Studying the exhibition in the early morning light, I found that it was an expression of what in Australia would be called progressive views. The first section focused on refugees, the second on families, families of all types and compositions - single. merged, gay couples, a whole pot pouri of relationships.
In the period leading up to my departure, the Australian and European media had been full of the growing European refugee crisis. For that reason, I was very interested in the display. I apologise for the standard of the photos.
The introduction to the refugee component is set out below. You can see the focus on refugees and conflict, on the local experience. You can also sense underlying tensions in the use of first names for the sake of "their own and their families safety."
By comparison with Sweden, the number of refugees in Denmark appears relatively small both in absolute terms and as a proportion of the Danish population. On the streets of Copenhagen or on public transport, the proportion of those visibly different whether by ethnicity or dress is very small compared to say Sydney.
While the values coming from Denmark's Lutheran heritage continue, modern Denmark is a very secular society, more so than Australia measured by the proportion of the population professing religious faith or engaged in religious activities. In these circumstances, it is the evolving values of the secular society that provide the dominating glue that holds the society together.
I discussed hygge in Introducing the Danish concept of hygge. As an Australian and especially one from a country background, I found aspects of hygge instantly familiar. The Australian equivalent is mateship. Like hygee, mateship is a secular phenomenon. Like hygge, mateship can be interpreted in various ways. Like hygge, mateship is incorporated in national dialogue and affects behaviour in different ways.
While hygge and mateship have significant differences, both have a common origin in the need for people to combine in the face of adversity. Hygge with its emphasis on coziness, harmony and cooperation can provide a vehicle for integration, for admission. Indeed, I saw aspects of this on the streets of Copenhagen. However, it can also be a vehicle for exclusion, for a restatement of them and us.
Denmark has experienced war in a way Australia has not. This is true for all European countries. It affects attitudes. This quote from the German Lutheran theologian Martin Niemöller was included in the display.
The Second World War was all about ethnicity. Yes, other elements were present, but ethnicity was central. In saying this, we generally focus on the treatment of the Jews and Gypsies, but this was a result of a deeper ethnic divide.
The concept of lebensraum was central to the Second World War in Europe. Lebensraum involved a desire to bring together a scattered people considered to be superior, the Germans, and give them an expanded homeland. More than 50 million people died as a result, many millions more were forced to relocate during and after the War, The scars exist to today.
The political battles now going on in Europe represent a conflict between those who want to re-assert national or ethnic identity and those who seek a broader vision. There is actually nothing wrong in wishing to preserve identity, although many on the left would deny this. However, it becomes very problematic indeed when the desire to preserve identity becomes wrapped in language that asserts superiority, the special value of difference. .
I will continue this muse in my next post, looking at further aspects of the European experience.