News translation: Insider-killings will continue in Afghanistan

This is in the Danish news on Politiken but nowhere on the British news. The British news (especially, the Guardian), have been covering a lot on Afghanistan recently, so it is a bit weird. Maybe they didn’t have it translated yet.

Anyway, the British minister got up in front of Parliament a few days ago and said that there would be no change of strategy. Actually, hang on, I’ll copy and paste exactly what he said from the Independent because it is critical you understand what he said on 17th September.

“Our servicemen and women are doing vital work protecting the UK from the threat of international terrorism.

“Our strategy is clear – we are mentoring and training the Afghan army and police to deliver security to their own people…

The Taliban hate this strategy and seek to wreck it through insider attacks.

“They aim to disrupt the collaboration with Afghan forces which is at the heart of our strategy. We cannot and we will not allow the process to be derailed.”

Mr Hammond said the partnership with the Afghan security forces “involved risk but it is essential to success”.

Notice how it’s the “Taliban” behind the green-on-blue attacks, when the “approved” line in August was “25% are Taliban attacks, 75% are when an Afghan soldier is so pissed off by an ISAF soldier(s), all they can think about is murdering them.”

The very next day, 18th September, ISAF (Nato forces in Afghanistan), banned joint patrols below the battalion level.

19th September they released the following:-

ISAF remains absolutely committed to partnering with, training, advising and assisting our ANSF counterparts. The ISAF SFA model is focused at the battalion level and above, with exceptions approved by senior commanders. Partnering occurs at all levels, from Platoon to Corps. This has not changed.

In response to elevated threat levels resulting from the “Innocence of Muslims” video, ISAF has taken some prudent, but temporary, measures to reduce our profile and vulnerability to civil disturbances or insider attacks. This means that in some local instances, operational tempo has been reduced, or force protection has been increased. These actions balance the tension of the recent video with force protection, while maintaining the momentum of the campaign.

Ok, so I’m pretty sure George Orwell was condemning the use of double speak in his novel but here we can see Nato using it as a model for communication. Translation into single speak:-

“We’re not sending soldiers out with the Afghans in smaller groups than 400 unless absolutely fucking necessary. This is because the Afghans keep shooting ISAF soldiers. Here is a “reason” why we are doing it today and not when the uptick began.”

(9th September, before the film went viral, the green-on-blue killings were at 45, already smashing the previous year’s record of 35. It is now 51, twenty days later.)

Ok, so politicians and generals lie. That is hardly breaking news. They know if they tell the truth, there is not a population on the planet that would support the war. They also know that our collective attention span is small like a gnat. We consume news like entertainment. “Oh, chocolate rations have gone up, well that’s something.”

I am not some saint just because I started paying attention. I only care because I have someone out there. Which is sick considering how many people have been maimed and killed, all because I did not lift a finger to put political pressure on the politicians to stop this YEARS AGO.

Here is the Danish article from 20th September. It’s pretty weird to translate back into English, why isn’t the original transcript anywhere? He made this speech 9 days ago.

Last weekend, an Afghan policeman killed two British soldiers in Afghanistan.

The attacks are the latest in a wave of so-called “insider attacks” where Afghan soliders or police officers kill their foreign colleagues.

According to the British defence minister, Philip Hammond, who visited his Danish counterpart Nick Hækkerup (S) in the last few days, there is a part the Nato forces can play in avoiding attacks.

And the weekend’s attacks call for reflection for what we can do differently.

Danger signals are clear

“It’s easy to have 20/20 hindsight but the danger signals were clear. In hindsight we can see that there was an unknown person who came in to the base. The attack was not carried out by the group of Afghans who were on the base at the time,” said Philip Hammond.

He thinks that ISAF soldiers ought to work primarily with a fixed group of Afghan soldiers for a longer amount of time.

“The problems typically start when ISAF soldiers come into contact with groups of Afghan soldiers on an ad hoc basis,” said Hammond.

The British defence minister also underline that both the Afghan forces and ISAF already had tightened security. For instance, the Afghan soldiers are  checked an extra time when they come home from leave and more intelligence officers are there.

“I don’t want to sit here and say that we can stop insider attacks totally. That would be a great challenge in a country where the culture is like that, that conflicts are solved by the use of force,” said Philip Hammond (translator insert: the man in charge of solving conflicts overseas with force, yeah, it’s totally cultural to use force to get what you want.)

“It’s not only about ideological motives or rebellion. It’s also a reflection of the culture in the country. But I think that we will be able to reduce the number of attacks significantly.”

51 international soldiers killed in insider attacks this year

Hammond recognises that the Afghan security forces obviously will continue to experience internal attacks when ISAF forces leave Afghanistan.

