The Nordic countries are hot!
We are the happiest people in the world.
We are top countries for business.
We are among the most innovative, competitive and best educated countries.
- And we don't like to brag.
Seriously, in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2008, politicians and media in the West have started looking towards the North. We must have done something right: In survey after survey, the Nordic countries come out at the top, and apart from Iceland, our economies got through the crisis pretty well and without mass unemployment.
Fukuyama: Getting to “Denmark”
"...the “stateness” is really key and I think, unfortunately, the United States has discovered that we don’t really know how to do this as an outside power. This is the problem that I call “Getting to Denmark”, where “Denmark” is actually not the country Denmark, but it is kind of a symbol for a well-governed, peaceful, prosperous, uncorrupt place. And we want to turn Afghanistan or Somalia or Yemen into some version of “Denmark,” and we are just not making very much progress, so… Turns out, I actually had a visiting professorship at the University of Aarhus and I spent some time in Denmark and, you know, it turns out: The Danes don’t know how they got to be “Denmark” either."
- That may be so, but we think we discovered The Nordic Secret.
Official White House Photo by Pete Souza, 2015
Obama invites Nordic prime ministers May, 2016
In March 2016, the White House announced the prime ministers of the five Nordic countries were invited to a US / Nordic summit with President Obama in May. Not only do our six countries share a number of interests ("Obama got it right," according to the Huffington Post), according to The Atlantic, the Nordics have made a good impression too:
"In recent days, the president has taken to joking privately, “All I need in the Middle East is a few smart autocrats.” Obama has always had a fondness for pragmatic, emotionally contained technocrats, telling aides, “If only everyone could be like the Scandinavians, this would all be easy.”"
Democratic Socialism, where? - What? - Scandinavia?
Bernie loves us. We think that is OK (no, actually, it's YUUUGE!), but please don't call us socialists. We have mixed economies: capitalism plus extensive welfare states and high taxes, but not really socialism. Health care is free but there are private hospitals too, and in Denmark, the previous government (which was Social Democratic) sold 18% of the state, soon-to-be-sustainable energy company to Goldman Sachs...
Denmark among the Republican candidates
It isn't just US Democrats who have a thing for Denmark. Ted Cruz about Donald Trump: "We're liable to wake up one morning and Donald, if he were President, would have nuked Denmark."
From what we can understand, Donald Trump seems more interested in Ted Cruz' wife and we have no objections to that.
Obama understands the Nordic secret and talks about Bildung
At the above-mentioned Nordic summit in the White House, President Obama was spot on about what is so special about the Nordic countries: our education and Bildung. The President did not use the word Bildung itself, but talking at the state dinner about how the 19th century Danish pastor Grundtvig changed education in the Nordics, Bildung was in fact what he talked about.
What neither of us here at The Nordic Secret knew, is that Grundtvig's school concept traveled to the US in the 1930s and became Highlander Folk School, which is today Highlander Research and Education Center. What is particularly interesting is the crucial role that the Highlander Folk School played in the civil rights movement and that people like Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr. got important Bildung at Highlander.
PS: Obama also talked about drunken vikings and given the shaky video, we suspect the White House may have hired one of them to shoot the video from state dinner.
Denmark losing its moral compass?
The refugee crisis is overwhelming Europe, but while Germany and Sweden took the moral high ground and insisted on humanism and decency from the start, Denmark immediately took a different path: “Stay away, please.”
Refugees must register in the first EU country they enter and once registered in that country, moving across nation borders they become migrants; i.e. there is nobody actually fleeing from Germany to Denmark. Thus, this Washington Post article: Denmark, a social welfare utopia, takes a nasty turn on refugees misses a central point.
However, something has changed in Denmark: First, humanism is no longer a political argument. Second, Denmark’s international image is more or less in free fall and the government, rather than seeing this as a problem, seems to consider it an irrelevant technicality.
Sweden no longer ruled by law?
After the horrific sexual assaults on women in Cologne, Stuttgart and other European cities on New Year’s Eve 2015, it came out that similar assaults had happened at a music festival in Stockholm the summers of 2014 and 2015 without the police reporting it.
No clear explanation has been given, why the police kept this information away from the public but it is assumed that it was out of fear that it might embolden the anti-immigrant party Sweden Democrats, a deliberate cover-up in other words.
What is happening in Iceland?
The Nordic countries are generally lauded for low corruption and high trust in politicians and public authorities, but then the Panama Papers came out and the prime minister of Iceland had to resign.
Is something changing in the Nordic countries?
Can you even find a friend here?
According to The Independent who got it from The Expat Insider, settling in as an expat is very hard in the Nordic countries. Finding friends may be close to impossible: The survey ranks 67 countries according to how easy it is to find new friends (go to page 35 in the survey) and we hit the bottom:
- Finland no. 59
- Sweden no. 64
- Norway no. 65
- Denmark no. 67
Interestingly enough, the Netherlands and Switzerland with whom the Nordics generally compete about the top ten positions are down there with us, equally unfriendly: the Dutch are no. 60 and the Swiss are no. 63.
These unpresidented attaks on Denmakr must stopp!
So far, it is only an opinion piece by Dana Milbank but at what point should we start blaming Ted Cruz for directing attention to Denmark during the primaries?