Freedom of the Press

These two videos really sum it up for me. In the UK, politicians are just as fucking incompetent, mendacious and power mad as the ones in Denmark. The difference is, the media try to hold them to account. Heads roll occasionally, which keeps the rest on their toes.

First video: The Government of the UK has made several unpopular decisions, only to make U-turns (which makes them look incompetent). The man in charge of the money, George Osborne, sent a junior minister to be interviewed and the journalist rips her to shreds. She is gracious and calm under extreme questioning. And why? Because the Government are SCARED of the Press and the Press have freedom.
I must admit I cringe at how Paxman talks to Smith but if the fear of this sort of roasting keeps my government honest, then long may it continue.

Second video: It’s an oldie. Sorry it’s in Danish and I cannot be bothered to make subtitles. The tone of voice and body language is very instructive.
Basically, what you are watching is what happens after a journalist asked essentially the same question about the details of a plan involving private hospitals. The minister does not know the answers. He is keen to go home because it is Christmas and he loses his patience.

He swears at the journalist, he makes threats (‘don’t think you will get to interview ME again’ style), he throws insults, he shouts and the main thrust of his “argument” is that the journalist should have checked the questions with the spin doctor so he would have had more time to prepare. The journalist looks worried and tries to calm the politician down.

Nothing happened to the politician, there were a few Hitler Downfall memes and a couple of remixes of his rant but he did not have to step down and indeed a lot of people supported his unprofessional outburst.

Seeing the Good and the Shangri La Principle

Seems like I am running a constant battle with people who do not want to engage with my points and instead would like to discuss my character.

A friend of a friend posted to Twitter about a scandalous situation in the UK where people who have jobs are still living in poverty because minimum wage jobs do not keep body and soul together. This is some major fucked up shit, I totally agree. The sticking point for me, was that she said “This would never happen in Denmark!”

Now. I know plenty of working people living in poverty in Denmark but plural of anecdote is not evidence and why would I say “But my friend Inger and her husband Bill are living in poverty!”? The conversation ends with “They are an exception,” (to the rule something “never would happen” but fine)

The main point that the working conditions in Denmark are pretty good does still stand. The Danish workforce has a pretty sweet set of rules: the hours are good, the pay is pretty okay and all that good stuff. But this is only if you are lucky enough to have a job.

Some people do not have a job and after a while the borough council tries to nudge them back into employment. They have counselling, workshops, team building and work placements. This is all pretty good, if there are jobs, right? You get your confidence and skills built up and then you get a job. Hurrah!

Except, like in a lot of countries (the UK included), the work placements are often in real companies. If this was an overlong interview process, I would be fine with it. A week or two, working in a shop and then getting a job at the end of it? Fine. Instead, just like the UK, the work placements are for months and there is no guarantee you will get a job at the end of it.

I quit my gym because they seemed to be entirely staffed by people on placements. I’m sorry, but what the fuck was I paying for? Not cleaning, the place was filthy. Not maintenance, the machines were broken. And not staff, that was coming out of my tax bill.

Instead of being all anecdotal in this woman’s face, I showed her some news translations of how the borough councils force people to have medical treatment, against medical advice just so they have “tried everything”. Sure, you might not have working poverty but the boroughs can force the unemployed into poverty if they don’t want electroconvulsive therapy.  Instead of reading what I sent, she assumed I was saying Danish health care sucks. And when I clarified she tried to break my argument down into two possibilities.

“Are you saying:-

1) The UK is better than Denmark

2) Denmark isn’t perfect?”

No other possibilities given. I gave her my third possibility, what I was trying to tell her.

3) Denmark’s problems do not make up for the good things, for example work/life balance or living wage.

Then, and this was a bit shitty of her, I don’t mind her hearing it from me, she said “I am sorry YOUR EXPERIENCES are so bad. I am sorry Denmark IS TREATING YOU badly” (emphasis mine).

So, when UK employers do x,y and z; then the UK is “bad”. When the Danish state do p,q and r; then it’s just “my experience”? That is pretty shitty.

I understand where she is coming from, I totally do. There is a breed of lefty liberal yoghurt knitting person who NEEDS Scandinavia. Like, totally needs it. If they hear any criticism of the way things are done in any of their favourite Scandinavian countries, they defend it with “Obviously it’s not PERFECT, where is?” or “That’s sad YOU had a bad time.” I know this because I was the exact same lefty liberal yoghurt knitter and I buttressed by idea of Scandy paradises with the exact same shitty arguments. I expect I could have the same argument now about Sweden or Norway because I need them to be better, now I have discovered the truth about Denmark.

My personal experiences in Denmark, by the way, are pretty top notch. I do have some problems at work and occasionally in public, but no one is forcing me to work for free in a gym, no one is insisting I have electroconvulsive therapy, no one is spying on me to check I’m not lying, no one is offering me a vacuum robot instead of household help, no one is kidnapping my infant child, no one is accusing me of being a bad parent, no one is refusing me life saving treatment because they don’t want to admit their hospital can’t do it, no one is attacking me and dragging me away from people I care about because it would be cheaper to put me in a halfway home for alcoholics, no one is stereotyping me as a tax cheat because 1.5% of people from my community are.

