Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Co-existence of Cvilizations and the Danish Identity Crisis

(Pia non grata, seal of bad ID)

Denmark is a country of organizations. A new one has been formed. It is called the Global Culture Forum Coexistence of Civilizations. Prominent Danes, like former foreign Minister Uffe Ellemann Jensen from the governing Liberal Party, Mads Ovlisen, President of the board of NovoNordisk, the Danish insulin giant, and others are members and founders of the organization. They want to solve the crisis that has hit Denmark because of the Muhammed cartoons by calling for dialogue. The PM Anders Fogh Rasmussen has - to the judgment of many people - been divisive by talking about separating the "sheep from the goats" in the struggle for freedom of speech, and he and junior politicians in the Liberal party have been critical of the business community for being too "profit oriented". The new organisation wants to overcome these cleavages.

Actually, what is revealed by this rather absurd debate is an identity crisis, and a very serious one, of the Danish society.

Denmark has traditionally had a record of being a very consensus oriented society. Broad layers of society agreed on the basic democratic and welfare principles that the country was based on. Suddenly a deep schism is dividing the country. The right wing xenophobe Pia Kjaersgaard is advancing in the opinion polls - up from 13 per cent to 17 per cent of the votes. The traditional backers of the welfare state, the Social Democrats, are down on their heels and losing votes to Pia's the Danish People's Party.

This is a reflection of a deep cleavage in the population between the timid xenophobes and supporters of the right on one hand and more well-educated layers in Greater Copenhagen and Aarhus who are in favour of an open globalising country on the other. Business and the left wing of politics, former foes, suddenly have quite a lot in common, at least in their views on immigration and globalisation, as the Left in Denmark is experiencing big difficulties in coining a left program for a globalised Denmark.

Up to now Denmark has been a very successful globaliser from a neo-liberal point of view. The economy is strong, with a balance of payments surplus, public budget surplus, high economic growth, and unemployment figures so low that there are shortages of many types of specialised labour. Some successfully globalising companies are literally shovelling money in. But all is not well in this ideal world for capitalism. An increasing unease at what is going on is spreading fast. Images of poor people in third world countries trampling on the Danish flag and shouting insults are not the best comforter at the evening coffee tables in front of the TV screen. Even from the neo-liberal point of view prospects are not too rosy. Big business is not only unhappy about losing (marginally important) markets in the Middle East, but also fearful of a growing labour shortage that cannot be healed by immigration when the DPP inspired policies are sealing the country off to foreigners.

The government is in crisis. The conservative coalition partner is getting still more critical of the "tone of debate" inspired by Rasmussen's talk of "sheep and goats", among the latter even a few of the top industrialists.

The left parties are in crisis because their project for a "socialist", more welfare oriented Denmark, lies in tatters. Today a promiment member of the "soft green" welfare oriented Socialist People's party (SF), Kamal Qureshi, in the paper Information calls for a new political agenda for the left. The left must realise what kind of project for future societal development it wants, a project that can compete with Kjaersgaard's "successful" project from the other side of the political spectrum. A project in which openness to globalisation is combined with the traditional values of the Left.

Unfortunately, he is not very concrete, apart from suggesting that the task of the educational system in future must be to educate "global citizens". That is an easy solution, an easy way out. The Left probably has to answer the question: What kind of globalisation is it that they want. Even though Denmark may be considered a "globalisation success", it is a valuation made on the basis of rather neo-liberal criteria. What a socialist or ecological globaliser looks like, nobody really knows - and very few seem to be seriously interested in finding answers to that question.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts you present MR. Duck. You inform us that "Prominent Danes",,,,, will now jump on some kind of moral band wagon because some Muslims have decided to not purchase Lego Blocks and Aralas second rate cheese, using a free market mechanism called a boycott . This is the same group who apparently fully support the use of white phosphoros as an anti personnel weapon, the distruction of Faluja, the use of highly toxic Depleted Uranium weapons, the horrors of Abu Garib, renditions of European citizens to Egypt and Afganistan for torture, the murder in excess of 200 thousand civilians in Iraq Attack 2, shock and awe distruction of water and sewage treatment plants,, the list is only geting started.... "Prominate Danes ? " My term would be Hypocrites. At least with Pia K. and Fogh, there is no false advertising, you get racism and bigotry in a package cleary marked for what it is.

12:01 AM  
Blogger Cosmic Duck said...


I don't know these people in that kind of detailed manner. I think they are meaningful humanitarians, and if they got a chance to hear your point of view, they would probably agree on much of it. The Danish media does not inform so much on the issues mentioned. They ought to do that.

12:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"they ought to do that", would IMHO be a gross understatement. The Danish press has no problems with spewing out the vile poison of Daniel Pipes, through " Fleming ROse",,,, or the rants of hate from Louise Frevert, MOgens Camre, Pia K. ad naseum. But try to bring information of ongoing war crimes supported by the current government is impossible. How often is a person such as Dorte GrenĂ¥ allowed space in the news papers? Pipes/Rose sure has no problem getting his poison published.

3:08 AM  

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