Trouble in Paradise

In the last couple of weeks, I have been reading the handful of books that have come out in English about Denmark to cash in with the success of tv shows Forbrydelsen and Borgen. Two of these books were written by visitors or recent immigrants, so a lot of the text is repeating what they have heard. For example, Danish people like interior decorating because their daycares and schools are decorated nicely.

Danish classrooms
Danish classrooms
Typical classroom in Denmark
Typical classroom in Denmark

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


 

And I had to put the book down and breathe for a minute or two. Danish classrooms are functional, they get the job done… but beautiful? Who are these people feeding these quotes to foreigner journalists?

There are a lot of quotes like that out there. One chapter is about how Denmark has a wonderful welfare system because of the efforts of collective bargaining. And collective bargaining is so strong because of the efforts of Grundtvig, the 19th century school reformer. According to legend, his dream was to teach Danish people to think critically and ask the right questions in order to keep them safe from tyranny; a legacy that lives on even today.

Except. Not quite.

I can’t just upload a random picture from a few years ago to refute this, so I will have to take this part by part.

The history of the things that make Denmark attractive

In the late 1800s, there were strikes after lockouts after strikes. In 1899, a compromise was struck which ultimately ended in a system with maternity and paternity leave, sick pay, holiday pay and all the benefits that are lauded as Denmark doing things right.

This will have been a hard battle. These rights did not just appear just because Danes are so much better at democracy or seeing things realistically. People fought for these rights at great personal expense.

Whether you can credit Grundtvig’s ideas in those early stages, I do not know, I am no historian. But for the collective bargaining that was to come, having a general public that was educated in thinking critically will have helped.

Shut downs

Grundtvig’s aim is being actively frustrated right now and this threatens everything that those trade unionists 100 years ago were working for.

I read a book by an American woman about her experience at Christian college. Mostly what was taught were arguments to shut hard questions down.

In Danish schools, also, there is a similar movement but not for Christianity. Children are certainly taught to question but they are also taught the standard retorts to shut the question down when it gets too close to the bone.

These are (in no particular order)

  1. Even though Denmark is not perfect, it is still the best because some other countries are much worse
  2. Nowhere is perfect
  3. We have it pretty good here
  4. At least people are honest here
  5. We didn’t have any problems until outsiders spoiled everything

There are two interlocking reasons for the importance of these retorts.

Danishness as Religion

Firstly, Danishness has been elevated to the status of a religion. People do not feel Christian, they feel Danish. Questioning anything about Danishness is on the level with blasphemy. One housing association decides that an outside Christmas tree isn’t necessary for their community, the national media reports on it. One daycare facility decides that it’s just easier to serve vegetables, fish and chicken to their kids because they cater to kids with dietary restrictions, it is the end of the world because what happened to the pork? Some immigrant parents don’t come to twice annual meetings for all parents at their kid’s school, Danish parents pull their kids from the school even though there is nothing else wrong at the place.

Conviviality

The second reason is conviviality. It is important to always maintain conviviality. If one were to have a deep conversation, it might make someone uncomfortable or god forbid start an argument. Conflict must be avoided at all costs, so these arguments are stopped before they are started with the same old shibboleths. (An exception to this is when people are made uncomfortable by use of irony or politically incorrect statements, fuck conviviality in those circumstances)

If that is how you want to run a country, fill your boots. There are consequences. If you never have to ask hard questions or think deeply, your muscles atrophy.

I was sat in a large conference room with educated, politically active adult Danes. It became abundantly clear that while the majority were not exactly stupid, this lack of facility with difficult, conflict provoking concepts had disabled many of the participants in the discussion.

The course leader showed us a way of looking up information that is a matter of public record. One participant said “But why wouldn’t management just show you the accounts?” thinking this was a wonderful example of Danish humour, I turned to her, winked and said “Yeah, right(!) Good one.” She looked back blankly.

It just had not occurred to her that people often have things to hide. That people can be dishonest. That some serious Game of Thrones shit is going down most of the time.

Not being able to think of original arguments or look for hidden agendas has meant that the Danish government have been free to pull a fast one for a long time.

