‘Oh dearism’

Here is Adam Curtis’ analysis of the rise of ‘Oh dearism’

Part One

Part Two

Danish news is no different. World news is presented as fragmented examples of human cruelty with no attempt to bring the context into view. National news is a laundry list of minor stories and if there is an overarching narrative, it is how the immigrants are fucking everything up.

We are being distracted.

This is a week where Boko Haram massacre thousands and a man received the first 50 of his 1000 lashes for criticising Saudi clerics and the western international community mull over making Assad an ally now. The reporting of these stories has generated a few news articles and a couple of columns.

Meanwhile, the attacks on French cartoonists have been dominated the news cycle. Real talk now: murdering a bunch of people for saying/drawing offensive stuff is obviously wrong. But so is whipping someone 1000 times over 20 days. So is murdering thousands of people for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. So is making an ally of a war criminal. But those narratives are hard to fit into the current agenda. They are complicated. They are same-shit-different-day. Why is Boko Haram on the rampage? How come Saudi Arabia is as fucked up as North Korea and one country is a dear ally and the other is a mustache twiddling monster? How can one leader be as bad as Hitler one day but a necessary evil the next?

‘Whataboutery’ is a ridiculous point scoring exercise in debate. But surely the deaths of these innocent French people, be they cartoonists or policemen or shoppers, are just as worthy of being buried under the news cycle as the death of a 10 year old girl used as a living bomb? The guy in Australia who held a shop hostage and killed a couple of people got buried in the shuffle because he was a bonkers lone gunman. These guys in Paris, they fit a narrative. They fit a story about Good and Evil. We can stand together in solidarity because all the context and nuance are washed away.

So, now people who say “yeah but those cartoons were pretty mean, I am not really going to defend racist trolling”, are automatically on the side of Evil. People objecting to being snooped on by governments are automatically condoning Evil.

Whereas, the other news stories are just too complicated to be understood, so no one has an opinion other than “oh dear” or “people are sick” or occasionally “that continent/country/culture can’t look after itself, we should save them”.

We are being rallied to a choke point. Right now, it is needed that we feel under attack by faceless, barbaric enemies. It wouldn’t do to denounce the killers as bonkers. They are part of a plot. We are under attack and we need to take action. And the action we will take? It will be complicated and no one will bother to explain it to us. It might take the form of attacks on countries we are not at war with. It might be drone strikes. It might be economic sanctions. And when innocent people die or it sets off a chain of events (like the mistreatment of people set off ISIS), we just get to shrug and say it is too complicated to understand. That is until a crime is committed where context can be shrugged off like a jacket.

We don’t need to look at why cartoon trolling of particular people sets them off into a murderous rage. We don’t need to consider the response to world events only benefits a small minority. We don’t need to look for context or nuance, we just need to be outraged long enough for our masters to do what they want.

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.

Danes: Stop saying ‘neger’ is not derived from ‘nigger’

Because it does not even matter that it is closer to ‘negro’. You have spectacularly missed the point.

This must be taught during samfundsfag in folkeskole considering how often it is brought up by well-meaning Danes.

If an English speaking person dares say anything about the distressing use of ‘neger’ in Danish polite society, a Dane will pop up to say “BUT REMEMBER, it only means ‘negro’, not ‘nigger’!”

Danes who do not want to consider themselves racist, Danes who like to think they’d invite a black person over for dinner, if only they knew any; are all over this if they see it.

Oh well, fine then! English speakers, stand down…

Except, the Dane shows no awareness that the word ‘negro’ is NOT OKAY in English anymore.

Let’s look at the history of the words ‘nigger’, ‘negro’ and ‘neger’ for a minute.

In the 1600, 1700s and 1800s Europeans kidnapped human beings from Africa, abused them and forced them to work in dangerous conditions until they died. They killed and tortured them whenever they wanted. Children were separated from parents routinely. Women were raped routinely. They did this on an industrial scale.