There are far more cases where Afghan soldiers are killed by their Afghan colleagues than the cases where a NATO solider is a victim.

“We have to accept that it’s their country and after we leave, they will do things in a different way,” he said.

According to the BBC, 51 international soldiers lost their lives in insider attacks this year so far. Last year, 35 were killed in the whole year.

Interesting how his line has changed from “The Taliban have a dastardly plan” to “these savages are just murderous culturally” and “we ought to know the local soldiers better so that units cannot be infiltrated.”

Rugbrød isn’t all that healthy

I just read the anthropological report about a kindergarten teacher called “Louise” and her class. “Louise” has been told by her boss to promote healthy eating but “Louise” does not understand what constitutes healthy food. “Louise” has no background in nutrition at all but she is the most dangerous type of ignorant person. She does not know she is ignorant.

For example, she bans fruit juice and fruit yoghurt for being “unhealthy” but pronounces cookies “dessert”. She also has a major blindspot with regards to the possibilities of healthy eating if you come from another country. Only one type of sandwich is seen as “healthy”, everything else is “really unhealthy”. Unless you are white, of course, in which case, eat what you like. She ignores that some white kids in her class do not eat fruit or vegetables.

Her racism comes off of her in waves. But it’s that subtle type of racism, that unconscious form, where you just take it to be true that certain groups are backwards and stupid and need your guidance to become civilised. It’s just taken as read. You haven’t examined it, you haven’t agonised over it, you just assume it.

Anyway. She is dead wrong about rugbrød being “healthy”.

Now, don’t get me wrong, it’s not “unhealthy”, few foods are in moderation. But rugbrød contains far too much salt, so it’s health rating is not A+, as Louise believes, but rather B-.

A passing score, for sure, but nothing to be excited about. Add high salt toppings like sandwich meat or paté, and you have a sandwich which should only be given as an occasional treat.

White pita bread, which is seen as pitiable in her classroom and something the children believe is not allowed because it contains “fat” is ALSO a B-

Do you see, Louises of Denmark, white pita bread and dark rugbrød are exactly equivalent in terms of health. They are a part of a well balanced diet. But if your child does not like pita bread or does not like rugbrød, it is perfectly fine to find an alternative.

A healthy lunch box is a lunch box that contains healthy food that will be eaten. It’s no good to go to extremes:- either only food that is popular with your child but contains little in the way of nutrition or food that you know is very nutritious that your child cannot stand.

Pita bread and rugbrød are in the middle of these extremes. They are reasonably healthy but not the healthiest thing you can put in your child’s lunchbox. If your child does not enjoy eating one or both types of this bread, then it will do them no harm to give them something else in the way of complex carbohydrates.


I was just in Føtex and I had some dishwashing tablets and I joined the queue and the man turned round and looked at me. And then turned again, and said

“You should go ahead of me, you have only one thing.”

And I said, “Oh, no thanks but that’s nice.”

And then when it was his turn to go, he turned round again and said

“No, I can’t make you wait behind me when you’ve only got one thing.”

So I thanked him and called him “flink” and isn’t that lovely?

Then, I was in the bookstore and in a queue situation and a lady stood to the side of me, looking like she wanted to start a double-queue and I thought “easy come, easy go” but when the lady said “Who is next?” she turned her head and said “I think she was.” ABOUT ME!

Two random acts of thoughtfulness and kindness! Fuck yeah!

If it ain’t about you…

My boyfriend bought a tv and arranged for cable to be hooked up to it. So, now I have tv and cable. One of the new features is a bit like iplayer but for DR, where you can watch popular Danish tv programmes whenever you want. Imagine the possibilities!

One series you can watch is called Verdens Bedste (The World’s Best) and is about the culture of Denmark, seen through outsiders’ eyes. It is introduced thusly (I may be paraphrasing, I didn’t transcribe and I caught it a few days ago):

“Welcome to Verdens Bedste where we talk to people living in the world’s best country.”

The episode I caught was about how well Danes take criticism.

They had a Hungarian who had been in Denmark for a million years and a Norwegian who spoke Norwegian but I don’t know if that means he was fresh off the boat or just bloody minded. He got subtitles but the people he was talking to didn’t seem to need them.

Anyway. The Hungarian said “Danes are great at taking criticism as part of a community debate. You can argue and criticise as much as you like in situations such as elections but as soon as they are removed from others, they cannot take it. You cannot as much as say ‘I think your interior decorating could be improved in the following ways’ without causing a major international incident.” (alright, I’m REALLY paraphrasing now)

The Norwegian said “I think also they can’t take it when it comes from a foreigner….for reasons that will be forgotten by the blogger reporting on this episode.”