Worsening Conditions

All the things Guardian journalists like about Denmark are under attack. They are under attack for the same reasons they don’t exist (or are not as good), in countries like the UK: they make labour cost too much. They make the country unable to compete globally.

Danes have great parental leave benefits, great support during unemployment, holiday pay, decent wages and pensions. This is because Danish workers are not just grateful for having a job in the first place, they have unions that meet every couple of years with the employers and secure these rights.

But this is unsustainable, so the government has been weakening the unions for a while so they can do what they want. And no one has the ability to fight back.

They are able to complain about immigrants and their foreign ways. They are able to say how their country is one of the best. They are not able to see the way they are being tricked or how their services are being ruined in cost cutting measures. The things that make Denmark special are the very same that are being dismantled. Not enough people understand how powerful they are and how they could stop it. And for that, I blame the teachers.

Micro Aggressions and Stranger Danes

To preserve anonymity of the people I meet, I try not to tell stories that would give away individuals. I’ve had a few experiences in the last few weeks that I really wanted to talk about but there was no way to do so without invading the privacy of others.

I don’t know what happened but I suddenly had a flood of invitations to events where I would be an unaccompanied foreigner to a group of people that do not know me or each other. A wedding, a party, a training event, that sort of thing.

And I had to meet a LOT of stranger Danes.

Here is my Ideal Stranger Dane, of which I met maybe half a dozen at these events.

  • Starts out with a question or a comment not about where I come from
  • Talks to me about something interesting that we can both get stuck into
  • Finds things in common
  • Makes jokes/laughs at my jokes
  • Is patient with my mistakes in pronunciation/word order/correct word usage

Here are the things that are (more or less), involuntary that Stranger Danes sometimes do (and it gets on my nerves)

  • Shudders or pulls a face when they hear my accent
  • Keeps that expression on their face whenever I speak to them
  • Walks away/turns their back on me when I approach while they are on their own
  • Repeats everything I say back to me with a singy-songy voice as if teaching an infant how to speak
  • Does not return my smile (or if they do, it doesn’t touch their eyes)
  • Only makes eye contact when talking about crime
  • Looks pissed off when I say Danish is not actually that hard for an English speaker (the hard thing only being that it must be perfect or ELSE)
  • Looks super pissed off when I say I have been in Denmark for 6 years

Here are the things that are just thoughtless but are somewhat of a choice

  • Asks DURING Danish language conversations I am having with them, if I speak Danish
  • Asks after I have replied in the affirmative “But do you UNDERSTAND Danish?”
  • Tells me that I do not understand Danish, while I am listening
  • Goes on about how hard Danish must be for me
  • Only asks me about where I am from and why I came to Denmark
  • Ignores me after this information has been shared
  • Compares me pointedly with other people who are also learning Danish
  • Insists that if I have a problem with an activity it must be because of my shitty language skills
  • Tells me that I am not ‘integrating’ if I choose not to be ignored or patronised by choosing another activity or if everyone around me chooses to move away from me
  • Underestimates my intelligence vocally

There are plenty of foreigners who can handle this or do not notice it. But it gets to me after a while. Especially since, if I bring this up, some people will jump on me to tell me all this stuff happens because I am a fucking bitch who deserved it.

Well, it never happened in the UK and it never happened in France and it never happened in Germany. In the UK, I make friends super easily. In France and Germany, people are used to hearing their language being mauled and they’re cool with it. They just let you communicate and are more or less Ideal Strangers.

In Denmark, people are not used to hearing their language mangled and they have been infected with the idea that foreigners are bad. Our badness stems from not wanting to be part of the group and not learning the language to perfection. Look at Prince Henri, he’s pretty much reviled and his Danish is perfect… he just has a French accent. That’s enough for Danish people to think that he is a stuck up prick. That’s all it took.

Of course, none of the people who were less than Ideal were bad people. They are nice, decent, otherwise smart people. They just lack empathy, curiosity and self-awareness. So, those people didn’t get to find out about the things that we have in common or some awesome or interesting point of view that only I can share. They didn’t get to find out that I am funny. They didn’t get to hear what it is actually like to be foreign in their country. So. I guess I won that one?