I’m alright, Jack.

If you have a friend or some family in Denmark, and they are white European, chances are they are also having top notch experiences here. They won’t tell you about the crushing loneliness. They won’t tell you about the time they weren’t entirely sure if someone was being racist against them or if they were having a bad day. They won’t tell you these niggling things and so their reported experiences will be positive.

The unhappy foreigners are usually being actively treated badly by this country but also are able to read the news. They hear about the scandals and PING they realise that Denmark’s faults do not make up for the good stuff. Which makes them very unhappy because they NEED Denmark.

Meanwhile, I seem to make a lot of people unhappy because I refuse to “see the good” and I go around being “bitter”. These people believe that Denmark’s problems are less than the good things going on here, and if I would only report on the good things, then my blog would be “objective”. They think because I do not discuss the good things, then I am unaware that they exist. How childlike some people are!

There are some good things about Denmark. The work/life balance is good. The rate of pay is okay. The lack of commercialism is refreshing.  The respect for childhood is lovely.

BUT. The work/life balance is being eroded. The cost of living is too high. Commercialism is limited but every Danish household does still have their own “keeping up with the Joneses” battle. Children are emotionally stunted by their institutionalisation and child abusers are left to their own devices.

Do you see? I do realise there are good points. But they are NOT good enough and they are more than cancelled out by what goes on.

Seems to me, the only way to maintain good mental health in Denmark is to bovinely accept that you will never change anything and so ignore the “negative” news stores. Let the State get away with how it treats people and have nothing to do with trying to improve things. Accept the bad things and minimise them in your head, so you can enjoy the good things. If bad things directly happen to you, then rationalise them away with fairy stories about how bad things directly happen to people everywhere. (Instead of fighting for your rights like you would have done “everywhere” else) And then aggressively attack anyone with a desire to make things better. Call them names, insist it is just in their head, tell them to go home, tell them other countries are similar or worse.

This is no way to live and I refuse to do so.

I know a handful of people who can juggle the day-to-day grind of living in Denmark and staying mentally healthy and I have no idea how they do it. Vitamin Wine, is my guess.

am trying to find a way out of this country because it obviously does not want me here. But it takes a lot of compromise and planning. Only complete pricks up and leave a contract with a school mid term. I have to sort out a lot of things before I can go. And it’s not just me, there are other people to consider.

At first I wanted a perfect country and then when I saw Denmark could never be so, then I just wanted a liveable country. Now, I can see I could never survive long term here, I need to find somewhere that will hear me suggest improvements or vent about frustrations without getting all bent out of shape.

I’m only half joking

I wrote this in June 2009, about ten months fresh off the boat. I could tell I could get into a lot of trouble just writing this, not only with “NOT ALL DANES!!!”ers but also people who really struggle with autistic spectrum disorders, so I put it on my private blog.

You know what? Fuck it. If you are Danish and it doesn’t describe you, whoop de fucking doo. Go get yourself a cookie from the kitchen, you’re neurotypical. (But if in the kingdom of the blind, the one-eyed man is king; are neurotypicals equally blessed in the kingdom of the spectrum? It’s a puzzler)

If you have Asperger’s and think I might be doing some cheap disablism, I have Asperger’s and the majority of my friends and family are on the spectrum. So, no. I’m not.

The Symptoms of Asperger’s Syndrome

  •  Not pick up on social cues and may lack inborn social skills, such as being able to read others’ body language, start or maintain a conversation, and take turns talking. CHECK
  •  Dislike any changes in routines. VERY CHECK
  • Appear to lack empathy. VERY VERY CHECK
  • Be unable to recognize subtle differences in speech tone, pitch, and accent that alter the meaning of others’ speech. Thus, your child may not understand a joke or may take a sarcastic comment literally. Likewise, his or her speech may be flat and difficult to understand because it lacks tone, pitch, and accent. CHECK
  • Have a formal style of speaking that is advanced for his or her age. For example, the child may use the word “beckon” instead of “call” or the word “return” instead of “come back.” NO
  •  Avoid eye contact or stare at others. CHECK
  •  Have unusual facial expressions or postures. NO.
  • Be preoccupied with only one or few interests, which he or she may be very knowledgeable about. Many children with Asperger’s syndrome are overly interested in parts of a whole or in unusual activities, such as designing houses, drawing highly detailed scenes, or studying astronomy. They may show an unusual interest in certain topics such as snakes, names of stars, or dinosaurs.

Or “how well you are integrating”? CHECK

  • Talk a lot, usually about a favorite subject. One-sided conversations are common. Internal thoughts are often verbalized. CHECK for the one-sided, also the “thinking out-loud” “direct” stuff.
  • Have delayed motor development. Your child may be late in learning to use a fork or spoon, ride a bike, or catch a ball. He or she may have an awkward walk. Handwriting is often poor. VERY CHECK
  •  Have heightened sensitivity and become overstimulated by loud noises, lights, or strong tastes or textures. For more information about these symptoms, see sensory integration dysfunction. CHECK

And so you have it, Denmark has been diagnosed with ASD by me, a woman without a degree in psychology who has not met every single Danish person ever.