And then even though it was interesting, I stopped watching it because the Dane interviewing them looked more and more uncomfortable like he was going to explode and I couldn’t watch anymore. It was awkward-funny like in The Office. I know I will return to the episode another time. I know I will.

I know it is true, what they are saying. There are plenty of Danes who will listen calmly and reasonably to any level of constructive criticism and even to baseless whining. They will listen, they may agree, they may disagree. But there is a school of thought that goes

“Shut up shut up shut up. Lalalala. I’m not listening!”

Obviously, I am used to fielding such responses from these mindless gonks. I now have the “pleasure” of watching the same conversations play out on repeat on other sites, not least the Copenhagen Post. (An opinion piece that went viral about a study showing a pedagogue being racist to children under the cover of “healthy eating” advice has been attacked by dandroidic numbnuts.)

There are maybe a dozen main thrusts of “argument” in the case where the mothership has been insulted.

1) You are biased (when you express an opinion. I am objective when I do the same.)

2) You should be grateful. (For all that DK has given you)

3) It is worse in any number of countries

4) Other things, unmentioned by you, are worse in YOUR country. HA!

5) You don’t know all the facts, you are selectively reporting the facts you do know

6) You are anonymous, this invalidates what you have to say/I know something about you which invalidates what you have to say

7) No one is forcing you to stay in the country. Leave

8) You have got the intentions of the person/people you are talking about wrong, I, without any extra knowledge of the situation (e.g. being that actual person), have got the intentions of the person right

9) It has to be that way because of reasons. Oh you want to KNOW what the reasons are? Um. Well they just exist.

Ok, I can’t make it to a dozen. I am sure I am missing some classics.

What is the worst thing about Denmark, and bear in mind I have been poisoned with mercury, shouted at by a sarcastic doctor during a medical emergency and it is PISSING it down and has been all day and is going to all week, the worst thing about living here are these depressing arguments.

What is more depressing, so this is building up like some sort of layer cake now, is that the people who use these arguments are upset. If someone says something like “A study showed a pedagogue was racist all year,” you do NOT (note the capitals, those are for emphasis), take it personally. Unless  you are the racist pedagogue, obvs. If someone says, “I don’t like it when people imply I am retarded because I speak Danish with an accent,” you must NOT get all riled up and tell them to move countries. If someone says, “It is distressing that Denmark deports children without their parents,” it’s NOT the time to point fingers because your face is starting to get hot and you want the other person to feel defensive too.

Fuck ME, dandroids. Get some better material, you losers! Seriously. It’s like these people had their brains wiped and replaced with some bullshit generator. And CALM DOWN, no one is saying YOU are a penis. They are saying someone in your country is a penis. No one is saying that YOU are racist. They are saying your system is racist.

Yes, I know, there are some fucking idiots in my country and they are derivative and unoriginal. But at least they’re not in positions of responsibility. That sort are nicely siphoned off into areas where they can cause the least amount of harm, like message boards. But in Denmark, for every five wankers I “meet” online, I meet one in real life and when it happens seems to be totally at random. It could be a friend of a friend. It could be a colleague. It could be … no, wait, those are pretty much the only Danes I meet who fit this bill. So. They’re from one of those two areas.

The reason I am with my boyfriend, even though he forced me to get a tv, is that when he is wrong he is also original and/or he has thought about what he is going to say. We rarely agree on anything when we have a debate but I value that he has a brain and he uses it. He is also respectful of difference and does not go for any cheap shots.

That is all we are asking, Dandroids, that you listen, have a think and then respond with respect even if it hurt your iddy biddy feelings that someone did not like every single thing about your countwy.

A question of perception

I got into a discussion at work about what I would like to do next year. I do not really know what I will do next year. I would like to move to a big city and have a nice teaching job. Though which city, which teaching job… that is all up in the air.

I made the point that I would need to find a really good job to justify staying in Denmark and went on to elaborate that I “hate it here”*, so having a horrible job on top of that would be too much.

Obviously, this led us down the alley of “Why do you hate it here?” but before this was established, he said
“If you hate it, you should leave.”

I replied that I would like to, in fact, I made plans to do so two years ago but getting with a Danish boyfriend spoiled it. He asked me what had kept me in the country if I did not like it. And I said that I really liked my job and I wanted to be with my boyfriend.

Then he wanted some concrete examples of what I did not like about Denmark but I must point out, that he was looking defensive and angry *at this stage*.

I gave him a quick précis, Disgruntled Foreigner 101. Discourtesy in shops/the street, rudeness from Danes in one-to-one situations, racism, being “invisible” in social situations and my social life effectively ending when I got here. I stressed it was not all Danes but these bad interactions are random and unpredictable which makes it difficult to relax.

