About Denmark
 by Carsten Overgaard

This page contains background material which explains the background leading up to Jyllands-posten's drawings of Muhammad. 

History in a very short version.

Denmark has existed as a nation for more than 1000 years.

Not since the Viking age we had a large country. We have always been force to live within larger neighbours. We are used to live under pressure which wants to wipe out our nation. For more than 400 years on and off we did fight Sweden. We did win after all even though we had to give up a lot of land. I 1930 they gave up the ban on Danish and language inside Sweden and in about 1995 we got the tax-money from Danes living in Sweden instead of local authorities.

Also the mighty German nation we have taken on several times. The last time was during WWII where they did occupy Denmark. But we did beat them off in such a way that they were easy to conquer after we did discover the powerful weapon of satire and jokes.

Since then basically because we are a peaceful people we have sought to the use of satire as a last resort when our nation is under pressure.

Denmark is not like other countries

A Dane and his self-respect.

Denmark is a small country when a Dane is born his/hers reputation is depending of the reputation of his parents. If a person from Copenhagen decide to move to Jut land where his family is not known he and his children would be outsiders. Perhaps in three generations the heirs would fit in but the Children would always be known as "A person from Copenhagen". If there is trouble in the local community guess who which is the usual suspect.

People which wants to settle in Denmark often miss the fact that if it take three generations for a Dane to fit in a local community in another part of the country it would also take three generations for anyone to fit in anywhere in Denmark.

I meet with a social worker sometime ago. Speaking about the importance of social status of the parents he said that he could tell exactly which children he would have to pay social welfare to in 10 years.

A resent study also revealed this the tone our police force use when they speak to citizen highly depends of how the citizen is dressed. Do he look like a respectable citizen they are polite else they would use a rough language.

Personally I have a Finnish mother and our family was kicked out of Russia together with the Tsar.

I have learned the hard way what it takes to be a properly Dane. I do not speak Finnish and the reason why is that my parents did ask the local authority what would be best for a child from a mixed marriage. The answer was that more languages taught to a child could set a poor starting point when it should start in the Danish public school. Not only did the local community not spend extra money on me which would have been a shame for my family-name I also did succeed making a career which is difficult for children from mixed marriages.

I personally do believe that anyone should have a right to settle in Denmark if they commit to our standards and are prepared to earn our respect by taking the lowpaid jobs and working their way up like I have done.

A lot of people which have settled in Denmark have understood this message. We have a lot of university-trained people which works as dishwashers or taxi-drivers for 5-10 year earning our respect so they can work in their line of field when they have earned it.

But all people who wants to live here must accept our way of life and It seems that they do not want this but want us to give up our status as Danes instead and that is not acceptable.

The importance of the parents social status in the schools.

Even in school the length of the education often depends on the parents. Children who have parents with long education themselves often have a bigger chance of getting a long education than children from the working class. I grow up in a working class family and it was not my grades which prevented me from getting into the university. It was the place to live which were a problem. Only if your parents can buy a place in the same city as the university you can study. Of course we have flats for rent in these cities but there is a waiting list for 20 years and it is difficult to decide what your kid would study when he or her is newborn.

In 1975 a survey show that more than 20 % would have difficulty reading "Donald Duck". Our public school which always have to be the lowest standard are present not able to find children with reading problem so a lot of firms have teamed up with labour unions and have started schools for their adult employees.

So it is getting better. We have however not been able to do something about what is called "the negative social inheritance" in the last 30 years so in that instance we have given up.

Working in Danish firms

There is a very easy way to be part of a team. Learn to speak Danish very fast and sit down and enjoy a beer with your colleges.

In the old day in many firms new employees were introduced to their colleagues at the Friday bar. But our government has lowered the limit for alcohol in the blood when people are driving so must firms including mine have created databases with images of all employees so we can know who is who. It is not normal at the first day of work to be introduced outside your cubic or office.

In Denmark all aspects about the business community are dealt with in agreements between the employer's association and the trade unions - not by laws. The government does not interfere as they do not interfere with the freedom of the press.

That is why we can not alcohol or drug test coach drivers in the winter. The trade unions blocks it because it is impossible to warm up a bus in the winter and their members have to get warm in some way.

Handling a threat from outside

Since WWII we have used art like these drawings which can be categorized in are call "Satire" as a response to threats. In Denmark it had its origin from WWII where the Germans invaded us without being able to defend our selves.

To keep the spirit up we used satire to make fun of them. And since then it has proven to be a powerful weapon against any similarly threat to the Danish population. Maybe it have been used to much I do not know.

