I’d sworn that I wouldn’t comment on the prophet Muhammad “Salla Allahu ‘Alaihi Wa Sallam” cartoon controversy since “Blogsphere” is overflowing with it. But just check the Tehnorati stats, as of this writing 50+ blog posts that are tagged with Denmark are posted daily, up from close to noting two weeks ago. Denmark is currently the top 5 or so Technorati tag. Denmark is definitely caught in the buzz and the flow these days.
What prompted my to start writing this article, which might be revised over the next couple of days, was the BBC article below:
BBC NEWS | World | Europe | Danish Muslims split over cartoons
And especially this quote made me think of one of my all time favourite books “The Hitchhickers Guide to the Galaxy (THHGTTG)” By Douglas Adams (r.i.p.):
For many Danes the past two weeks have been surreal.
Since the time when many Danes helped thousands of Jews to safety from German-occupied Denmark in World War II, the Scandinavian country has had a reputation for being peace-loving and harmless.
Why was I triggered by this, well for those who aren’t familiar with the novel “The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy”, the “HHGTTG” is an electronic encyclopaedia, that contains all the information you need, if you’re going to travel through the Galaxy on a shoestring budget, but, more important, it has the words “DON’T PANIC” printed in large friendly letter on the back-cover. Another thing, one of the main characters in the novel is actually a writer for the real “HHGTTG”, visiting Earth to elaborate on the entry about Earth. So after 10 years stranded on Earth he has to hitch a ride, you’ll have to read the novel to find out why, and before doing so he managed to submitted his new edited entry after 10 years of research…
What did it read before the edit:
What does it read after the edit:
“Earth: MOSTLY Harmless”
This is EXACTLY how it feels like being a Danish national these days, let’s hope Denmark doesn’t suffer the same fate that Earth did in “HHGTTG”.
Denmark has been hitching a ride on the rocky road of Internationalism and Globalisation, blind to the fact that it could have dire consequences if you don’t tread carefully.
To add to the controversy H.R.H. Queen Margrethe has been gravely misquoted in an article that was featured in the Daily Telegraph last year (quoted without permission):
Queen Margrethe II of Denmark has called on the country “to show our opposition to Islam”, regardless of the opprobrium such a stance provokes abroad.
What she said was: “det er afgørende, at vi giver Islam et modspil.”, the problem is the translation of the word ‘modspil’ doesn’t translate into “opposition” but rather “dialogue”, so the translation of the sentence could be (beware I’m not a scholar, and it’s not a literal translation) “it is important that we engage in a dialogue with Islam”.
H.R.H Queen Margrethe has earlier, actually in the mid 80’ies, been quite outspoken against racism, and what she refereed to as the “stupid remarks/jokes” (Danish: dum-smarte bemærkninger) that Danes are so fond of when it comes to everything, including the influx of immigrants and refugees from Islamic countries, that we began to receive in numbers in the 80’ies. She does however label her 1984 remarks as being “naive”, today.
So why do we Danes always joke around like that? Well my theory is (keep in mind that I’ve lived as a Dane since my birth, so I might know something about the subject):
At the bottom of their soul the Danish people, are very insecure and doubtful of their own abilities, a concept refereed to as the Jantelov, e.g. The Commandments or Law of Jante, “youâ€™re useless – du skal ikke tro du er noget”. To cover over this general feeling of being worthless and useless we hide behind often self-depreciating or “if you make fun of me I’ll make fun of you child-like behaviour” resulting in jokes of a highly questionable quality.
So we thought we were harmless? No we’re MOSTLY harmless! “Wake up and smell the coffee” (Danish: “hold op med at vade rundt i spinatbedet”), in a Global village you can’t assume that everybody (anybody?) understand that we’re actually harmless when we hide behind childish jokes.
I’ve done my share of mistakes. I’ll let you in on my number one blooper:
In the mid 90’ies I was attending a conference in Cannes, France where I was sitting at a lunch table with the founder and CEO of an American software company. The company developed database software, and I joked that we might be “able to write curse words in SQL (SQL is a standardised mathematical programming language that is a cornerstone of all databases) and have them execute since SQL is a universal language!” He looked at me like I was crazy (bingo!), and I didn’t even suggest any four letter words! Boy did I learn a lesson in when to avoid “dum-smarte bemærkninger”, I wanted to disappear into the nearest hole in the ground.
