation is ended with the entrance of foreign spouses and refugees. What also ends is cultural stagnation. I am sure it is very reassuring to do things in the same way as your forefathers but this nostalgia is actually a recent invention. Christmas, for example, the most Danish of all the festivals, had its current rituals established only a few hundred years ago. And *shock horror* from different countries (Galilee/Roman Judea being one of the most obvious sources). Sankt Hans night (coming up in a few weeks, prepare yourself for the breathless blogs), is German but originally they were not burning a witch at all but evil spirits. It changed. Everything changes.

Some Danes like to think that raising a dannebrog and singing Evangelical Lutheran hymns is as Danish as it gets, timeless and immutable; but the old Danish flag was of a rook (in honour of Odin) and Vikings had to be shown magic tricks to convert to Christianity. Not to mention, the hymns were penned in the 1800s. Not to mention, Denmark used to be Catholic until the Reformation.

Why don’t Danes still worship Odin? And drink mead out of horns? And die of typhoid? Because those cultural markers are no longer important. They abandoned them for things that suited them better. Like every culture does. It is like that EVERYWHERE, is where I am going with this.

The arrival of American spouses, Somali refugees and everyone else makes for a richer cultural inheritance. This is as true for food as for art as for “takes” on the world. Denmark needs these people or it will disappear up its own bum like a sick ourbourous, mistaking recent innovations in family traditions for something that needs to be defended to the death or lose something essential about the national character.

If I could make a criticism of the film Hvidstengruppen, it would be that they seemed to be fighting for “Danishness”, so idiots watch it and are persuaded that those people DIED for Danishness. We must preserve 1940s Danishness at all costs or risk spitting on their graves, they splutter. The tag line of the movie had it “Some die so that others may live” but the film did not really go there at all.  I expect that the Danish resistance to the German occupation had less to do with the very abstract idea of “I want Denmark to be Danish”; it probably was more about the unaccountability of the German forces which led to cruelty, discrimination and neglect. People knew about death camps and the fate of Jews, trade unionists, homosexuals, gypsies, black people and so on. That tends to prey on the mind.

No one dies so they can dance around a Christmas tree, I’m sorry but they don’t, they risk death because they are afraid their daughter might get raped or that their son might not be able to get a job or their entire livelihood might be on the line. Fuck me, even Allo Allo was able to get that message across. René, Michelle, Mimi and everyone weren’t interested in “Frenchness”, they just wanted a nice life. (Ditto for the majority of the German characters, which is what made ‘Allo Allo’ a king amongst sitcoms)

The Danish state has very recently relaxed entry and residency requirements as it now recognises the economic benefits of foreigners.

Why are foreigners such an economic boon to Denmark? At first I thought it was the difference in educational systems. Foreign trained experts have been given much deeper insights into their subjects and have been given more independence than even very high level Danish students. Also, Danish students are studying things that Denmark does not need. Denmark needs high technology experts to design pieces of kit or pharmaceuticals to sell around the world. Danish students are opting for other subjects, so these companies must always look abroad.

I am reading a fascinating book on creativity called Imagine by Jonah Lehrer, and I am starting to wonder if Danish culture is to blame for the Danish problem of needing foreign workers in high technology posts. (Fun fact:  Many nations have similar problems.)

High technology firms need creativity in a very high degree. They need mastery of a subject (and I am still not convinced a Danish trained student is getting that opportunity) and they need fresh insights.

Apparently, what can fuel deeper and better insights is foreign travel. Seeing new cultures and new ways of doing things makes the mind more flexible to possibilities.

Now, it is reasonably common for Danes to spend a year abroad. But I keep meeting Danes who had their year out in the UK or the USA. Places where the culture can seem the same as in Denmark for a long time, maybe up to a year. And then these benefits are only possible if you bend your mind to a new understanding in your new environment. The account of the Dane abroad, bringing their own ryebread and staying in Danish hotels, does not allow for much cultural understanding of the unfamiliar country. (I am somewhat of an expert of this phenomenon, my people are total dicks when they visit other countries “Little Englanders” we call them. Ugh.)

Having a foreign spouse or a friend from Pakistan might confer similar benefits (someone go do that experiment and come back, plox). But enjoying holidays in the same country, in the same house, with the same culture all around you and no difference or diversity… it stunts your mind.

What can also feed creativity are chance encounters. Denmark desperately needs a thing called “the third space” (1st: home, 2nd: work, 3rd: none of the above), where people can meet at random. Conversations with strangers, with acquaintances and with friends are what keep us going. It is what sparks new thoughts and gives us new possibilities. Denmark does not really have “third spaces”, there are bars and restaurants but they are not used in order to meet people by chance. This only happens in pick-up nightclubs and the only thing these encounters seem to create are unplanned pregnancies and divorce petitions.

The only exception I can think of is the much-lauded Sports Club. But even so, interactions are hardly random and by chance. You go to your row club every Thursday, you are going to see your rowing buddies every Thursday. You only get to see the people you planned to see.

Denmark needs some chaos. Some randomness. It needs to mix it up a little. For too many Danes, it is the same old faces and the same old routines. If you get a job in Denmark, it is likely because you already know someone at your workplace and they recommended you. With that system, fresh blood is rarely found, those organisations stick to the same comfortable routines.

When this was working for them, of course, they did not see it needed to change. But they need creativity now. They need insights. They need foreigners because many foreigners bring this chaotic “third space” principle with them and foreigners are bending their minds to suit Danish culture.

If the Danishness puritans really wanted to keep multiculture out whilst still remaining competitive in the global economy; they could do much worse than sending their students out for immersive gap years in diverse foreign cultures whilst trying to nurture a “cafe culture” or something similar where Danes can meet at random and experience the possibilities that brings with it.

Else, they need foreigners and they need them now.