It is not all bad news though:

Asperger’s syndrome is a lifelong condition, although it tends to stabilize over time, and improvements are often seen. Adults usually obtain a better understanding of their own strengths and weaknesses. They are able to learn social skills and how to read others’ social cues. Many people with Asperger’s syndrome marry and have children.

What do Jyllands Posten want?

Jyllands Posten have started a campaign against Somalians. They have always been reactionary around the area of immigration and diversity. They sponsored a cartoon competition to see “Who can piss off the most Muslims?” and then went crying to the Prime Minister about free speech when it pissed off Muslims.

Recently, they have been making a big thing about the Somalians. They have published a bunch of articles about how they cheat on their taxes (250 Somalians cheated on their taxes. Number of Danes who cheated on their taxes: unknown), don’t try to fit in with the culture by keeping themselves to themselves (when “expats” only socialise with other “expats” or when Danes only socialise with other Danes, it’s fine) and some send money to warlords in Somalia.

Yes, 250 Somalians cheated on their taxes. Yes, some Somalians keep themselves to themselves and don’t interact much with many Danes. Yes, some Somalians have sent money that has ended up in the hands of terrorists. These things are true. But only for a certain value of true. No attempt is made to say “only a tiny minority of Somalians” or even “not all Somalians”. No attempt to draw unfavourable parallels with the criminal activity of the Danish background people. It’s all out racial stereotyping.

What do they want? Do they want racial tension? Do they want racial violence? Do they want citizens of Denmark with Somalian heritage to feel unwelcome? Do they want people who were born here to “go home to Somalia”?

I recently had a trip to the UK and I felt like a weight lifted off my shoulders. Part of it was I was in my own culture and could speak my own language. But most of it was that people were nice to me even after I opened my mouth. Being in Denmark is making me ill with anxiety attacks. And I’m not being stereotyped in the media as a cheat and a drain. And I can leave any time I want and have somewhere to go.

I cannot imagine what it is like to know that Denmark is my home, to have citizenship but never being welcome here. To be given stink eye in the street for looking different. In the event of poor treatment, never knowing if it was just bad customer service or racism. In every conversation with Danes, having to justify my existence by showing what a good immigrant I am.

This campaign is distasteful and evil. Jyllands Posten are up to shenanigans and the consequences will be violence, mental illness and further discrimination.

Is that what they want?

Næstved Kommune

Politiken are doing a good job covering the news story that broke in the local news a few months ago about Amy Rebecca Steen, an eleven year old girl removed very violently from a foster family (who were happy to let her stay for as long as she wanted).

In Politiken’s research, they have uncovered some really quite disturbing details on the case and it makes the local borough in general and Per B Christensen in particular look monstrous.

Amy’s story started in an orphanage in Ethiopia (her mother is alive but she could not take care of her). She was brought with one of her sisters by a Danish family to be adopted in Denmark. It looks like the family had no support and had not been properly checked because she reported she and her sister were being beaten and asked to be taken away. Her sister is still with this family, as far as I can make out.

She was placed with foster carers and even though she has problems because of her previous emotional neglect, she was thriving. The uncertainty though of being with emergency foster carers was too much and she was starting to get mentally ill. She was really worried she might be put in an orphanage/group home situation and so the family asked the borough to come up with a permanent arrangement. They were happy to have her.

The borough council decided to put her in a group home. Per B Christensen said the following:-

“Her problems are too much for a foster family to handle.

She needs to be placed with professionals who can distance themselves emotionally.”

Bear in mind, psychologists are saying that’s exactly what she doesn’t need in their professional opinion. (Because it is emotional neglect and it will scar her beyond repair.)

That Per B Christensen can say of an 11 year old child who has been traumatised by rejection and physical abuse that what she really needs is to be brought up by strangers who will never love her shows how inhuman Per B Christensen is. How dare Per B Christensen? How DARE he dress up saving money as meeting a vulnerable child’s needs? What sort of man is Per B Christensen? I don’t know if Per B Christensen has children or nieces/nephews but I sincerely doubt that if any of them were traumatised before their teens that he would recommend that they be institutionalised because their needs were too great.

The borough council have also banned Amy from seeing her sister and the foster parents she was thriving with. This is sheer vindictiveness.

The only people she is allowed to see are the people who abused her and put her in this position. I say “allowed”, it’s more like “forced”. If a child has disclosed abuse allegations, the last thing you do is take away their choices and force them to spend time with their abusers.

What you do, Næstved Kommune, is investigate the allegations. You take out all the children and you make a full and thorough report. You do not act like the allegations are false and frivolous. You do not continue abusing the child. You do not punish the child with institutionalisation and separation from loved ones. You do not punish the adults who were looking out for her by accusing THEM of child abuse.

This is basic humanity 101, Næstved Kommune.