In order to be able to do this, the Europeans needed to de-humanise the targets for their abuse.  Much like the Nazis needed to identify Jewish people as rats to allow the atrocities of the Holocaust, the Europeans reduced their victims to one word. A word that did not give any clue it was being used about a human being.

They used the Spanish word for ‘black’. They reduced their targets to a word that summarised the essential difference in appearance between the two groups and the justification for their atrocities. As they became more comfortable with treating people like this, the word they used changed. The English speakers corrupted the word into ‘nigger’ and the Danish speakers corrupted the word into ‘neger’.

Danes don’t like to talk about the Danish slave trade anymore. They don’t even call it the DANISH slave trade, they call it the Danish-West Indies slave trade. As if there were no slaves in Denmark, it was all so far away.

Danes still refer to black people as ‘neger’. In headlines, in conversation, on television, on the bus, during physical confrontations. Black people are routinely called “neger —” where their name goes second.

Sometimes, old people mean it in a more neutral sense. In their time, it was okay to dehumanise on the basis of colour and they just have not unlearned that. Old people racism is NOT what we are talking about. Younger people who ought to know better use it. And they use it as a slur, more often than not.

I am white and I got called a ‘neger’ in a bar for speaking English. She was NOT using it in a neutral sense. Or a historical sense. She was not even using it in a descriptive sense. She was trying to verbally attack me and that was the word that came to mind.

If English speakers try to point out how messed up this appears from the outside, Danes line up to say it IS NOT actually messed up.

They always go to great pains to say that it is a linguistic difficulty. That if ONLY the English speaker was fluent in Danish, they would understand their mistake straight away. (If pressed on the point, they usually go into ‘but THEY use it’ but that’s a story for another time)

Sorry, no dice.

The word ‘negro’ is not acceptable in English. For the same reasons and strength of feeling as for the word ‘nigger’. Sure, ‘nigger’ is only used as a slur and ‘negro’ has a history of being the word people used in the olden days. But this word is not acceptable. Because it dehumanises. Because of its association with slavery. Because of how it makes people feel to be described in those terms. Because it is a reminder of a painful chapter in history and all the negativity that went along with it.

You want to claim ‘neger’ is closer to ‘negro’? Fine. Stop defending it. Stop defining it in comparison to a worse word.  Stop saying it is neutral. Stop using it.

 

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.

Let’s Deport Everyone

The present administration has been in place for a couple of years now.

When people complained that unfair deportations were taking place before they got in, we were pacified with “just wait, new red government coming in, it’ll be okay!”

When the new red government got in, we were pacified with “Oh for heaven’s sake, give them some time to get their feet under the table.”

The deportations and denial of residence are still going on.

Here are some children being refused residence because they need to apply from another country.

Here is a family who need to move to Germany because the Dane claimed a sickness benefit. Looks like the wife didn’t have enough media-sympathy points (Non-white, female, unwell) and so the whole family must leave.

Because those are just the rules! (Unless you are male and white and able bodied and working a prestigious job and then exceptions may be found if your media campaign gets traction.)

This news article says that the number of children refused residence has plummeted to six on the grounds of integration and 130 overall.

You cannot, sorry Denmark, say that children have a human right to family life and that they need to be protected from uncertainty and stress and the best place for a child is near its friends and loved ones and THEN pat yourself on the back for kicking out ‘only’ 130 of them.

So, I did what you said. I waited to see how the new administration would handle things. And while there may be fewer completely unacceptable breaches of human rights, that is still not good enough and I continue to maintain that this country is xenophobic and sick.

9z versus China

The Danish national broadcaster had a show about how Danish teenagers compared with Chinese teenagers after 9 years of school. It came out around about the time of the lockout. I have only watched one episode.

Comparing school systems is a great interest of mine and there is much to be said about the differences/similarities between the Danish and the Chinese system. I am not going to touch those issues here though.