 

One from the Vaults: The Buck Stops Where?

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Something prescient from 2011 about Venstre foreign policy hope you enjoy reading it again.

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And so, wearily, on to immigration.

As I noted previously, Venstre allowing certain people from certain “developed” countries to have an easier experience when they try to live here permanently with their Danish husband or wife throws up problems.

The Integration Minister (Søren Pind) said at the time in a newspaper column that he was “sick to death of equality mongers”.

The Press releases from the Integration Ministry are never translated into English. Highlights of a recent one saying how successful the current immigration policies are include “Denmark is internationally seen an example of good integration,” (which is demonstrably untrue, as international reports have noted Denmark is the worst at integration), and “Denmark is today more open to foreigners than ever before but now you come to Denmark to study and work, unlike earlier where you came for asylum or family reunification,”
and my personal favourite
“But at the same time I am in the process of modernising the Danish Immigration legislation, so that for example, now it will be easier to have family reunification with foreigners who come from countries which have a marked similarity with Denmark.”

If Søren “effing” Pind thinks that Japan, Canada, The USA and Australia are “markedly similar” to Denmark, then this guys problems are more serious than we think.
His grounds for choosing the countries that are on the favoured list have nothing to do with similarity with Denmark but are rather
1) No visa required to visit Denmark from their country
2) Member of OECD
3) At the top of the Human Development Index

Which includes South Korea and Israel for all three criteria. He never mentions them in his speeches.

The OECD is a club you can belong to if you like democracy and market economies. There are 34 countries in it, less than 30% are outside of Europe. The President of the OECD is Mexican. If he married a Dane, he would have to sit the language test to be allowed to stay in the country with her.
There are no African countries in the group. Only Japan, S Korea and Israel are from Asia. Only Chile and Mexico are from Central/South America.

The Human Development Index is a calculation made on the basis of life expectancy, education and income… A way of calculating if a country is “developing” or “developed”. Denmark comes 19th, behind all the other Scandinavian countries and, as I have noted, South Korea, Japan and Israel.
Making the cut of “Highly Developed Country” but behind Denmark are countries like Bahrain, Qatar, UEA, Barbados, Singapore and Brunei.
As they are not members of the OECD, these highly developed countries are not “similar” enough for Mr Pind.

Then the visa arrangements. How very strange that this would be requirement for saying a person was more able to integrate. Whether you need a visa or not to enter a country depends on if a visa has been negotiated with the country or not. “Similarity” is a very funny way of putting something like that.

Now, let’s just cut the crap for a second. If a Dane has fallen in love with someone from another country, surely the Dane should be the judge of whether she or he is “similar” enough to be romantically involved with. Why second guess them? Why say that similarity between cultures can only be judged on visa arrangements, a country’s membership of an arbitrary group AND the use of controversial development indicators?
He has enough courage to come out and say things that are not true, like Denmark is internationally recognised as a good place for integration but not enough courage to say that he only wants Danes to marry people from predominantly white, non-muslim, rich, democratic, market-forces led countries.

He has to couch it in terms that are understandable but not easily translated into plain English and spread far and wide. Dogwhistle politics, they call it. He uses the word “similar” to mean a certain thing and that thing is not about cultural values or ability to learn a language or will to integrate but rather a similarity on the most superficial of bases.

We have to watch this development carefully. He is saying that people from certain countries do not have to pass a stupid test to be allowed to stay with their Danish spouse today but tomorrow, he will almost certainly be saying those people should also be allowed welfare benefits like receiving health care without having to pay extra out of pocket.
This will be a way of ensuring that foreign wives of Danes only give birth on Danish soil if there is a good chance they are white. This is what is coming, everyone so try to act surprised when it happens.

This is the State’s Minister being questioned on the new rules that would make exceptions for people from certain countries.

His answers are instructive. Some highlights if I may…
Enhedslisten’s (the Red-Green party), Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen asked the Prime Minister of Denmark Lars Løkke Rasmussen, how is this remotely fair?