First he asked me “what do YOU do when Danes are not speaking to you?” I told him that I do speak to them but they go on ignoring me and reminded him of the Knitting Club Incident of 2009. “Have you got any Danish friends?” I told him that I have three. (I actually have four if you count my boyfriend.) I told him that I went on holiday for a month and made that many friends, in other foreign countries.

Secondly, he tried to tell me that the rudeness and racism I was experiencing was not rudeness or racism. He tried to tell me I had interpreted it all wrong. I told him that I gave the rude Danish people the benefit of the doubt for 18 months and then realised that the rude ones are in fact rude. I told him that I refused to dismiss The Danes as savages and say that they cannot help it, that being racist/rude is somehow cultural and excusable. Plus, even in the case where racism affects me but it was not meant as an attack, it was just a clumsy ignorant person acting on their base instincts:- it still affects me! I guess I forgive them their trespasses but it still impinges on my quality of life, even if I find some way to rationalise how they behaved.

I said that that sort of “doubt your own perception of events” was another part of the problem, that foreigners are often told they are wrong, they have seen rudeness where none exists. And that this was not very helpful. I know what is going on. I admitted that more than occasionally, it is hard to confirm:- was that person a dick generally (and to everyone), or did I get “special” treatment. But against that backdrop, if you are getting treated like shit semi-regularly, does it matter if it was “personal” or not? It still feels shitty, right?

I reminded him of the mercury spill at work that is only now, two years later, being dealt with. I told him how that made me feel like I was not safe. That since work and my doctor had not been concerned with a major chemical spill, that my physical safety was in jeopardy.

He told me that I should leave if I felt that way, again. I said that I wanted to but I have a boyfriend here who would like to finish his education.

He asked in a very frustrated manner “Is there ANYTHING you like about Denmark?”

I answered, “I suppose the beaches are nice?” Shit man, like, sure there are good things about Denmark but they are not *specific* to Denmark. I could find many of the advantages of Denmark in Sweden, France, Germany, the UK (etc etc) and a completely different set of disadvantages.

He said “I think you are generalising.”

And I drew closer and I said really softly.

“Listen to me. I am not. I am really really not. I am saying a minority of Danes are like that and it is ENOUGH to make me want to leave. A minority are like that. The majority are probably ok. But of course, I notice the bad ones more because they are up in my business.”

“You are generalising about that minority.”

“Uh. Ok. I am quite happy to generalise about the minority that I have met who have treated me badly… I am categorically not saying all Danes. Some Danes. Enough Danes.”

Then he said “I think you are being very direct and very honest about your feelings.”

“Yeah, I’ve really integrated.”

He did not laugh even though I did. And then he said,

“I think you need to persuade your boyfriend to leave, if you hate here and go. You shouldn’t stay here if you do not like it.”

I replied that he should take it up with my boyfriend.

I told a couple of Danish colleagues about the conversation. One said “WHO THE FUCK DOES HE THINK HE IS? How DARE he tell you what to do!” Another said “How can he say YOUR EXPERIENCE is wrong? I mean, shit, I might move to the UK and think ‘What a terrible country!’ for exactly the same reasons and it doesn’t make the UK a *bad place*, it’s just my experience of it. It’s YOUR experience! He can’t tell you that you are wrong about something like that.” I said that I know foreigners who like it here, so obviously it is not all Danes. “Yeah, of course it isn’t. But that doesn’t invalidate your experience.”

If you needed more “they’re not all like that” proof, I went to my doctor and he said

“You know there are loads of English speakers in this town, right? I don’t suppose it’s easy to make friends if you speak Danish as a second language. Would you like me to give them your number?” so giving “foreign in Denmark” as a symptom really paid off!

And, of course, there are my three Danish friends who are awesome, kind and friendly. On top of that, there are a few Danish acquaintances who are the same. So, I do get that they are not all like that. I do understand they are diverse. (Not only do I understand it but I said it repeatedly.)

However, that does not improve my feelings about meeting bad-danes who interfere with my natural good cheer. Knowing a few dozen nice Danes personally, it doesn’t help when someone is rude or tries racism on me.

I told my boyfriend over the phone about the conversation and he laughed. It is funny. Sort of. No, actually, it is all the way funny. That a general conversation about how a culture is not a good match for my temperament was taken so personally, that is laughable. That a conversation about how people in parties treat me could make someone (who has never treated me badly), feel angry at me for having my feelings hurt, that is funny.

A man tried to jump the queue in Føtex (maybe he didn’t see there was a queue but he sure as hell didn’t turn his head the 45˚ necessary to check) and I patted his arm and said, there’s a queue, I’m in it. And he said “Oh, it’s like THAT is it?” and I said “Yes. That’s right,” and smiled and that was the end of the discussion.

