What is the Danish equivalent of the Koran?

No, it’s not that I don’t have a life and that I only write about and am concerned with issues relating to the usually very far away Danish minority in Germany and its mother country. While I have not been blogging for several months, I moved to Hackney in north eastern London with Petra (false name), who I met in Oaxaca (see posts from about a year ago) and I started MPhil/PhD studies at Goldsmiths College — quite a radicalizing change from the University of Oslo. In October, the print edition of the Norwegian Dagbladet also had a piece on me coordinating activists from Norway and Germany to come to a demonstration for the youth house Ungdomshuset in Copenhagen, while I was situated in Århus. I wrote notes in online communities such as Facebook.com and Underskog.no — one of my Norwegian comments on the current political situation in Denmark in Norwegian was translated to Danish by Espen Stegger Ledaal — and I supplied Katie, with whom I had been traveling in Central America, with enough data on the Danish welfare state model for a group presentation as part of her social woks master degree, that her professor said she was very lucky to have “a significant other” from Denmark… So yeah, I sure have been active, although I stopped writing here for a while.

It is actually quite easy to record patterns of behavior of those around me here, but they are anarchists and so a bit paranoid of having their stories published all over the Internet. Also there were some events in the last few months that were so close to me that I would be afraid of putting them out for everyone to see. So you will have to wait until I go somewhere else — like Nicaragua some time this spring/summer.

Nevertheless, every now and then I find the time to scan through the Danish minority paper Flensborg Avis.

The physical border line between Denmark and Germany consists of no more than symbolical markers in 2007. Nevertheless, maintaining "Danish culture" is still important to some.
The physical border line between Denmark and Germany consists of no more than symbolical markers in 2007. Nevertheless, maintaining “Danish culture” is still important to some.

The purpose of the paper is on one hand to give a short overview of what is going on in the world (I would guess two pages), who has won what in sports (about the same) and then for the rest of the paper to be an everlasting discussion on the theme “how do we prove that we are Danish enough?” The question is of course very relevant for some of those on higher level in the organizational apparatus, given that Denmark pays around 2/3 of the total costs of the Danish and German minorities on each side of the border and failing national loyalty, it is feared, may lead to Denmark leaving the project altogether. For others again, the question is much more related to their own nationalist ideology and Southern Schleswig is the last colony that has to be defended against decolonization and to that end, the nationalist ideology may not be questioned. The money argument is of course true only in a very limited sense; the economic relationship between Germany and Denmark is very complex with Payments to the EU, Nato, the bridge Rødby-Puttgarden as some of the other factors, if we limit our view only on the governments involved. Who owes who is really impossible to say.

But then, for the last decade at least, there has been a stream of identity entrepreneurs who transcend the given idea of what a person’s relationship to “his nation” has to be. I am certainly one of them, but in my contributions to the paper that come in the form of letters to the editor, I usually try to say something completely outrages that falls outside the radar zone of any of the other participants. The point is really to expand the limits of what one can say, rather than actually be taken serious by any of my nationalist counterparts.

For more than a months now, the main controversy was a text by high school teacher at the still only Danish minority school Duborg-skolen, Jan Eiffert. Back in 1999 I remember the same Eiffert as a student, when he complained that the Danish minority had failed to produce loyal Danish subjects of most students with German parents in the paper. I remember a public meeting that was called for at the school, and how the issue was discussed in an open debate, giving the members of the audience the possibility to give their views.. My mother and I both spoke up for the positive aspects of creating hybrids, but given that the Wilms always are the internationalist section none of them really comprehended any of what either one of us said and it was just discarded and never referred to again.

In 2007, Eiffert has changed in attitude, but the theme of the nation is still there although in a different form. He has a young daughter and is considering what songs to teach her, when he stumbles upon the Danish “Højskolesangbogen” — a song book first issued in 1894, supposedly made up of the traditional Danish songs that make out what Danish culture is today, and organizationally connected very closely to a movement of community colleges that made education available to the common Dane for the first time.

What Eiffert writes is nothing more than what I (and I hope most of my fellow students) started figuring out in 7th grade, when I was kicked out from the scouts, amongst other things because I had refused to swear my loyalty to “God, king and fatherland” and had left as obscure by 10th grade, when I made my class sing one of the most far-out “we’re smashing the Swedes” songs as the very last song in music classes, just to make fun of the teacher who actually took this song serious. But better late than never, one should applaud Eiffert for his newly won insights.