What I found overpowering about the show itself was how Danish the people behind it were. I can imagine if a French team had made the show, or Brazilian, or Japanese:- Comparing Denmark and China still but coming without the cultural baggage of being Danish. That would be a show I would love to watch. The show did not have the self-awareness to address this weakness of a lack of self-awareness.

If I had been in control, I would have changed a lot of the presentation.

For example, the show starts with the first school day in both schools. The Danish school is shown, with singing and flag waving and dancing. Then the stark lines of Chinese children standing in the playground chanting “We are proud to be Chinese”.

If I had been in control of the editing, I would have put it together to show the similarities and not the differences. Flag goes up in Denmark, flag goes up in China, teacher chants slogans in China, teacher sings slogans in Denmark, children standing outside in Denmark, children standing outside in China, children look happy in Denmark, children look happy in China, children look bored in China, children look bored in Denmark.

Another thing I would have changed was the panel of “experts” called on to answer questions about both the Danish and the Chinese system. They had the head of the teachers’ union and some guy from a Danish university. Not one Chinese educational system expert was called on. (Neither in the sense of someone in Denmark who has made it their life’s work to study the Chinese system nor in the sense of a Chinese person involved in running the Chinese educational system.) The questions about the Chinese system were addressed to 12 year old Chinese girls and Danish men.

Not to mention, the Danish university “expert” did not even have a very good handle on what goes on in the Danish system. In one part, he claimed that children from all levels and backgrounds are together in their class, resulting in them having a better understanding of the breadth of Danish society.

Except. Denmark has private schools. And Denmark has special schools. So, apart from the children who go to private school and the children who are in special school, the Danish classroom is a cross section of Danish society.

He just repeated cultural myths about Denmark without being aware of how poorly he understood his own country. So, I took his pronouncements on the Chinese system with more than a pinch of salt.

How can a tv programme claim that the Danish system sets Danish teenagers up as being better critical thinkers than Chinese teenagers when it cannot demonstrate critical thinking in the actual show?

The teenagers were asked some “general knowledge” questions, to show how ignorant the Chinese children are. The questions were

“Who were The Beatles?”

“What is a teenager?”

“What happened on September 11th 2001?”

The children were not asked

“Who is Teresa Teng?”

“What do we mean by adolescence?”

“What was the Cultural Revolution?”

Also, the icons to show the children’s performance have little cartoon figures with flags as t-shirts. The Chinese ones are bright yellow faced and the Danish ones are pink faced. (This is despite the programme going to extraordinary hamfisted lengths to establish that the Danish class in question has a lot of brown people, to pre-explain why the results will be so bad… because of diversity of “social” groups)

What the actual fuck, though? Both have slitty eyes, so I guess that’s progress of a sort, though the Chinese eyes are the slittiest.

Cartoon depiction of Chinese and Danish child
I facepalmed so hard, my hand got bruised

In conclusion, an interesting concept for a show, ruined by the lack of cultural understanding and critical thinking by the programme makers. Prejudices go unchallenged and are presented as self-evident truth, when a little digging would have found reality to be a lot more nuanced.

Should I Move to Denmark: Racism Special Report

Maybe you saw some Borgen. Maybe you read a gushing left wing newspaper write up. You are right-on. Liberal. Lefty. Pinko. You want to try this tolerant, socialist paradise they call Denmark.

You need to know about the racism here.

In 2013, I don’t expect to have to deal with crude racial stereotyping. I won’t mention the products by name because the way social media works, this is “edge” and “buzz” and going “viral”. I’ll talk about why in a sec.
There was an energy drink in January, a tv program on the state owned broadcaster in March and there’s about five snack brands utilising blackface or “ahhh so” coolieface.

Now, I remember gollywogs. Being a child, a white child, a white child with no black friends, I thought they were ok. I was cross when a jam brand, removed the gollywog from the jar.
I will have been about seven, so this is over 20 years ago.
I had known some black people but years ago. I had a black baby doll. So I knew that “they” don’t look like that.

