Category Archives: Denmark

Banana Kingdom Denmark

September 2, the day that Yankee President Donald Trump should have been in Denmark, between 1200 and 1500 demonstrated against US-Denmark wars to tell both states: “Yankee Go Home” and “Take Back Denmark’s Sovereignty.” This was the largest anti-war gathering in a long time. Some people came out just to protest vulgar Trump, or to oppose planet pollution, and other issues.

Trump cancelled the trip because the Kingdom of Denmark, as the Queen and her politicians call Denmark, would not sell the real estate capitalist its colony island of Greenland [As much as many danes might like to believe such is the case, Greenland is not Denmark’s “colony island,” and the Danish PM intimated as much herself — DV Ed]. I suppose Trump figured that since Denmark had already delivered its foreign policy sovereignty to “the greatest country in the world” two-three decades ago that it would be willing to sell him Greenland, so that the US Military Empire could have more military bases with nuclear armament placed there. Yet his logic was premature.

On the same day we demonstrated, Denmark’s “social democrat” war minister “coincidentally”, sent four F16 war jets Denmark had bought from Trump-land years ago to “protect” the Baltic from the big bad bear.

Denmark’s government also announced it was buying top-notch sonar, so it could play along with its Big Daddy, when they go searching for allegedly Putin-run submarines and, of course, there would be more funds for NATO. Not least, Denmark’s war minister announced that she would assure that her elite killers—Commando troops and Navy Seals (Jaegerkorpset and Froemandskorpset)—will be used all the more to protect Denmark against Russia. She announced this without stating what the threat was, but assured us that this “fellowship” with NATO and the US will “be effective when there is need for it.”

So, Big Daddy got what he wanted without wasting his time and tax money with a trip to Banana Kingdom Denmark.

On Flag Day, September 5, mothers and fathers in military uniforms pinned war medals on 700 children chosen that day, because their parents were or had been sent out to do their duty. The media printed a photo of a mother in uniform pinning a war medal on a child about five years old.

On the following day that the feminist prime minister (Mette Frederiksen) and feminist war minister (Trine Bramsen), alongside the male feminist secretary of state (Jeppe Kofod), announced the same number of soldiers (700), coincidentally, would be sent to war zones or potential war zones: Syria, Africa, the Baltic for starters. The explanation for this escalation was “Russia’s aggressive behavior in the East” and that there were terrorists in many countries. They will also sail Denmark’s largest vessel, a frigate, to assist a US aircraft carrier group. Denmark will assist the US in its sanctions and saber-rattling against Iran.  Denmark already participates in war missions in Afghanistan (now for 18 years) and Iraq, and “defense” of Kosovo and Estonia. They will continue to do so.

“We have once again been asked to contribute to peace and stability out in the world’s hot spots. I am proud of that,” asserted the “Social Democrat” war minister. (Note)

One would have thought, Banana Kingdom Denmark has certainly proven itself, yet once again, to be the best possible warring ally the US Military Empire could wish for, but no, these contributions to US/NATO war-making were not enough.

During this week of jingoistic swashbuckling, 40 war ships with 4,500 marines from 16 NATO countries docked in Copenhagen’s harbor. The government also extended its territory reserved for military war game maneuvers from 6000 to 14,000 hectares. Finally, at least for now, the Royal Family’s main home, Amalienborg Palace, will be blocked off from all traffic by 1.2 meter tall bronze bollards. Christianborg’s Parliament was similarly blocked off earlier but with mere 85 centimeter tall granite balls.

I mean, what more could the US Military Empire ask of its little Viking ally?

Note: On an historical note, we should recall that there are two direct opposite definitions of “fellowship” (or “unison”) for social democrats and socialists and communists. Back during the days leading up to the Russian Revolution, the Russian social democratic party had two factions, “Bolsheviks” and “Mensheviks”—the former wanted socialism (leading toward a stateless communist society), and the latter opted for “social democratic” capitalism—a la Bernie Sanders of today. The split ended with the Russian Revolution being attacked by social democrats and their allies, the aristocratic “white army” and its allies the US, six European states and Japan. Before the 1917 revolution, German social democrats had gone along with the bourgeoisie’s senseless world war, and social democrats have since followed suit in scores of countries and in hundreds of wars.

“Based on the Fact She Won’t Sell Me Greenland, I’m Staying Home”

Denmark, by all reports one of the happiest, most affluent societies on earth, retains a symbolic monarchy for patriotic purposes. One of the Queen’s duties is to invite foreign leaders for state visits.

