Thursday, September 22, 2005

Third Rail Comments 

Politiken is publishing readers' comments on the inequality remarks referred to in the previous post. After a very cursory review, my favorite comment so far is this:

Er det ikke bedre at en har 4kr og en anden 5kr end hvis begge havde 2kr? Sig nej til misundelse og jantelov!

(Isn't it better that one should have four crowns and another five, than if they both had two? Say no to envy and Jantelov!)

—Jens R., Faaborg

There's more support for inequality than I would have expected... but I wasn't disappointed by the number of comments like this one from Bjarne Frederiksen: "This shows the citizen Denmark's true face! Inequality the world over has always been the root cause of revolutions. Fogh's election victory was based on voter delusion. Read history."

The Third Rail of Danish Politics 

The happy little fairy-tale kingdom of Denmark is a lot like Lake Wobegon, where "the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and all of the children are above average." At least, that's the way Denmark likes to see itself.

What Garrison Keillor intended as irony, however, seems to have become a fixture of Danish politics: never mind the children, all Danes are above average.

And equally so.

Egalitarianism isn't an idea in Denmark: it's an assumption. No one is better than anyone else. No one deserves more than anyone else. No one should feel badly about themselves. (This mindset is one of the reasons I find the fawning over the royal family so inexplicable. Crown Princess Mary almost went into premature labor last week, six weeks ahead of her due date. The media went into full crisis coverage mode. My own daughter was born seven weeks before her own due date and didn't even make it into the sleaziest tabloids!)

So you can imagine the unholy noise when the Liberal Social Minister Eva Kjær Hansen declared in a newspaper interview on Sunday that a little social inequality isn't such a big deal.

Her exact words in English, as translated by Jyllands Posten: "It's okay for inequality to increase, as that creates dynamism in society. We shouldn't be using our energy to fight affluence and to level the differences between the richest and the poorest. Let the rich get richer. I don't see a problem with inequality in and of itself."

Despite support from her party, the beleaguered Minister had to retract her statement within just 24 hours of declaring that she stood by it:

In spite of more and more senior Liberal MPs having expressed support for her comments, yesterday Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen gave the Minister an official dressing down. He told reporters that her views were not official government policy.

Although yesterday she said she stood firm by her statements, the Minister has now announced that she has withdrawn them because they have created misunderstandings about the government's policy and her own opinions.

"There must be no doubt that, as Social Affairs Minister, I will fight against social inequality," she said.

Although that's not really a retraction, is it? Social inequality and economic inequality aren't entirely the same thing. In fact, if you happen to be a particularly ornery and politically ham-handed capitalist, you could make the case that economic inequality supports social equality.

But I doubt we'll be hearing that from Eva Kjær Hansen any time soon, even though the debate continues. According to B.T., "Many Liberals think that [she] would have lost her ministerial post if she hadn't retracted her comments about social inequality."

It's bewildering to many Liberals that Anders Fogh Rasmussen should have cracked down on her so hard for saying something so many Liberals believe... but it probably just one more reason why he's Prime Minister and I'm not.

More—possibly much more—as this story continues to develop...

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Are Danish Artists Cowards, or Have American Artists Got It Too Easy? 

There were a couple of funny things I wanted to blog about just now, but they've been pre-empted. (Or at least demoted: if you're interested, the gist of it is that just as Denmark and Canada are agreeing to disagree about a territorial dispute, thereby averting a border war, Denmark and the U.K. are facing off in a tiff over off-shore semen. You probably think that's a typo, but I'm not talking about seamen. I'm talking about semen. Seriously. I also wanted to bring this bit of Lars von Trier derangement to your attention.)

No, wait. The von Trier stuff is too good to let slip. Try some of these:

On Hans Christian Andersen (alienating Danes and homosexuals)
"I can't stand H.C. Andersen. His stories are the worst faggot bullshit that exists. I hate that sort of thing. I hate all that fairytale atmosphere."

On the General Public (alienating 80% of the public)
"I make films for the public that I am. I don't respect the public. Eighty percent is too stupid to be my public."

On his Film "Breaking the Waves" (alienating fans of his own movie)
"I decided to create a story that was so unlikely and filled with clichés that no one would fall for it. And of course, everybody fell for it. You just have to do something stupid enough, and then you'll do fine."

(Aside to all my friends who mocked me for disliking the movie: so there!)

On Björk (coals to Newcastle)
"Björk isn't a woman, she's a little troll. She's an evil bitch, who tried to ruin the film [Dancer in the Dark] from the beginning. She walked in the first day thinking: 'Here I come, and you're going bankrupt.'"

On Democracy (alienating "people")
"The problem with democracy is that people are too stupid. They elect the wrong people to parliament."

On Danish Films (alienating his peers)
"Shit without content."

The genius fairly leaps off the page, doesn't it? (The Danish word for megalomania is storhedsvanvid, which is literally "greatness craziness.")

But forget all that. I'm doing laundry now (which is why I've allowed myself time to blog between batches), and I came across an old (Saturday) copy of Berglingske Tidende at the laundromat. A little blurb in the lower right corner of the front page caught my eye. I translate loosely but accurately:

Islam Frightens Artists
Danish artists have said no to illustrate Kåre Bluitgens new book about the prophet Mohammed. They fear repercussions from radical Muslims. A prominent publisher, who's publishing the critical book on Islam himself, thinks they're seeing ghosts.

The full story, alas, is only available to subscribers on the paper's website. I'm not a subscriber. But I don't feel like I need one to make the salient observation, which is that the Danish artists in question are quivering ninnies.

After slogging around the net, I found a similar article on DR: "Danish Artists Scared of Islam."

The whole thing is nonsense. It's insulting to suggest that criticism of Islam would put any Danish artist in harm's way. Their cowardice creates a terrible chilling effect on freedom of expression.

I don't know the identity of the artists in question, or the content of Ms. Bluitgen's new book. But I've seen how bravely American artists react to any hint of religiously-inspired resistance to their ideas. Such cowardice would be unthinkable to them.

Wouldn't it?

I mean, remember this? I'm sure all the same people that opened that rhetorical can of whupass on Mayor Giuliani wouldn't falter in the face of a few physical threats, would they?

Autumnal Production 

It's fall (almost) and Molli Malou is firmly established in daycare, so I'm finally getting the time I need to post Almanacs on a regular basis again (though I may take tomorrow off). Tuesday's was all about a decided little lady and today's is about the anxiety of Danes.

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?