My mother is from Finland and I have to live with reputation as any other from Finland as "a man which are quick to pull the knife". Funny stories about people from several parts from Jut land are common all over Denmark.

Most of these stories have some part of truth in it.

The knife story did arise from al the children which were send to Denmark during WWII. They were about 2-10 year and did not understand one word of Danish and Finish is very different from Danish. So young people do often get frustrated they can communicate what they want and it gave the Finish population a violent reputation. The story about the very brutal "Volvo-Bugler" did not improve it.

As I mentioned before I have a mother from Finland. I personally do not mind the knife reputation.

The funny stories about people from special parts of Jut land have two reasons. For some incomprehensible reason people in a special part of Jut land for several centuries did believe that a newborn should have porridge as their first meal in this world. Of course the rest of Denmark knew that this kind of food could kill of the newborn. But until the radio was invented and education could reach out there the infant mortality rate was tree time as high as the rest of the country.

So we started to make funny stories about them because they were not as we in Denmark have a say “The sharpest knife in the drawer”. An example could be that two persons were on a fishing trip. They did have a good catch and wanted to return to the same place another day. In order to get back to exactly the same spot they did cut a mark in the boat.

The stories about the people from the next largest city in Denmark have a simple cause. Due to special tax rules it is cheaper to hire people from Jut land than people next door. So a lot of people crossed the Great Belt Monday and Friday sleeping in boxes, cars and what they can get their hands on, working 10-12 hours a day. So the local people make fun of them because they can work as cheap because they can not get the tax-bonus because they have a short distance to their work.

An example could be about a man from Aarhus which did go on a trip to Africa. He was a hunter, so he got out a whole day on his own. Asked about what he did shoot, he replied “An elephant, a lion and 2 no’es-no’es”. The host did not about an animal called “no-no”, so he was asked how they looked like. “They were black, about 4 feet high and did walk on two legs. When I aimed at them they shouted no-no”.

Also there are stories about girls with blond hair and Africans. (I do not know the cause.). However working as computer technician I can confirm that the story about the blond using correction fluid on the monitor in order to correct typo in a word editor is correct.

Why these drawings ?

Basically we want to understand where the increased violence in our streets came from. We have lied to our selves for a long time. Last year a lot a politicians demanded the crimes made by settlers from foreign countries must not be mentioned in our newspapers because our crime statistics did show an overweight of crime made by settlers. It gave them a bad reputation.

It did not end up with a law but I am of the understanding that our newspapers have been better of camouflaging the exact events. But the people did demand an explanation and then Jyllandsposten did publish these drawings alone in an purpose of information.

What is this conflict about?

It have become clear that this "war" is a kind of "time war". It is Denmark trying to maintain it status in year 2006 against several countries living in the middle age.

We do not understand why they are angry. The drawings were not intended as a provocation only as information.

We Danes do to not believe that we have insulted anyone:

* We do believe that Hamas had a need for a break while they do figure out what they should use their new-won power fore.

* We do believe that the Syrian government wanted to shifts focus away from their bombing in Lebanon.

So we can not be held responsible for that these drawings are used to hide local problems.

How could this conflict be solved?

As a start the entire Middle East should accept that we Danes a level of debate inside Denmark which is a matter for Danes and only for Danes.

We have to isolate our democracy if democracy itself which this case clearly illustrates is an insult to other countries.

A growing number of people consider stopping all our international involvement. Why take time with humanitarian and military aid if it is not appreciated?

As for our export: We do not force anyone to buy our goods. Of course we develop a lot but we could just sell to prototype to foreign companies for a lot money instead of waiting for someone to reverse engineer it as it happens al the time. Just look at Microsoft. The core of programs from Microsoft Business solution are developed in Denmark and even one billion Muslims can not boycott Microsoft. Also products from Cisco and Intel do include vital parts developed in Denmark.

As for tourism: In Denmark You can smoke in restaurants and public places which is quite seldom. A lot of people would like a taste of the old days where they did have truly freedom in their own country. Tourism would not be a problem.

Also we have to deal with the fact that there not anymore are room for everyone in Denmark. Of course people should be allowed to enter our country and serve in our companies. Just now work are done in our justice department on a law which in the future demand that immigrants have to sign a contract where they bind themselves to follow Danish values and standards. We should have thought of all. For instance one of the statement is  "You must not beat up your wife" (We all know that it is normal to do that abroad).

We do strongly believe an old Danish role. "If you can see it - you do not feel sorry for it.". Transferred it means that if we can stop our jokes and drawing to be read outside Denmark, then we can continue our way of life with jokes, drawings and as our Queen used to say "smartass" remarks.

Hopefully we would succeed in these task. Else Denmark would be doomed.