It went well to begin with, when I quacked myself through “The small sing” (another song book), but now it’s not OK any longer. For I started on the Højskolesangbogen, and and it has really got me to open my eyes. Is that really what they had us sing in school back then? For now I am about to start to understand what those songs really were about.

The last few weeks of singing have been a journey back to my childhood, which I apparently spent howling out crap in the form of verses together with other minors in the same situation. In this way I sang about the Swedes, whose brains were squished out with an axe. On small children, who shouldn’t hope to much to wake up alive again, unless God happens to feel like i. About elephants, who use nigger boys [sic] as rattles. About a blond übermensch race of people, who live on the Danish isles. They still do.

The sickness of communal singing

And here we have reached the center piece of it all: Communal singing is not just a sickening thing, because some manage to sing straight, while I don’t. Of course it is a major part of it, but the real treachery of it all is that most of the Danish tradition of songs is an expression of spiritual masturbation, clerical indoctrination, or at its best, both at the same time.

The Højskolesangbog is a waste dump of past nationalistic and religious brain washing attempts, and three fourth of it should be rolled up and be smoked with apple tobacco. The only positive that can be said about it is that its songs clearly haven’t influenced me, so that gives us some hope for future generations of school children, who are lined up to praise their motherland, violent nut-heads and God the father in heaven.

My main point is that my daughter is not to be filled with that kind of filth, which then can develop in her subconsciousness, until she one day gets a child of her own and looks up the song book again. So now I’m in the search for a song book, which is ecologically cleansed of gender discrimination, nationalistic self-centeredness and religious whimpering, and until it shows up, I make by exchanging the “dangerous” words with funny ones.

Flensborg Avis Nov 3, 2007

These kind of writings would be very common for Norway, where criticizing part of former times national romantic nation building attempts have regularly been attacked as part of a newer social democratic one-party nation building project, and then again most recently the two former are being criticized as part of the newest multiculturalist welfare state building project. The fact that Jews were forbidden in Norway in the first half of the 19th century is regularly being pointed out in national media. As are the horrible treatment of children of German soldiers with Norwegian women after WWII, the Samii population in northern Norway up until very recently or the sterilization of the Tater (Romani) population regularly displayed shown in national media. The international day for the abolition of slavery (December 2nd, 2007) was commemorated by Oslo’s main conservative paper Aftenposten with the heading “When the slave trade came to Norway”. The proof of Norway being involved in slave trade presented was a ship wreck found in 1976 of a ship that was on its way to Denmark, when high sea made it sail around in Norway. The wreck had been found in 1974.

But that is Norway. Denmark is a whole different ball game. I don’t think you could see this kind of stuff anywhere in the mainstream media. In the so-called Danish minority in Germany though, it is common practice. Simultaneously though, it is also common to have reactions to it that are so ultra-fundamentalist that you really wonder how some of these people manage to survive in their (German) surroundings.

Danish flag in strong wind Per Palmkvist Knudsen
Danish flag in strong wind (Per Palmkvist Knudsen)

Eiffert’s provocation was no exception. Some of the most hard line demands were to make him responsible for all subversive activity ongoing amongst students. “One often questions oneself what is wrong with Duborg-skolen. It is producing students with questioning national identities and radical opinions…” Kirsten Grau Nielsen analyses Nov 30, 2007, “With teachers like Jan Eiffert it is no wonder. Questioning students will cling to his alike like magnets. What exactly are the standards to employ teachers at Duborg-skolen?” Others are less radical, and try to argue that Eiffert simply misunderstood it all. Former music teacher Knud Engsnap argues that the rhyme scheme in one particular songs “reveals the irony” in the wording. Ah OK, so it’s all just a big joke that the Swedes are getting their brains kicked out. Others again, like computer teacher Leif Mikkelsen in today’s issue, are likening some of the most radical critics to have a view of the Højskolesangbogen like “some fundamentalist Muslims have of the Koran”. The criticism extends further, translating her letter into a call for “Berufsverbot” (German for forbidding someone to work. The German is used to elicit images of Western German treatment of communists). “The Duborg-skole is still intact, but a few fatawas have been issued already,” Mikkelsen continues.