Why should an Argentinian man have to sit a test that a Japanese man does not have to? What objective reasons are there?

He tries not to answer it and just goes into some guff which reveals he wants it both ways, he wants tough immigration rules but he wants to be perceived as having an open society. (We want an open society, not a wide-open society)
Johanne gets to ask again and she says that she was not asking about the administration’s immigration policy but the concrete question of “how is that even fair?”

He tries to pass the buck to Søren Pind “because I am indeed not an expert at caseworker level here” (echoing his COP15 performance when he was trying to be chair and when he got it wrong “I am not familiar with the regulations in this system”)
He makes the general point that the thinking of the administration is to be as flexible as possible for those that have “integration potential”, who have “the will (to integrate?)”, who can… fit in our society.

Line Barfod asks the same question “What are the objective criteria that say that people from certain countries should be subject to different rules? What are the objective facts behind the Minister’s opinion that an Argentinian man cannot handle Denmark?”

He blusters, passes the buck to Søren Pind again, he says the grounds have something to do with the UN’s development index.

Lene clarifies that she does not require Lars to go into great masses of detail into individual cases, simply wants him to explain what the objective criteria are for his opinion that an Argentinian man will find it harder to manage Denmark and have a weaker desire learn Danish than a Japanese man. Why would an Argentinian man find learning Danish harder than a Japanese man?

He answers that the debate needs to be had. But later.

This is interesting. They picked “men” on purpose. They picked those countries on purpose.

Why they could not have said “Why would a woman from Pakistan find it harder to learn Danish than a woman from the USA?” goes to the heart of what this is about. They needed to find the most “ridiculous” case thrown up by this law. The case of two men from equally strange but equally non-muslim countries being treated very differently.

If they had brought up women from Islamic countries, there was always a risk he would say “Well, of COURSE, they will find it harder to integrate!” If they had brought up men and women from African countries, would he have made other ignorant observations?

Even if he did not say ignorant things, the Press would dutifully report the story in such a way that they did not need to be said. The prejudice in this country is that people from the US are more able to integrate than people from “Muslim” countries. What objective criteria is this based on? There is none.

Dogwhistle politics.

He claims that he wants to make it easier for those who can and want to integrate to come here. As there is no way of knowing who that is ahead of time, they have just decided to claim those from developed, democratic, rich countries are better at integration than those from “dissimilar” countries.

This would be a lot easier to talk about if they would reveal what integration is. Søren Pind said it was “assimilation”, becoming Danish and a bunch of American immigrants freaked out. They love being here, they said, but they do not want to BE Danish.

Is integration the ability to get a job? They already have a point system in play which allows those with educational backgrounds far in advance of the average Dane to settle here. If you have a PhD from a top 10 university but also come from a “dissimilar” country like Barbados or China, how will that impede job hunting?

If integration is about speaking Danish, then Prince Henrik (bless his heart), never really integrated properly into Danish society and he is FRENCH. As similar as you can get on these development criteria.
Plus, some of my friends are Americans in Denmark who cannot speak Danish. Even luksus Australian Gus does not speak fluent Danish. Meanwhile, all of the immigrants from “dissimilar countries” I know speak fluent Danish (fluent enough to get 12 in their 9th class Danish oral exam, some of them).

What do they mean by integration and why on earth would coming from a muslim, poor, non-democratic country preclude you from finding it easy?

Lars Løkke Rasmussen should have been hounded from office ages ago. He is incompetent, he passes the buck, his ministers make embarrassing mistakes, he presides over an administration which deliberately and accidentally misleads and he seems to be drunk most of the time.

The Danish Press leave him be. He is allowed to make such statements, answer questions in this way and get away with all manner of double-speak without being challenged.

The buck should stop with him but as he refuses to take on that responsibility, it must stop with the Press.

Talking Politics with New Danes

When I first arrived in Denmark, the first question from strangers was “What do you think of Denmark?”

In the first few months, I would answer “Um. It’s good? I like it?” and the Dane would be pleased.

During culture shock, I would answer “It has its ups and downs?” and the Dane would agree, as every other country in the world also does.

