The one thing I was not prepared for when I moved here was the lack of arsey-ness from ordinary people. Back home, I was used to discussions ranging from social policy to tax collection and the conclusion would almost always be that the people in charge had no idea how to run the country, the other lot would be no better and what were you going to do?
Radiohead put it this way “pragmatism, not idealism. concerned. but powerless… like a pig in a cage. on antibiotics”. People in Britain do not like the way their country is being run, they know they have little chance of influencing it but it does not stop them complaining. Sometimes, for a few shining moments, people living in Britain get so pissed off that things DO change. These moments are few and far between but they are important. All that bitching and whining in the pub is for a purpose. It’s like that bit for a steam train while it huffs and puffs and then it’s ready and it moves along the track.
How could I have been prepared for what Denmark would be like? People here do bitch about things but the conclusion is never that their politicians are a bunch of corrupt assholes who have sold them out. It is never that “Guy Fawkes had the right idea”. If you get close to expressing the opinion, someone will say “well. we voted them in. we have to trust them.”
Where’s that written?
“Well, those are our laws. We have to obey them. There can be no exceptions.”
Uhh. What? No, that’s not what laws are. Laws are the rights you have agreed to compromise for the greater good and it is a fluid arrangement. Constant re-negotiation required, actually.
The thing is, in my country, we are basically lazy sods who cannot be bothered to run our affairs better. It would be complicated and boring. So, we let other people do it. When they get it badly wrong, we get annoyed and we let them know. Our laws and our politicians are there *for* us and it only gets really shit in my country when we forget that.
For instance, the politicians back home OBEYED the rules about how much money they could be paid by the State for various things. When you look at the receipts, they were not breaking laws, they were following the rules. But it was wrong. Wrong wrong wrong. So, they are going to pay it back. Ha.
For instance, a very unfair tax was brought in a few years back and people did riots (imagine that) and the tax was taken away. People did not pay the tax, grumble and hope it went away after a sustained letter writing campaign to the newspapers. People certainly did not trust the authorities to do the right thing.
Anyway. Denmark has a long and dirty history of deporting women who were brought here by abusive Danes and eventually ask for help. It does not matter if they are good people, if they have learned the language, if they have kids here or if they are just asking to be here long enough to complete the court case against the Dane… they are deported. Out of “fairness”.
And instead of people saying things like “that’s a fucking disgrace!” all you hear is “we voted for them, we have to trust them” or “those are our rules, they must apply to everyone.”
This is my message to all those ligegladers out there.
“Denmark. You do not have to trust the people you voted for. In fact, democracy functions a lot better if you oversee what they are doing and keep them accountable. You do not have to have rules which are unkind, compassion-less or evil. You can work out exceptions to them which mean the rules are still humane and therefore just.
“You do not need to accept cruel laws applied without moderation for the sake of “fairness”. Sure, you will not be able to change everything you do not like about your country but it is important that when things are seriously bad, you try.”
And the answer to “if you don’t like it, why don’t you leave?” this week is
“Think of me as a missionary, you need my help to show you how to act like human beings. As soon as my work is done, I’ll move on.”
But it will go back to “because I just bought a shit load of furniture from Ikea and cannot bear to part with it until I have forgotten how much it cost to have it delivered.” next week I promise.