Which only goes to show how much I have levelled up in four years.


*I probably don’t “hate it here”, I probably mostly “dislike it here”. But yeah.  It varies from hate to very-mild-dissatisfaction.

I thought this was interesting.


Briton Ben Anderson is a documentary filmmaker (the BBC, HBO, the Discovery Channel), but he turns to the written word in No Worse Enemy: The Inside Story of the Chaotic Struggle for Afghanistan. The book offers a gritty – and grim — assessment of the war.

Anderson embedded with U.S. and British troops for months in the southern part of the country from 2007 to 2011. He details corruption, incompetence, fear — by both allied troops and Afghan civilians — and a Groundhog Day kind of existence., where a battle fought for days has to be fought again, later. Most distressingly, he argues that the American and British publics are getting a misleading picture of progress on the ground. Battleland conducted this email chat with Anderson last weekend.

Why did you write No Worse Enemy: The Inside Story of the Chaotic Struggle for Afghanistan?

I’d been travelling to…

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Saw Kapringen last night at the local cinema. I very much recommend it. Good acting, good pacing, good story. Also, there’s a story line that revolves around arrogance which I think rang very true. It’s a bit bleak but that’s okay, right? Half the cast of Borgen are in it. Pilou Asbæk is in it and he is really good. He acts his little socks off. One thing that I liked about the film particularly was how it did not pull back from presenting things as complicated. There are no easy answers served up, no good guys or bad guys. Just a lot of guys in shit situations they would rather not be.

My cinema had invited a special guest to introduce the film, Rasmus Tantholdt off TV2.

Now, I don’t know what I was expecting but I was surprised by how measured he was. He showed great (and deep), understanding of the complicated situation off the Somali coast, he’s a credit to his people!

One thing he talked about that I didn’t realise was that it is not governments who negotiate for hostages’ release, it is outside consultants. They charge a lot *per day*, so there’s no incentive to get people back quickly. Apparently, if you are going to get kidnapped, you should be kidnapped along with American citizens. This means you will get Navy Seals coming to get you.

He talked about the Danish Defence’s presence and how having warships in the area has reduced piracy but that it was very frustrating for sailors that the pirates had to be put on a boat back to the coast because there is no easy way of punishing them for their crimes (unless they commit them against Danes and then, if they ended up in Danish prisons, what would stop them from claiming asylum?)

He tackled some really quite childlike ideas from the crowd about “building prisons” so gently it was actually quite beautiful.

My town (for their part), laughed inappropriately at a couple of things in his talk. The first was when a Somali woman off the news said “Well, what are the pirates supposed to do, the foreigners have stolen all our fish” (He came back on that and said “She’s not necessarily wrong, there’s no coastguard and lots of countries did overfish and dump toxic waste there in the past.”), and the second was when he showed a photo of a couple of Danish hostages looking scared and filthy. Yeah, that’s hilarious(!) Human suffering, trololol. My town, man, my town.

Anyway, I recommend you see the film. A lot of the film in English but you might need to wait for subtitles if your Danish is nil-to-basic.

War. What is it good for?

Did I tell you my boyfriend is in Afghanistan?

To say I am conflicted is the understatement of the year. This is because of the nature of this war. It is not a “just war” and it never was. (We had to learn the definition at Catholic school). It was conceived by a corrupt government as part of their imperialist aims. It continues due to complicated, Greek tragedy-style reasons. People keep dying, over and over. People are badly injured on a regular basis. It is an immense clusterfuck and a total waste of humanity.

Yes, some of the Taliban are prime dicks. This I know to be true. But there are plenty of ways of reducing their power and sidestepping their evil that do not involve getting involved in a land war in Asia. These were not tried. And instead, the imperial forces joined with “The Northern Alliance” (remember them?), who were just as depraved as the Taliban. It was never about human rights. You know this is true because ISAF is leaving in 2014 and no one believes human rights will magically spring up between now and then. They plan to leave before this aim is in place and began the war by collaborating with a group of human rights haters.

If he dies out there, if he loses a limb out there; it would be for nothing. There’s no consolation in that he was trying to do something important or lasting. The best I can come up with is that he works hard to do a good job and I guess he sort of hopes to make the situation better in that country. Though he is quite realistic, so I think he knows his role is bailing out a boat with a teacup. (When there is no better solution, that’s better than nothing, I guess?) I’m rambling now, it’s really hard to find something to cling to in this situation.

Anyway, so it’s complicated and no one comes out looking good. I refused to go to a “next of kin meeting” partly because it would be in Danish all day on a Saturday but mostly because it might upset me with all the tubthumping, jingoistic trite nonsense that surrounds armies like a fug.