I’m rarely asked what I think now. But occasionally the conversation will get onto my impressions and thoughts on Danish culture. If I think the Dane can handle it, I talk about the off putting levels of racism. (If I think they can’t I do a “Danes negotiate crowds like THIS, foreigners negotiated crowds like THAT”)

To which the new Danish acquaintance always says

“Oh, the DF. They’re a fringe element. No one votes for them. Just the old and the peasants.”

(Just between 12 and 27% of the voters, ok)

But that’s not my point. The DF are the DF, every country needs a whack job party to say stupid things and get wildly popular amongst the mouth breathers. It wouldn’t be democracy without them.

My point is, plenty of mainstream politicians say things that are the stuff of fringe whack job parties back home. And not very much happens. Maybe some people get uncomfortable and some other people shoot back with a counterpoint but no one really confronts “Hey, maybe racism has got totally out of hand in this country…” (before anyone points out that ‘Islam isn’t a race’, she makes it clear she means people from Pakistan and Somalia and uses the dogwhistle phrase ‘non-western’. So this is very much a cultural racism situation.)

Inger Støjberg published, in time for Eid celebrations, and this is not a lie, the headline

 

Happy Eid to All Muslims

I’m not going to translate the whole thing, I’ve gone down that road before with Inge and she flaps her gums too much, she’s obviously trolling and I CANNOT TAKE IT ANYMORE. Here are some choice cuts.

“For me, the end of Ramadan is the perfect opportunity to do a status check of the challenges we as Danes face when it comes to the integration of the next biggest religious community in Denmark.”

“In short, it is primarily Muslim immigrants who do not like democracy and freedom. In some environments, they directly work against it.”

“I am very conscious of the whines from the politically correct, left wing and minority of Muslims who are good at debating. They will say that I am generalising and am trying to polarise the debate to make a ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentality. My viewpoint is the opposite, it is so rare that you hear Christians (or atheists for that matter), say that freedom of expression and democracy are the wrong foundation to build society on.”

[So rare. You never get nutjob churches wanting ban books, alternative sexual practices or other religions. There has never been an example of a country having democracy suspended by non-muslims. NEVER IN THE HISTORY OF ANYTHING IT IS SO RARE. Not even in recent history like in Greece or Crimea or anything like that. It is just Muslims who hate democracy.]

“It’s why I think that if you make things really simple, all too many Muslims in Denmark practice a medieval interpretation of the Koran and it stops them from taking part in the ordinary Danish day-to-day life.”

“It’s not enough just to make an economic contribution [to the country]. If you don’t have Danish colleagues, you won’t have the same understanding of Danish values and traditions.”

[Although I’m pretty sure she’s complaining about pizza shops not international schools or companies here]

[Then she says that there’s a school in Aarhus where ‘no’ Danish children go. When what she actually means is that a lot of Danish children go there and they have family backgrounds in other countries.]

“It is not necessary to give the same demands to everyone who wants to migrate to Denmark. The main point is that there is a big difference in the abilities and will to integrate between a Christian American or Swede and a Muslim Somalian or Pakistani who come here.”

“That’s why I think that in the future, in a larger degree we ought to make it easier for those who traditionally can integrate while we should make it harder to those who do not have the ability nor will. ”

“If I, as a Muslim, was so lucky to come to Denmark through family reunification, I would love democracy and freedom of expression. I would practice my faith, conscious that I have the right too do so and the knowledge that I am protected to do so. I would be so grateful for the free society that Denmark is.”

There’s more on this (and the reactions to it) on thelocal.dk and a bit about it on cphpost.dk

Of course, she’s just farting in the wind. It’s not legal to discriminate on the basis of religious background. So if Venstre have different rules for ‘Muslims’, it will have to be on a countrywide basis. So, everyone from Indonesia or Nigeria would have the harder requirements. And I’m not even sure if they’re able to say integration requirements are easier if you come from a particular country. Probably not, or they would have done it already.

They do have the ability to say that schools need to have a majority of ‘Danish’ children, I’ve seen this shit in action. But instead of forcing ‘Danish’ children to attend the local ghetto school, they tend to close the ghetto school and bus the ‘non-Danish’ children to “spread them out”. So, that’s a worry.

