On Denmark and its problems with immigration
I have some thoughts sparked by the debate over the Mohammad cartoons.
We only have ourselves to blame for the mess we’re in. Our problems take root in 4 decades of failed immigration policy, and we the electorate are alone responsible for bringing us here. Blaming the immigrants will not help solve the problems, as they are not the cause.
I have experienced the difficulties of coming here up close, through my employment of an American, a Latin American, and a Swede. Two are jews, one is vegetarian, non-drinker and non-smoker, one spent 10 hours a week learning Danish (and it wasn’t the swede). Denmark is a really tough country to come to.
The language is exceedingly difficult to learn, not least because we speak it so fast, make no effort to be helpful and understanding towards learners, and frown upon people who don’t get our vowels exactly right as being stupid and inferior. Besides, everybody already have all the friends they need, and when there’s something social going on, you’re effectively shut out if you don’t speak the language, and if that wasn’t enough there can be no accommodation to people who don’t drink, eat meat, or who get sick from the smoke. Tough luck. To say that we’re not a welcoming place is a gross understatement.
You can’t make people integrate well by force and declaration. Presenting immigrants with letters like this (linked from the Danish Immigration Service, via Sean) will only add insult to injury and alienate our immigrants. (There’s been recent talk about yet another document in the same vein.) You can only achieve real integration by motivating people, by offering an upside, and by offering basic dignity and respect. You can force superficial compliance, you can get people to sign documents, but you cannot make them mean it or want it. Anybody with children or employees should know this.
We need to bring back political correctness. When Troels Lund Poulsen had the final word in the DR debate in Thorvaldsen’s Museum about a month ago, he talked about the need for understanding from “both Danes and Muslims”. Muslims are danes, too, for crying out loud! We need to sanitize our language until we no longer make basic mistakes like this. Generalizations like “them” and “us” are also compounding the problem, not solving it. And when you let the language slide, it distorts your perception of the world, to the extent that you start believing the generalizations. We need to establish some ground rules for how we talk about the problems and enforce them (not through law, but through convention), and our understanding will gradually become more nuanced, not less.