So Margrethe II did the politically normal, correct thing and invited the U.S. president. She knew, of course, from her briefings that Donald Trump has a reputation for ignorance of history, contemporary geopolitics, military matters, etc., and has a tendency to insult his hosts.  She knew it would be awkward; perhaps she’d chatted with Elizabeth II about her recent experience. But Denmark is a close NATO ally and treats U.S. leaders to pomp and ceremony as a matter of course.

Margrethe probably did not expect that two weeks before the scheduled visit Trump would indicate interest in purchasing the huge island of Greenland. The Danish foreign minister and then prime minister would first decline to take the proposal seriously,  dismissing it as a joke (surely the polite response). At first it was funny.

But as time passed, and it dawned on the Danes that maybe the Emperor with No Clothes was serious, they had to state firmly, politely, lest there be any confusion: “Greenland is not for sale.”

The queen could not have anticipated that the U.S. president, his feelings deeply hurt, would abruptly cancel the visit, tweeting towards midnight August 20:

Denmark is a very special country with incredible people, but based on Prime Minister Mette Fredericksen’s comments, that she would have no interest in the purchase of Greenland, I will be postponing our meeting in two weeks for another time…

Yes, this is really happening. The president of the U.S. cancelled a state visit to Denmark because its prime minister ruled out the U.S. purchase of a vast autonomous territory inhabited by 55,000 people who enjoy autonomous rule, which has been owned by Copenhagen since at least the eighteenth century.

Trump has judged Fredericksen, and found her wanting.

“…based on…comments that she would have no interest….”

Surely any true friend of the U.S. would want to assist in its territorial expansion!

“…in the purchase of Greenland…”

As though the natural default position would be to want to sell that island to the owner best able to USE it wisely!

“I will be postponing our meeting…”

To register Trump’s disappointment in the Danes, and make them feel bad for annoying him, provoking him with their reflexive rejection of his proposal, and to force them to duly RESPECT the country that pays for their protection (since Denmark only pays under 1.5% of GDP on “defense” and Trump demands 2%, stupidly alleging the U.S. makes up the difference), and allow more time for behind-the-scenes negotiations for the deal, he must postpone the fairly imminent state visit that has already cost Denmark many millions to prepare.

This is perhaps Trump’s most idiotic tweet ever. He is both asserting the U.S.’s virtual right to acquire more territory as it did in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, through applying irresistible pressure, and his right to retaliate, even against close allies who thwart him, even in his wildest ambitions.

The man is not all there. To pick a fight with Denmark, an ally so abjectly loyal that it backed the criminal Iraq War and lost troops in both that and the Afghan occupation, and has steadily promoted U.S. interests within NATO, would not seem to make any sense.

To pick the fight over Greenland would seem especially stupid. The resource-rich island is self-governed, for the most part by Inuit people who have no interest in becoming colonized by the U.S. (Trump again highlights his racism by ignoring this fact.) The Danish government does not have the legal power to sell Greenland even if it wanted to.

To tweet so fretfully, childishly, announcing that, if he can’t have Greenland, he’ll take his toys and go home rather than have tea with the Queen, is just pathetic.

Think the Europeans: “Such a stupid little boy.” Scandinavians in particular, maybe. There’s a good word in Old Norse for Trump: oaf.  It meant the half-witted idiot-child of an elf. Danes are models of equanimity and courtesy, features of civilized society.  Fredericksen mentions that preparations for the visit had been well underway. Why waste more money? The Danes have a low national debt and a reputation for rational budgeting; they don’t like to throw money away on frills.

Copenhagen should do the right thing in response to an insufferable diplomatic discourtesy and revoke the damn invitation. Be Lutheran about it, say: Ich kann nicht anders. We have no alternative—but to unwelcome this oaf.

Or go ahead—but add conditions for a rescheduled visit. This could be the right time to reopen the question of Virgin Islands ownership. From the 1660s the Danish West Indies (Virgin Islands) provided many African slaves to the British North American colonies and then the new republic. Denmark sold the Islands to the U.S. in 1917.

But then look what happened! Trump’s friend Jeffrey Epstein established his Pederasty Island and entertained global royalty there. It’s time to discuss returning the Virgin islands to more responsible Danish sovereignty.

Her Majesty and the prime minister should inform Donald Trump that his visit will only be welcome if he is willing to discuss not just Greenland but multiple ongoing territorial issues between the two countries. They should prepare by burning mugwort, pine and juniper throughout Copenhagen and the visit’s venue before, during and after the unfortunate, burdensome, irritating, pointless event.  This will help purify the atmosphere.

OMG Trump Cancels Denmark!

This morning the Danes could wake up to a Twitter message from US President Trump that he was anyhow not going to Denmark on September 2-3 – in spite of the fact that it had been confirmed and that, formally at least, he had been invited by Her Majesty Queen Margrethe II herself.