Rag dolls necessarily are caricatures of the human form, I reasoned with my seven year old brain, what’s the big deal?

My journey to understanding would take about a decade, a lot of reading, a lot of listening.

Crude racial caricatures are not ok for the following reasons:-
They dehumanise and ‘other’ groups who are already dehumanised by the mainstream
They tell children that certain humans are not human. If you are from those groups, good luck having a life where you have the same ambitions and dreams as the privileged kids
It is a power grab. An arm lock. A punch in the nose. “See how much power I have!”

I have had to discuss this issue with adult Danes who Do Not Get It.
None of them take pride in being racist. In fact, they think they are not racist. I have yet to debate with a Dane who says “but black people are/look like monkeys” like prominent sock vendor and friend of the blog Mads Christensen has said.

This is what they say:-
It is harmless
It is funny
It is equivalent to cartoons of Vikings
Opposing it is American and politically correct
It’s free speech

This is what they say when I offer them the stereotype my people have of their group as pig ignorant, lazy, childish wastes of skin:-
That’s cruel
That’s not funny
That’s unfair to stereotype me
You should be more careful about how you talk about others. Rudeness is rudeness
You’re not allowed to say that

So, it’s not like they don’t get it. They just have issues applying it to others because they assume (without malice) that other groups are sub human and do not experience the full rich range of emotional space as real people like them.

I promised I’d explain why protesting doesn’t work and is counter active.

In Denmark, complaining isn’t a thing.
Get run over and killed by malfunctioning municipal equipment: too bad. Be turned away from an emergency room because the triage nurse didn’t bother to try to understand you and die: whatever. Kommune commits fraud and plans to discriminate racially: who gives a fuck? Police and courts hand your children to their abusive parent: it’s just the way it is.

Nothing happens. There’s no complaints procedure. Making a fuss is regarded with tired contempt.

Hate speech is protected speech.

So, imagine bringing up something where no one dies or is physically injured and the hate is subtle.
No chance.

But marketers and pr men, they see the value in publicity. It wouldn’t occur to them to search their consciences. All they can see is that trolling gets them higher “interaction” and “engagement”.

So if you have fantasies of getting here and holding DKs hand while it transitions from an ignorant backwater into the groovy pinko paradise of your dreams: forget it.

The only way it can happen is if the Danes who get what I’m saying make the others understand. My contribution as a foreigner is not wanted or valued. Because I’m not all the way human.

Are the Danes racist?

A book has been written to tackle the thorny issue of racism in modern Danish society. I am given to understand that publishing a book, as opposed to publishing in a peer reviewed journal, shows the work is weak. How would I know? I have not read it. I just read the promotional material which generated the headlines “You’re not racist, after all” . I wrote this in response as part of my freelancing gig with Copenhagen Post. I only get 700 words, so I did not touch the question itself.

Obviously, and I should not have to say this but I will anyway, you cannot say “the Danes are” most anything and have a 100% hit rate. Even in a small population who puts great stock in conformity, you are not able to stereotype an entire country. Not with high confidence levels.

So, no, “the Danes” are not racist. However. There is a problem in Denmark because so much racist behaviour is condoned, institutionalised and accepted.

Not that Denmark differs from most of the rest of the world in that. As climate change and capitalist imperialism causes conflict and displacement, rich countries are finding more and more reasons to batten down the hatches. It’s because “their” culture is barbaric, it’s because “they” are like that, it’s because blah blah. People do not like to share and they fear change.

Where Denmark differs, is that people outside of Denmark think Danes are tolerant and groovy. Individual Danes tend to have that same self-image.

Then the foreigners come and say “Oh wow, that’s racist.” and all hell breaks loose.

How can that be racist, if I am not racist?

Here are some stats that prove nothing but I find interesting, nevertheless. WordPress log the search terms you use to find me. The most popular search terms are variants on “adventures and japes”, that is, most people search directly to find this website. The second most popular is any variant on “Danes are rude”. The third most popular is “Danes are racist”.