I read the document they gave us. There is one page of useful information (emergency phone numbers, how to post things, that’s it), a few pages of historical/geographical context and some information about the living conditions out in the camps.

There is also a document aimed at children. Maybe I should not be surprised but the information given is almost identical. Except the one for children has dolls, showing the children around the camps.

Today’s is about “patrols” and is touching on the idea of danger and what might be dangerous. The two dolls are discussing what a patrol is and the boy doll tells the girl doll that sometimes there are foot patrols, so the soldiers can talk to the Afghans.

Josefine: ”Hvorfor vil de tale med Afghanerne? Er det ikke dem, der skyder på soldaterne og lægger IED’ere (bomber) i jorden?”

Josefine: Why do they want to talk to Afghans? Aren’t they the ones who shoot at the soldiers and put IEDs (bombs), in the ground?

Alexander: ”Nej, da – der er mange afghanere, der er glade for at vi er her. De ved, at vi er her for at hjælpe dem – med bl.a. at fjerne dumme IED’ere.”

Alexander: “No, not quite, there are many Afghans who are glad we are here. They know that we are here to help them – with (amongst other things), removal of the stupid IEDs”

Josefine: ”Hvem er det så, der skyder efter soldaterne og lægger bomber ud?”

Josefine: “Who is it then who is shooting at the soldiers and planting the bombs?”

Alexander: ”Det er et godt spørgsmål! Jeg tror, det har noget at gøre med, at der er nogen, der gerne vil bestemme over de lokale Afghanere.”

Alexander: “That’s a good question! I think it’s got something to do with there are some who want to boss the local Afghans around.”

Josefine: ”Og vi hjælper dem, der ikke vil bestemmes over af de andre?”

Josefine: “And we’re helping those that don’t want to be bossed around by the others?”

Alexander: ”Ja, det kan man måske godt sige – men det er lidt svært. Nogle gange har jeg hørt nogen tale om nogle mennesker, der kaldes talibanere, andre gange taler man om oprørsstyrker – d.v.s. nogen ballademagere, som tror så meget på en sag, at alt andet kan være lige meget.”

Alexander: “Yeah, you could say that. But it’s a bit difficult. Sometimes I’ve heard about people called the Taliban and other times about rebels, that is to say troublemakers who believe in a cause so much that nothing else matters.”

Yes, children won’t “get” it. Yes, grey moral areas are difficult to write about, especially when you are putting words into the mouths of dolls. No, it’s probably not appropriate to tell a child that “the situation is a complete clusterfuck and literally everyone involved has lost.”

I have a particular problem with this conversation.

There are two types of Afghan. The first shoots, deploys improvised explosive devices and wants to boss “local” Afghans around. The second is grateful for ISAF, understands the need for their presence and is a “local” who does not want to be bossed around.

What about the Afghans who are scared of the soliders and scared of the “rebels”? What about the locals who were not on any particular side until they heard about Koran destruction/lost a nephew/or something like that and then joined the Taliban or the rebels or simply picked up a gun and started shooting all by themselves? Why are the “baddies” not considered local? Why are the “good” Afghans painted as grateful?

Yes,  I know, it’s for children and children are not good at abstract thought. They also might get distressed if presented with greys, even in an age appropriate, sensitive way.

But why does it have to be so jingoistic? Why is it SO oversimplified? A priest wrote it. A PRIEST.

Why not say

“Most Afghans are ligeglad about ISAF and just want to be left alone. They won’t plant bombs or shoot at your dad but they would rather have him go home, all the same. Because they are scared of him.”

Even if

“The people planting the bombs or shooting at soldiers think they are right. They think that they need to defend their country from being overtaken by foreigners and having their values destroyed. (Remember when farfar said the same thing at Christmas and mummy said he might have a point? These men are like farfar in a lot of ways. Of course, farfar wouldn’t plant a roadside bomb, so there are differences too.)

They think that your dad isn’t human. And you know what, your dad has been trained to think that they are not human, too.

The funny thing is, they are all human beings. And no one is looking for a solution that doesn’t involve dehumanisation and murder.

What a fucking mess, Josefine. What a mess.”

is probably a bit too much.


The Danish state often exclaim that foreigners do not like to stay in Denmark. As many of them are cash-cows, educated expensively abroad, paying top rate tax as soon as they arrive and leaving before they need a pension or a nursing home; the government would like to know how to keep them here for at least their five year contract.

Surveys, studies and initiatives are launched. Awful Danes line up to tell foreigners that “Danes are stand-offish and so you need to work harder to get them to like you” at integration events. They are paid money to do this. Money!