Anyway. Venstre are a fringe nutjob party now but with 17-27% of the vote.

Customer Service

So, here’s what happened.

I got a letter in the post saying that our mortgage provider’s computer had gone down and we needed to send a payment direct to a certain account. I was a little suspicious but the letter had the right name and when I typed the number into my bank, the right provider name auto-completed.

Then I got another letter in the post asking for my mortgage payment. I was composing an email to check that I had sent the money to the right account when I noticed that the telephone helpline numbers were different on the two letters. The customer support email was different. The CVR number was different. And I dropped a bollock.

I google’d the support email and the first link was “FALSE EMAILS, DO NOT RESPOND TO THEM” and I did not look at the link but the bottom dropped out of my stomach.

So, I scanned in the suspicious letter and emailed customer support at the bank. I told them the situation and asked what I should do.

They emailed back straight away: contact your bank. GOOD LUCK. Seriously. “Good luck”

I contacted my bank, told them the situation, attached the suspect letter.

They emailed back straight away: nothing we can do. Contact the police.

I contacted the police. Over email because I hate telephones and I could attach the letter.

Then I started to think about how sophisticated the scam was: right name, right company name, they knew we were customers of this bank, they specifically only ask for one month’s money. They got the amount almost exactly right.

So, I googled the support email thing again to take a look at the other scams, to see if they were as sophisticated… and realised that the ‘fake’ email was not fake.

This was about fifteen minutes into the crisis and the feelings of pathetic-ness and horror were starting to give way into feelings of disbelief. So. I emailed customer support again.

“Are you SURE this is a scam. Did I just report my mortgage to the police??”

And this is the response, in full, without further comment.

Hello again 

Im sorry i didnt’  see the lette the 1. time 

It’s not a fake letter – there has been an error with the payment service as home loan is not automatically paid by direct debit – this is only in June and July that itmust be paid manually 

I regret that I was not awake for the first time  

If you have further questions, I recommend you to contact us on xx xx xx which is open every day from 9 -21″

 

 

My favourite colour is ‘rainbow’

I can be a new-to-Denmark blogger again because I just moved to Aarhus (everybody cheer!)

What better way to show you what I have been up to than some photos of the Aarhus Pride event?

Flags on buses
Flags on buses
Aros art gallery and a football pitch
Aros art gallery and a football pitch

I had forgotten that it was Pride today but I had to catch several buses for an open day at work and they all had the Danish flag and the rainbow flag mounted on the side.

The event was really quite sweet and small. No massive floats or anything. There was a family friendly fete (pictured) and some other stalls down some steps with more adult themed stalls (for example: the bar). I even got a free hug from someone giving them out at one of the stalls.

There was live music and all that sort of thing.

When the parade came past, what surprised me was that for every ‘special interest’ group that represented and walked together, there were groups of political parties waving the rainbow flag.

I am not sure if I could imagine Pride in a city in the UK having a big Labour float or a Lib Dem contingent. Maybe it would, I never managed to make it to one back in the old country.

My favourite sign was

Fuck ‘girl colours’

Fuck ‘boy colours’

What happened to *HUMAN* colours.

Scandi Spring? Fat chance

Three years ago, a market trader in Tunisia, Mohamed Bouazizi, set himself on fire to protest harassment from the Tunisian authorities. His death inspired protests in Tunisia and abroad, leading to the events of the ‘Arab Spring’.

Yesterday, a man left Brøndby town hall and set himself on fire, dying a few hours later. The news has no information about what the problem was and why he took such a violent step. Just that he had been given an answer about his case before he killed himself.

Honestly, I don’t think they care.  Whether this was mental illness or desperation or a combination, the media is entirely uninterested. Could it have anything to do with recent welfare reform? Who cares? Let’s talk about something more jolly!

What have they got to gain by looking the other way on this? Why isn’t the reason for his suicide considered newsworthy?

h/t Johnny Larsen

Better treatment for trans people

Yay!