And finally, let’s try to put to the myth that Denmark was such a saint during WWII, into perspective. Since the beginning of the occupation on April-9th 1940, the Danish government adopted a so called “policy of co-operation” towards the German Wehrmacht, effectively collaborating with the Germans, even to the extend of persecuting Danish nationals and turning them over to the Germans. Finally in august 1943, a general strike broke out, martial law was decreed and the “policy of co-operation” was finally replaced with a true reign of terror, with a lot of crimes being committed by the Germans assisted by Danish nationals, that had been hired into the Hilfspolizei (HIPO).
Due to the “policy of co-operation”, Denmark was often refereed to as “Hitler’s Canary”, this was later modified to the “Savage Canary”, after the breakdown of the policy of co-operation in 1943. that was a result of the growing popular resistance towards the German occupation forces. It’s true that many Jews were rescued by escaping to netural Sweden crossing the narrow waters of Øresund, and that there were many acts of heroism, but remember that it was also a lucrative business for some of the people that were organising this human trafficking, but this has to be seen in the context that these people they ran a high personal risk. The main, unfortunate, fallout of the policy of co-operation was that Denmark actually supplied Germany with up to 25% of their food supplies, actually helping in prolonging the war. The true heroes of the time were the Danish resistance that defied their own government, a government that had the audacity to refer to the freedom fighters as saboteurs, that should be reported to the proper authorities. The resistance wasn’t unfailable however, and they did perform summary executions, and there were several cases of injustice, especially in the days following the liberation, where everybody, overnight, were part of the resistance.
In the defence of the policy of co-operation, one must, of course, take into consideration, that it would have been very difficult for the Danish government to react differently. It was impossible to negotiate with the Germans, just see what happened to the Dutch, when they resisted the occupation, and finally had to negotiate a conditional surrender to avoid having Rotterdam bombed…Well, the Germans went ahead with the bombing anyway. The same could have happened in Denmark, and you have to question to what use that would have been.
If I was a writer for “The Hitchhickers Guide to the Galaxy”, I’d consider updating the article on Denmark from “harmless” to “MOSTLY harmless”. Ok so the Wikipedia article is a bit more elaborate, and doesn’t include the word “harmless” – too POV I suspect ;-).
(editor: POV (Point Of View) – as opposed to the traditional of NPOV (Neutral Point Of View) approach of Wikipedia).
Returning to my reluctance of engaging in the nightmare of “Blogsphere”…”Blogsphere” these days reminds me of “Vogsphere”: “You wouldn’t know a good idea if it came up and slapped you in the face”. Maybe unlimited freedom of expression isn’t that great afterall…People please BOTHER to do some investigation of the matter before you post anything, it’s called research. And please show cultural sensitivity.
To quote Rodney King: “Can we get along here? Can we all get along?”
- Karl Erik Nielsen and Christian Jensen,
“De fem fede år”, Berlingske Tidende,
http://www.berlingske.dk/kultur/artikel:aid=564992/ (accessed Feburary 10, 2006)
- Hannah Cleaver in Berlin,
” We must show our opposition to Islam, says Danish queen”, news.telegraph,
http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/main.jhtml?xml=/news/2005/04/15/wqueen15.xml (accessed Feburary 10, 2006)
- Carsten Gregersen,
“Fejlcitat bag kritik af dronningen”, Berlingske Tidende,
http://www.berlingske.dk/indland/artikel:aid=692668/ (accessed Feburary 10, 2006)
- Wikipedia contributors,
“Occupation of Denmark,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Occupation_of_Denmark&oldid=38507334 (accessed February 10, 2006).
- Wikipedia contributors,
“Jante Law,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Jante_Law&oldid=38619490 (accessed February 10, 2006).
“Compendium of Muslim Texts”, University of Southern California, MSA Department,
http://www.usc.edu/dept/MSA/ (accessed February 10, 2006).
- Wikipedia contributors,
“Rodney King,” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia,
http://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Rodney_King&oldid=39079803 (accessed February 10, 2006).
- Candia Elliott, Diversity Training Associates, R. Jerry Adams, Ph.D., Evaluation and Development Institute, Suganya Sockalingam, Ph.D., Office of Multicultural Health, Department of Human Resources, Oregon,
“Stages of Intercultural Sensitivity” Awesome Library,
http://www.awesomelibrary.org/multiculturaltoolkit-stages.html (accessed February 10, 2006).
- Danmarks Befrielse 5.maj 1945 contributors
“Befrielsen 1945” Befrielsen 1945 – Følelser af fællesskab,
http://www.befrielsen1945.dk/ (accessed February 10, 2006).