Every time they ask, the foreigners reply

  • My social life effectively ended as soon as I got here. I guess I have friends who are foreigners but that is bitterly disappointing because I could meet foreigners literally anywhere, I wanted to know DANES, I wanted to get to know DANISH CULTURE by having DANISH friends.
  • The immigration authorities are wicked, arbitrary and a law unto themselves. If confronted with it, Kafka would say ‘The Trial wasn’t an instruction manual, you guys’
Austrian Writer Franz Kafka
Seriously. I was saying it was LUDICROUS and CRUEL.
  • Your taxes are quite steep considering the benefits that I personally can obtain.
  • Cost of living is too high and the products you can get are below par.
  • You keep telling me I am not wanted. At parties. In the newspapers. In shops. In the street. You keep saying that my culture and linguistic heritage should be disregarded. You keep telling me that I should forget everything about my past and become Danish. Even when I do this, it is never quite good enough. My accent is too foreign. My use of knife and fork is different. I don’t particularly want to cycle in the snow. I think mashed up liver spread on black bread is disgusting. I like to drink moderately or not at all. And even if I go all in and do EVERYTHING you say. You still laugh at me when I make minor errors. Right in my little face. Plus you speak too fast and leave me out of everything which makes me feel really rejected.
  • Your schools are a bit shit. Your daycare is neglectful and dangerous. Your universities are not as good as they think they are.

Anyway. Those are the running themes and they have been since I got here and apparently have been since they started noticing foreigners were getting the hump and leaving.

One of the parties in the coalition government wanted to find out what the haps were and arranged a “workshop”. This workshop was to find out ONCE AND FOR ALL how to make the process of integration better for foreigners.

This workshop got wildly popular because a Danish journo married a Turk, was badly treated and wrote all about it, to cries of wounded outrage from his lefty confederates. The party said “Yay! We are being proactive here, we have a workshop already planned on just this question. Political point SCORE!” and then “You can’t all come, we’ve only got enough post-it notes for a few dozen.”

At the workshop, according to reports, the chair of the party made a brief speech in Danish (“because my English isn’t very good”), apologising (“because I know a lot of you have only just arrived”) and then explaining that the rest of the evening would be in English to the heckle from a man who runs an Immigrant rights organisation (well, actually, it’s a “Danes should continue to have Danish rights even if they marry a foreigner” organisation. Kartoffel/kartoffel)


I mean, Denmark.

This was not performance art. And this was not challenged by the chair. In fact, his “mening” was accommodated and the workshop was conducted bilingually, (which is fine, there’s plenty of foreigners who only speak Danish as their second language and no English), Danish first of course. Which was still not good enough for this shit for brains.

From the looks of things, the workshop was just lip service. A lot of “listening” and then nodding and then saying “This is quite a difficult problem, isn’t it?” and then going home.

I think it is hilarious that he reacted like that. I feel guilty for finding it funny because it is pretty serious.

The problem that most foreigners from all backgrounds have in common in Denmark is the angry demand to speak Danish fluently from the start. The lack of empathy. The lack of consideration.

Most countries, you need to speak the language or at least a lingua franca to get by. This can mean in countries where the official language is already a world language (France, Spain, the USA, China, the UK etc etc), you have no wiggle room. The main language is pretty much it. World languages, however, have all the good teaching resources. There are classes, there are books, there are podcasts, there are many many speakers with which you can practise. There’s a market for it, is what I’m saying. You can get rather good rather quickly.

Denmark has a problem in that many (most?) of the language centres are pisspoor, you won’t find the language taught in your country unless you go to university to study it specifically, the books are not very good and the Danish speakers you meet can be impatient or unpleasant when you try to practise. (Not all, some. But you never know which “some” And the nice ones can go too far the other way and make you feel self conscious with faint praise)

So, you get here and you try and try. And you find it difficult at first and then Danes make an orderly line so they can tell you

  1. Danish is the hardest language in the world, and
  2. Speak Danish fluently now or I’ll cut you.

That’s one of the problems that almost everyone has. Whether you work at Vestas or sought asylum (or indeed sought asylum and then got a job at Vestas). You are being exhorted to speak perfect Danish whilst being demoralised at every turn. Why would a temporary worker luksus-immigrant want to get fluent in Danish? Run that by me again. They are here for five years max, you oaf. If they can order a coffee, get off their backs. This is an extended sabbatical for them.

And it’s NOT the fucking hardest language in the world. It’s not even top 10 for English speakers. If you can learn English, you can learn frigging Danish. Honestly!

Technical question: How did he hope to hear what the issues for the newest immigrants are if everyone was confined to speaking Danish?

Critical Thinking

There are some good doctors in Denmark and I have met some of them. There are also some piss poor doctors in Denmark and I have met some of them too.

My body has been producing scary, painful symptoms for over a week and I have been trying to sort it out. The first specialist I saw said it could be two things. These two things might get better on their own but if they didn’t, I should come in again and we would see what he could do.