And also I feel that I need to add my two cents to the issue. My letter that was published today really contains very little controversial. Most of it is a mash-up of things I’ve said earlier, can be researched easily by clicking around the Internet, or are common paradigms in mainstream academic debate. Some of you who have been following my writings closely will also notice that some of the same historical outline was used in my argument for multi-culturalism in Norwegian schools in this fall’s edition of the Pedagogy student magazine Also, it is very simplistic and the whole dialectic notion of the subject has been replaced by a very physicalist base determines superstructure model, just to make it comprehensible. Nevertheless, I am quite certain it will be far outside the limits of what any of the debate’s participants will accept as a valid argument. The only purpose it serves is therefore really to help expand the limits of what can be said (and thought) in Southern Schleswig. I, however, will remain the nut they always thought I was.

Global identities are growing fast

Johannes Wilm, London formerly Flensburg

Kirsten Grau Nielsen complains in her letter to the editor on Nov 30 that the Duborg-skole produces humans with insecure national identities and radical opinions. She then tries to make teachers like Jan Eiffert responsible for it.

The thing Nielsen forgets is that Eiffert himself is a product of the same school and many years of socialization through the so-called “Danish minority in Southern Schleswig” and that the first critical contributions came when he still was a student in the 1990s.

If he is cause, then he must surely also be effect of the same process that gets students to question a number of “truths” that are accepted by society. In this way he can be enhancing the effect, but in no way can he be the fundamental cause behind the phenomenon.

Underlying the debate is the fact that world capitalism for the first time since WWII has reached a level of global integration comparable to the one before the crisis in the first third of the 20th century. it is not especially surprising, that now, that people move much more back and forth over country border simultaneously with the individual countries increasingly resembling copies of one-another, national identities, which at any rate are not much older than capitalism itself, now are being softened. And it leaves room to reinterpret what geographical origin and more specifically but also diffuse, which “national” origin one has, when it comes to one’s understanding of oneself. Of course, in border lands it has almost always in reality been impossible to classify people as being one thing or the other.

But during the golden years of capitalism between the end of WWII and up until the oil crisis the different European peoples were standardized through state controlled, national media. That lead to 99% of the population being “homogenized”, if forget about differences of class for a second.

As a migrant or border land habitant it was then natural to see oneself as some kind of freak. Under constant pressure from the representatives of the state’s standardization machine that one “needs to decide” to be either one or the other, then people mainly followed that and gave themselves an image of being either one or the other. And with that the idea that “everyone has a nation” was maintained.

Now this paradigm is about to fall, and it shows in borderlands and amongst those with direct contact to two countries’ institutions earlier than other places. But it won’t end at this level. The reactionary politic against everything that is not standard Danish (foreigners, the Ungdomshuset, etc.) is already hurting the growth of capital. The bourgeoisie wing will therefore split on this question. The days of nationalism are over, unless another world war comes along tat destroys existing capital and with that enables another 30 years of economical growth within culturally separated national states.

Already now, a little less than 1 quarter of the Norwegian population are members of the global internet society Facebook, and for Denmark the number is somewhere close to 100,000. In countries like Canada, South Africa, Norway, England, Turkey, Puerto Rica, Egypt, Panama, Jordan, Colombia and Sweden is the English language social network site Facebook.com amongst the four most visited sites altogether. That many of these countries are not even English speaking is clearly not important and national alternatives do not manage to compete.

The contacts crossing language and country borders are more important than that one gets to use “ones own” language. Whether geographical connections and origin have anything to say for peoples’ primary identity in a few years, is not certain at all.

From Flensborg Avis, Dec 11, 2007

Where will this lead? Probably nowhere, at least not for now. Another generation of Duborg students will hopefully get radicalized an then move away to some other place. The debate stays internal and will have very little effect on what political changes there will be. I’m in Oslo on Christmas holidays from London, going on to Amsterdam for a meeting this weekend, then Schuby. Do you need to constantly travel to maintain a transnational identity? Could I do more in this case? Should I? What can one do, if all the reasonable arguments are far outside of what is acceptable amongst the participants of the debate?

Sorry, I think I should have a life too. You are free to send me a message though, if you think you have the/an answer.

[All translations are my own; original texts were in Danish]

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