People are entering “why are Danes racist?” into google. In extraordinary numbers, considering how many come to me to find out why. (I don’t know! Are they?)

So, what? Why are people searching the internet for websites that tackle Danish racism? If you write “are — ” where — is a name of a European people, the next word that comes up in the auto-complete is usually “racist”. There is a big problem in Europe.

In Denmark, where I live and am talking about, the racism is unapologetic, unguarded, unpolished. Back home, racism is usually more sneaky and careful. In Denmark, it’s like dealing with an adolescent who has met their first black person. The sheer amount of blackface I have to deal with here is unprecedented.

Not only that but much of the racism is built into public discourse. The media, the state, a lot of what they do and say with regards to non-whites/non-danes is based on prejudice. Most of the problem stems from not realising that people with a different culture/skin tone/whathaveyou are just folks. Just not appreciating that we are real human beings too. We get put into blocs and dehumanised. From this, comes discriminatory actions. Look at DR and some of the tabloids. News stories about “foreigners” are almost always negative, stories about negative things are regularly traced back to foreigners. And thusly, the connection is secured. Not that the news is trying to brainwash the populace, brainwashed people write the news.

My favourite episode of Borgen season 3 so far was (if you absolutely must not know what happens, then see you next time, that is all I am going to talk about from now on), when a group of politicos are trying to choose a spokesperson for immigration issues.

They ask a white guy with a black wife but he says he would rather not. They decide they need an immigrant and so someone suggests a Greenlander. Then they say, no not that sort of foreigner, we need a Muslim, so an Indonesian is suggested because it is the country with the most Muslims. No, not Indonesians, they’re too close to Japanese and Chinese and the associations are “business”. Africans are dismissed out of hand. They want an “Arab”. They reject a Muslim for wearing a headscarf. Then they reject someone with a Persian neck tattoo and then they get a nice Muslim lady with hair and she turns out to be a raging racist, so they roll up their sleeves and give the job to a ginger. These guys do not get in trouble for their recruitment process but later an employer gets into real deep shit for saying someone was like a “Pakistani doomsday prophet”.

The writing is wonderful, in that they were able to capture exactly what the problem is in Denmark with some cheeky and knowing dialogue. “How about my friend from Greenland…” is very very clever, as is the reaction to the neck tattoo. And the way their preferred nice well educated “liberated” Muslim woman is not interested in immigration issues beyond “keep ’em OUT!” that was sublime!

Well-meaning people in politics do racism because “the people” are not ready for them to do any different. People in politics are incapable of giving someone a job on their own merits. They must fit a good immigrant image exactly or be white. People do not get in trouble if they cover their tracks when they discriminate but they get in real trouble for saying the wrong words. “Real” immigrants are Muslim Arabs. Headscarves are a make-or-break issue.

Though, I worry that the people watching Borgen will not get it was a clever satire on the state of race relations in Denmark. And then I worry the writers were not writing a satire, they just wrote what actually happens without trying to point out the ridiculousness of it because they do not realise it is ridiculous. (But then, the writing would not have been so good. I am just so used to the media dumbing everything down for consumption. I do not know what to think anymore.)

My take is that the politicians and media could treat the Danes with a lot more respect. They could trust them to see a woman in a headscarf and not lose their shit, they could trust them to understand complex issues, they could trust them to vote for them without whipping up fear about immigration.

I think the media of Denmark underestimate the Danish people far too much. They may have weird ideas about race and culture but they are not beyond help! Much like everywhere else in the world, as we become more globalised, we need to work on our natural tendency to be racist. And our media and our politicians are critical to this process. It is make or break.

So, my answer, is “no, the Danes are not racist”.

But (you knew a “but” was coming, right?)

But, a lot of what passes for common knowledge and common sense is racist and it would be a great opportunity to examine that so we can move forward together as a nation.