When they did not get better on their own, I tried to go back but his surgery was closed so I ended up in Kolding emergency department. I saw another specialist. She saw the same thing the first specialist saw but couldn’t interpret it, so she called for a senior doctor.

The senior doctor did not think the thing she saw was anything to be concerned with. When I brought up that the first specialist had said it WAS something to be worried about, she switched on me.

She got sarcastic and aggressive. I actually cannot get over how unpleasant and unprofessional she was. I have had a lot of shitty doctors, this isn’t in dispute. But none of them have verbally attacked me for asking questions.

There were factual problems with what she was saying. She made it horrifically clear she did not have a strong understanding of what she was seeing on the scans. She also gave indications she either didn’t understand normal functioning or she hoped I didn’t, so she could blind me with science.

She even yelled at me “I SUPPOSE I AM JUST A STUPID DOCTOR AM I?” and I said “I don’t think you are stupid. I think you are WRONG.” Do you see what the problem was? She took my advocating on my own behalf personally. She saw my statements like “I would not call a 1.3cm lump in that part of my body normal” as an attack on her professional competence. In my experience, people are only defensive when they have doubts along the same lines as the person criticising them. When a parent tells me they think my lesson planning or questioning could be better, I don’t react emotionally because I know they are dead wrong. If they zero-in on any of my weak areas, I am much more likely to be prickly.

The thing was, the senior doctor wanted to intimidate me into shutting up. What she wanted after saying “It is nothing, you are faking the pain, go home,” was a submissive nod of the head and me out of her life. Because the majority of the time, these things get better by themselves, so who cares if the stupid patient thought it was real or they had gone temporarily insane? If I hadn’t seen the first doctor, maybe it would have even worked. A shudder runs through me.

I asked her “Why did the first doc say it was xyz?” and she was about as rude about him as she could get away with.  I didn’t show her that I knew about how my body works because she was exactly the sort of doctor to blame knowledge for my symptoms. I have had a doctor blame a skin condition similar to eczema on the fact I studied astrophysics. This happened. (In the UK).

As she was leaving she said “Sometimes women have pain and we don’t know why. And we never find out why. And it goes away on its own. I wish I could give you an answer, it would make my life so much easier.” At last the truth. She could have said that at first and I would have respected her. But she only said it after screaming “DO YOU WANT SURGERY?!” at me. She only said it after saying “It’s nothing”. She only said it after saying “Your strong vagina is causing pain in your fallopian tube.” (How strong does she think that bad boy IS?)

But literally, the only way they could diagnose certain conditions (that the first doc had suspected), is surgery. Of course I don’t want surgery. Of course I don’t want an overnight stay in a hospital. But the thing I want least is EMERGENCY surgery and the loss of function in a part of my body.

Now, you know me, I like to pit Denmark against the UK. Like I said, there are shitty doctors in both countries and there are fantastic ones in both. Most doctors I come into contact with are okay. But this was something new. Getting yelled at, being on the receiving end of sarcasm, being treated like a naughty child… This has literally never happened to me in the UK. This is because doctors in the UK are used to awkward patients. I think they are even trained on it, they have mock interviews and the actor might be given the role of “patient with print outs from the internet”. They know how to handle someone who thinks they know more. I am okay with that, it can be frustrating when I genuinely know more about my rare condition than they do but it’s not life threatening and it is not traumatic.

I was traumatised by her treatment of me. I gave as good as I got but when I got home, I just cried and cried. Why couldn’t she have been kind? One of the things the first doctor had suggested was a dead embryo clogging up my tubes. The other was an abnormal cyst, damaging the tube. She took both of those options off the table but was not willing to discuss why. (I suspect because didn’t understand either of those possibilities.) She was not only unable to explain her medical judgement to me but she was also unable to handle being questioned. She felt personally attacked and she responded by being as aggressive as possible.

There are bad doctors in the UK but at least they are used to patients advocating for themselves and can respond professionally. I think it’s a big problem in Denmark that people are so trusting of “authority” because of course mistakes are made and people pay for them dearly. I think also having patients involved more actively pushes doctors to raise their game. If they know an awkward long skirt wearing Guardian reader is going to ask leading questions about fibromyalgia, they are going to be ready with answers. If they get used to patients meekly accepting their pronouncements, their pronouncements are naturally going to be more sloppy.

That said. There is no excuse for how she spoke to me. You simply do not verbally attack a patient. Let alone a patient who has been told she might be having a miscarriage or that a part of her body is being twisted until it breaks. You are gentle even if you need to be firm. You do not use sarcasm. You do not take things personally. You do not yell.

Those are the minimum requirements of a human, let alone a health care professional.