Saturday, June 25, 2005

Arguments Against Cultural Relativism #3 

As long as I'm on the whole cultural relativism thing, I just saw this article in Politiken, but it was actually a translation from the Guardian (UK). It makes for some appalling reading.

Amira Abu Hanhan Qaoud murdered her daughter, Rafayda, because she became pregnant after being raped by two of her brothers.

"My daughter fell over and broke her knee. I took her to hospital and there the doctor told me she was pregnant. So I killed her. It's as simple as that," said Mrs Qaoud on her doorstep in Ramallah. Mrs Qaoud waited until the baby was born and given up for adoption. Then she presented her 22 year-old daughter with a razor blade and told her to slash her wrists.

She refused so her mother pulled a plastic bag over her head, sliced her wrists and beat her head with a stick. The brothers were sentenced to 10 years for the rape. Mrs Qaoud spent two years in prison for killing her daughter. She has purged her home of all pictures of her older children, and declines to discuss the killing, saying all she wants is to forget about it.

Suddenly Medea looks like Mother of the Year...

The Irony Law (or, Arguments Against Cultural Relativism #2) 

From yesterday's MetroXpress, in a regular feature entitle "Et Øjeblik" (One Moment), comes this incredible Q&A with one Halima El Abassi, vice-chairman of the Association for Ethnic Equality. I'm working from the print edition, so I'll translate the little feature in its entirety:

A new law should require Danish employers to tend better to their workers with foreign backgrounds, suggests Halima El Abassi. There's especially a need for a better language culture in the workplace, and irony doesn't work at all.

Do you really want to outlaw irony?

We know from research that especially women from ethnic minorities have a really hard time fitting into Danish workplaces, because linguistically they're weaker than their Danish colleagues. Irony can create a lot of misunderstandings, because there are so many from the ethnic minorities who don't understand it.

Do you think it's realistic to outlaw irony?

It's certainly realistic to pass legislation so the employers get a duty to create a policy on linguistic equality in the workplace. Integration has a lot to do with language and tone.

But isn't it kind of a drag for the rest of us?

Yes, it may well be. I'm therefore also recommending that one consider the use of irony. If management or colleagues use irony it can create a bad feeling, so the affected don't feel welcome.

Imagine for a moment, whatever your feelings on the issue, that a law is passed forbidding irony in all those workplaces employing foreign workers. What do you think is the more likely outcome:

(A) A happy shiny Denmark in which irony never again rears its hideous head in such workplaces; or,

(B) A happy shiny Denmark in which employers stop hiring foreign workers to avoid "The Irony Law?"

This is the same kind of logic used by those who support bilingualism in the United States: it's unfair to expect immigrants to master the native language, so let's all dumb everything down for them, or let them build their own culture-within-a-culture and isolate themselves therein.

That's not integration, it's exclusion. If foreign workers in Denmark, like myself, want to feel comfortable and welcome, we can bloody well learn the damn language. Yes, it's a bitch of a language and I hate it with all my dark heart. But it's how the people who live here were talking before I got here.

If irony is such a big problem, wouldn't it make more sense to educate immigrants ("especially women from ethnic minorities") in its use? My Studieskolen experience included a great deal of cultural instruction. There was certainly room for an hour or two of discussion on irony. Why not just add that to the mandatory curriculum?

The sheer idiocy of this whole suggestion is glaringly apparent the minute you try to imagine what "linguistic equality in the workplace" legislation would look like... which first requires that you can actually articulate what "linguistic equality" actually means. Good luck.

Although I'm not an "ethnic" minority in Denmark, I'm certainly at a linguistic disadvantage. Does it make me uncomfortable? All the time.

But whose fault is that?

Monday, June 20, 2005


That's right, dammit, I passed my oral exam with a less-than-stellar (but still decent) grade of 9, meaning my average for the reading, writing, and oral components of the Prøve i Dansk 3 exam is a solid 10. And I'm done with Studieskolen.

School's out for summer!

Derfor skal jeg nok begynde at skrive på dansk engang imellem... ikke i dag, men i fremtiden.

If I write an Almanac in the next day or two, it'll be an account of the exam itself, which was pretty funny. But I may not write anything in the next day or two, because it's time to slappe af.

That's Danish for "relax." And it's one of the terms that's causing me problems with English. I've caught myself saying, in English, that I "look forward to slapping off," which sounds like I'm on my way to... well, you know, it sounds like a metaphor for onanism. (A term which is itself sort of obscure and foofy in English, but the commonest term in Danish for masturbation: onani.)

But none of that matters right now. Dammit, where's my drink?

Sunday, June 19, 2005

Unorthodox Orthodoxy 

A little human interest story to complement all the father's day mush out there on the web... or maybe it's an inhuman interest story. Either way:

On the grounds that he didn't "know what this young woman did," a spokesperson for the Orthodox patriarchate in Bucharest, Romania, refused to condemn what?

A. Her excommunication from a rural nunnery
B. Her having been lashed by a local priest
C. Her having been gang-raped by monks
D. Her having been crucified

The answer is here.

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