Thoughts from Denmark

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My visit to Denmark last weekend lasted a mere 30 hours, but tiny Aalborg (spelled Aalborg rather than  Århus because the Danes didn’t have the right typewriters at some moment, but also quite a controversial issue to do with anti-German sentiments etc…) was easily explored thanks to some lovely guides.

On the way I was reading preparational material: “The Almost Nearly Perfect People” by Brit Michael Booth. As I had no former experience with Denmark I was mostly struck by several things he wrote about: the incredibly high tax levels (up to 70% of a monthly pay check); the Danish word kaerste is used for both ‘taxes’ as well as ‘darling’.

Also, there were some remarks and anecdotes on Danish safety, society and equality and that people from different classes weren’t as socially seperated – both looked at from a positive as well as negative way. I got to know the notion of Jante Law, according to Wikipedia “the idea that there is a pattern of group behaviour towards individuals within Scandinavian communities that negatively portrays and criticises individual success and achievement as unworthy and inappropriate” .

The following ten rules were first published in 1933 by Aksel Sandemoose to describe this Scandinavian mindset.

1. You’re not to think you are anything special.

2. You’re not to think you are as good as we are.

3. You’re not to think you are smarter than we are.

4. You’re not to convince yourself that you are better than we are.

5. You’re not to think you know more than we do.

6. You’re not to think you are more important than we are.

7. You’re not to think you are good at anything.

8. You’re not to laugh at us.

9. You’re not to think anyone cares about you.

10. You’re not to think you can teach us anything.

Discouraging thinking a lot, yet still intriguing.

It seems rare to have a set of social norms spelled out that radically and to get baptized (categorical imperatives and golden rules just do not have the same dimension to me). I doubt that Danish people make their every decision based on it, yet the term Jante Law seemed to ring a bell to everyone.

Reminding me of a very different video of 70 years later, maybe Jante Law could be the next export hit to a very individualistic society after LEGO and Skype. Whether that is better or not – we are not to think. Or are we?

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Was Hitler a nice guy? or Curing things that are not to be cured.

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It happened again – you were at a party and you see who your friends are on the photographs.

But what was the deepest conversation you ever had? How hard would it be for the average shrink to tear you all apart? You share hobbies, tastes in music and maybe some political views. Maybe you just started talking while making fun of someone, maybe you wore some clothes that made the other one interested and then somehow you became friends.

And before you know it, you are close. You have feelings for one another. This happens so fast that it scares me at times. I mean, do I really want to become friends with someone just because they are vegetarians? How much does this say about our compability? I know, you have to start on some common ground – or a controverse where both of you discuss respectfully.

But there is a limit. Serious issues that move you a lot are quite personal. So if people attack your statements you make on these topics, it makes you feel attacked in your personality. The world is made of many different opinions and of course nobody will ever agree 100% – but does that mean we have to accept everything we hear of someone else? The YouTuber MrRepzion made a real interesting video on this.

We live in a free world and therefore I do not have to tolerate or even accept your point of view. Especially if we are friends I will care about convincing you that my view is the right one – or experience why you see it differently. I mean, there is a reason for the things I do – so we should talk about it. It is not shoving my opinion up one’s throat – it is discussion and exchange of information. I will tell you why I like the Big Bang Theory, why I became a vegetarian or why I fight for equal rights regardless of sex(uality). And if you disagree, I want to know why. If your reason is just “it has always been like that” or, even worse,you have read it in a 2000 year old book, I just can’t consider you a reasonable discussion partner. I know that I can’t change your taste in TV series – but especially when it comes to the other two it is important for me that – as a friend – you understand and kind of agree.Because otherwise you might be an asshole.

Of course I will try to convince you – because I try to be the best person I can and therefore consider my choices as the right ones. OF COURSE I will be shocked if you say something that goes completely agains everything I believe in. And then I will consider whether we want to, or can stay friends.

I will try to illustrate my point with an example. Joopi Heesters said: Hitler was a nice person – I mean, he was nice to me. This, obviously, caused quite some upstir in the media.

Can we completely ignore something that is so bothersome about a human being? Is that a double standard? I mean, I don’t only want to hang out with the people who are like me. Whoever said opposites attract. But I don’t want to share my cookies with racists or other criminals either.

Looks like a very human dilemma.