So, Denmark actually took Amnesty International’s recommendations to heart. If Parliament agrees the change, it will no longer be required to be sterilised and have a medical diagnosis of transsexualism in order to transition.

The new plan is: after a 6-month reflection period if someone is serious about needing their gender changed on their documentation, they can do that.

This is a good thing. High five, Denmark.

One from the Vaults: Free Speech

(From 8th October 2009)

In the beginning, it was all so simple. Little amoeba in a pond, wiggling around. Skip through history: the dinosaurs, the monkeys. Everything was so simple until human beings got here.

We like to communicate and we realise (but perhaps do not fully understand), that we have a different perception of the universe. We communicate that difference in perspective and we learn something about someone else.

Do this well enough and it means that we can alter who is the dominant monkey in our monkey troop. Some privileged people do not like the idea that they might lose power and status; so they say the others should keep their opinions to themselves. They might enforce the silence of dissent with force. Ridicule. Minimisation. If they are crafty, they might make the others self-censor. Out of fear or simple peer pressure.

And thusly, in the fires of oppression from a privileged minority, the concept of “free speech” was born. The tentative idea that is should be okay to express any opinion or view.

How lovely!

five_boxes_liberty_soap_box1

Then you get into hot water because sometimes people are oppressed because what they say and think is what scientists have termed “arse clenchingly stupid”.

And complications of layers of complications, with our different perspectives and takes on things, no one person is objective enough to decide who the bloody stupid “shut up shut up shut up” people are.

So, we try to move towards a system where you are allowed to express your opinion just as long as you do not threaten someone with violence, encourage someone else to resort to violence… checks and balances. Little kindnesses. Little markers of acceptability.

Occasionally, someone will say something which is perhaps a little mean or upsetting and then you have a discussion about if it is acceptable to say things that might be upsetting.
There are some who say that you should have an absolute right to offend.
There are some who say that you must never offend someone and this should be illegal.
There are some who say that should be allowed to offend as long as you have motives other than causing offence. Which is hell to prove. “I only intended to highlight the hypocrisy of the Church, officer”

Most people want to be respectful. They want to show they care about their fellow man. They do this by bearing in mind that people get upset by a lot of things and perhaps dealing with those hot-button issues sensitively… where possible…is the way forward.

In Denmark, it is often that an outsider is deliberately offended. They might have their religion mocked, they might have their accent mocked, they might have their culture held up for ridicule, the colour of their skin, the things they love and the places they call home.
Yes, I know the people that partake in this stupid-twattery are red necks and not “real people” in any meaningful way.
But, their absolute right to be an arse is defended by a culture that call such knobishness “freedom of expression” when perhaps it would be better described in terms of “freedom of fuckwittery”

The outsider may react in a number of ways.

homer-middle-finger-o
Some of them more eloquent and/or respectful than others.

This is where we get into the real complication. Yet another layer of it, like one of those fancy French desserts.

If an outsider dares speak critically in Denmark a number of things can happen.

  • They might find that they have to have an argument with a loved one
  • They might be told they are bad people
  • They might be told they should be grateful
  • They might be told to piss off back home
  • They might be told they are overreacting
  • They might lose their job
  • They might have a file compiled on them at the kommune
  • They might have their activities scrutinised

This might not happen every time. It may never happen to an outsider who speaks critically.  But it happens often enough for the other outsiders to take note and heed.
Without anyone even having to lift a finger to force the populace to act a certain way, the threat is implied. A bully testing the weight of a weapon without needing to lunge to get their victim to flinch.

People who would like to speak critically about Denmark find that they cannot find a balance between saying what they want to say and getting into trouble. Either people are anonymous voices or else they limit their conversations to private mutterings.

And we see the problem.

The free speech, such as it is, exists only for people with privilege. It is only for a certain sect here. It is not FOR the likes of us. This oppression exists for the same reason as any oppression exists, to keep that sect in power. Keeps them with the privileges, the status, the rights.

And I would like to invoke my Free Speech to say that I think that this is disgusting.

Dehumanisation in Danish Marketing

Denmark hides behind two national myths to excuse itself from poor behaviour.

