So the Danish People’s Party (DF) won 21 percent of the vote. Left-wingers threatened to leave the country, right-wingers wagged fingers and said “don’t be sore losers”.
Hey, it’s OK to be worried about the direction Denmark will move with such a powerful anti-immigration party in Parliament. You don’t have to be a foreigner to worry that rules limiting immigration will affect Denmark’s wealth, happiness and prosperity. Danes should worry, too.
Disliking a party isn’t the same as disliking their voters. People have their reasons. Perhaps they wanted the animal protection police force, or think DF is best equipped to maintain the welfare state. Even if people chose DF for their immigration policies, dialogue is the best approach. It means something that the multicultural Nørrebro district had one of the lowest proportions of DF voters in the country.
The election campaigns were still totally miserable. Asylum seekers and unemployment are not the biggest problems facing Denmark, despite being the issues that got the most attention. There will never be 100 percent employment, and people will always flee conflict. Reducing benefits doesn’t make it easier to be unemployed when there is no job for you, or when you’re living in a foreign country with PTSD.
No, the biggest problems are the political paradigms. For example, the right wing’s belief that we can sustain unfettered economic growth. So far, economic growth has been driven by consuming ever more resources, but at some point we will hit a wall where the planet simply isn’t worth living on any more. In fact, a study published in the journal Science Advances says that the planet has already entered the sixth great extinction. If we want to survive, we are going to have to make some sacrifices.
The left wing has its own problems. Opening the borders to asylum seekers is clearly the most humanitarian course of action. It is a major problem, however, that only 47 percent of immigrants and asylum seekers are employed, compared to 73 percent of Danes. It’s not that they don’t want work, it’s just that there are very few jobs for those without the right skills for the Danish labour market.
The secretary general of the Danish Refugee Council, Andreas Kamm, has suggested this can be addressed by lowering the starting salaries for some jobs. But the unions have dismissed the proposal, as it risks lowering wages across the board. There seem to be no other good ideas on the table, however, so refugees and asylum seekers will continue to lose their minds with boredom in asylum centres.
Lowering salaries across the board is bad for Denmark, and so too is turning our backs on industrialisation. What we need to do is consider options that are outside our normal field of view. We need forward-thinking solutions that are both sustainable and humanitarian – and that accept the fact that Denmark exists in a globalised world, which exerts pressure on its wages, borders and resources. These need not be threats, but opportunities, and we should seek leadership in the politicians, academics, artists, thinkers and common people who see it that way.