1: We are a homogenous nation without a history of having to get along with others

2: We have a unique sense of humour which magically stops anything from being in poor taste

Denmark is now part of a global community and however homogenous they mistakenly imagine their history, they have to get along with others.

Even though this has been true for a long time, it has not stopped them from being outrageously idiotic on their promotional material. Come with me now through the Hall of Shame:-

Those are the ones I can think of off the top of my head. Let me know in comments what I forgot.

Now I have handled why this shit is wrong before. I’m not going over it again.

I only bring it up because the Swedes complained about the masks in Haribo sweets and so Haribo won’t make them anymore. That means they won’t be available in Denmark.

Sweets stop being available all the time, Haribo don’t owe Denmark crude racial stereotype licquorice. You’d think Haribo not only stopped supplying sweets to Denmark but blocked other brands too, from the over reaction here.

The Metroxpress covered the story with good-natured bafflement about those ‘crazy politically correct Swedes‘ and rabble-rousing pieces about how ‘angry‘ Danes are at the Swedes for ruining their enjoyment of dehumanising sweets.

TV2 interviewed Professor of Philosophy Vincent F. Hendricks, who is half-American half-Danish. I won’t lie, when I saw him, I thought that tv2 had just found a black person to speak for all black people a la The Brass Eye.

The interviewer was bizarre and said that it was a slippery slope, that if you can’t have masks of crude racial stereotypes then you won’t be allowed to have ‘Jødekage’ any more (so-called ‘Jew cakes’ because they were sold in Jewish bakeries in the 1700s not because they are crude racial stereotypes of Jewish faces in biscuit form)

Hendricks was AMAZING. He started out with the homogenous national myth, as a gateway for the heavier criticism that he made. But he made it with love! It was great.

He said that Denmark has been able to get away with being provincial for a long time but now this shit is being noticed and the world will think that Danes are backwards peasants. He also asked why it is just black faces that get this treatment (though south-east Asian faces get it too), and what is it even for? I wish I could find a copy because I’d just put it up on here and not paraphrase wildly.

Anyway. It didn’t work, the Danes are still really into having not to think about de-humanising groups.

That last sentence was a sort of a test. If you were a Dane who got really agitated because I de-humanised you by saying you are all into not having to think about de-humanising groups whilst simultaneously not being all that bothered about the masks, you are a fucking hypocrite.

Homogenous or not, Denmark has to wake up and stop being so childish. This stuff is hurtful. This stuff makes lives harder. Your children don’t come into the world being mouthbreathing peasant scum, YOU make them that way. You do it by having sweets that encourage your children to think that certain groups are only caricatures. You are the reason that when ever I teach Danish kids about Japan or China and I ask what they know already, they reach for their eye corners to stretch them back. You are the reason that white Danish children attack black Danish children with crude racial abuse. You are encouraging it. By saying ‘these groups are not human really’, you are setting your children up to attack them.

And it affects the adults in your country, contributing to micro aggressions (and macro aggressions, face it), which affect the lives of people with facial features being caricatured in these products.

The problem isn’t that crazy Swedes cannot take a joke or Haribo have set themselves up as moral arbiters or black people should realise that intent is magic (“I don’t mean it to be offensive: it isn’t!”) The problem is that Danish people still think that black and Asian people are not all the way human.

So it shows up in Danish culture a lot. It shows up and reinforces the idea over and over. You are all so used to it, you do not see how toxic and off putting it is.

The Swedes want to stop reinforcing it, Haribo don’t want to make a brand of confectionary just for one country especially after conceding it was racist.

Denmark has to evolve or die. It’s not good enough to continue being a hick country with hay in your mouth. It’s not good enough to say you didn’t realise it was racist so it isn’t racist. It’s not good enough to say that since it amuses you, it is acceptable. It’s not good enough to say that since you believe that black people only moved to your country a short time ago, it is not a problem.

You want and need foreigners to do the jobs your own people are incapable of doing. They won’t come here if they think you are racist pieces of shit. They won’t visit you as tourists. They won’t buy your butter cookies at Christmas. YOU will become a joke. Worse than a joke because no one thinks it is exactly funny that you are racist.

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