Here is his tweet

The background

Danish Prime Minister, Mette Frederiksen, a few days ago visited Greenland and let it be known that the Arctic region was a very important security issue: “We can already say that to get the Americans even more closely involved in what happens in our part of the Arctic – the Unity of the Realm – is essential. And an even stronger strategic cooperation between our countries is important for both Greenland and Denmark.” (My translation of her statement to the Danish Broadcasting (Danmarks Radio) quoted here).

Danmarks Radio also reported that she finds such a much stronger cooperation with the US “unavoidable” and she herself ends her statement with this: “And there is no doubt that it is the US that is our closest ally, not everybody else. So when it comes to military presence, we have to keep pace with the development.” This means more, not less, US military presence in Greenland.

It was during this visit she also said in a comment to Trump that Greenland was not for sale.

It’s hardly surprising that Danish politicians across the political spectrum (not very broad) express their surprise at Trump’s rather arrogant and anti-diplomatic turnaround. They are all very upset and focus on him and his personality – urge him to show more respect, call him mad, undiplomatic, a fool, an elephant in a porcelain shop, a man with a colonial thinking and one who has created a diplomatic farce. (Much of it being surprisingly – at least to me – undiplomatic and unable to see it as a political rather than psychological issue).

Their frustration is boiling over – perhaps understandably.

Self-pity for the first time feeling harassed

But – really – what’s the fuss?

The fuss of course is that Denmark – one of the most blindly loyal US allies for decades – gets to taste a bit of what it means to be treated by the US Empire.

During the last 20 years, Denmark has been at the forefront fighting wars on US demand: Yugoslavia (1999), Afghanistan, co-occupying power in Iraq 2003-2007, a main bombing nation at the destruction of Libya, bombing again in Iraq and Syria and politically always – without exception – being uncritically on the side of the US – so too in its suffocating-through-sanctions and war-mongering policies vis-a-vis Iran.

Former Danish prime minister – an un-convicted war criminal by the name of Anders Fogh-Rasmussen – was rewarded for his dragging Denmark into the invasion and occupation of Iraq from 2003 to 2007 – the country’s biggest foreign policy blunder since 1945 – by being catapulted into the seat of NATO Secretary-General and, in that role, spearheaded the destruction of Libya way outside the UN mandate given.

The Danish political establishment and mainstream media have had no qualms about these policies, not to speak of sympathy for the victims of these US wars – except in the quite limited sense of feeling sorrow for the Danish young men who have fallen in these futile, international law-breaking wars.

It’s been self-pity in inverse proportion to empathy with real victims’ real suffering thanks to the US Danish-supported wars.

It’s not about Trump and his psychology

In the reactions by every leading politician in Denmark seem to be an underlying – idyllic, illusory – assumption that it is all about a man and his personality – an assumption Trump of course would adore.

However, that is misplaced. It’s about a system, a political culture and an Empire of which he is the elected leader.

It’s about a US that is not only a society, or republic, but an empire – and which is not a world leader with a MIMAC – Military-Industrial-Media-Academic Complex – but is a MIMAC.

The expiry date before which the US could have prevented itself from becoming such a complex – that President Eisenhower warned us all against – has passed long ago. Like a drug addict, it lives on violence in general and military means in particular.

It’s about an actor who has repeatedly scolded its allies – however, never Denmark, there was no reason – and on a daily basis bullied the world.

The US Empire in a nutshell

What is Trump’s decision to not visit little Denmark in reality about? Think this way:

In a nutshell, it’s about US global Empire-policy, militarism, bullying and believing in its own fundamental exceptionalism – standing over and above the Rest.

OK, these are words you still cannot use in Denmark without being blacklisted from the so-free called media, I know. But so be it. One day, everybody will use them – that is, when the US Empire has fallen and the US becomes a pleasant and interesting Republic to visit again. Everybody also distanced themselves from the Soviet Union too late – when it had fallen.

The main means of the US Empire (repat not the Republic) are these – and they are in quite another category than a diplomatically arrogant “I don’t bother to visit your little unimportant country and couldn’t care less about Her Majesty, Tivoli and the Little Mermaid” kinda thing:

Intimidation, political threats, sanctions (against close to 30 countries), demonisation, fake and omission, self-promotion through cultural and media penetration, exceptionalism, lies and propaganda, 600 bases in 130 countries, CIA in even more, special forces in God only know how many, threats of war as well as de facto interventions, occupations and wars – almost every day somewhere since 1945; regime change (almost 50 between 1943 and 2003 alone), a systematic violations of international laws and deliberate undermining of the United Nations and its Charter.

It’s the only country which in its 18th year conducts a self-righteous but counterproductive – global war on terror instead of caring about its own complicity in terror – and having through that only created much more terror, including ISIS, a result of its irresponsible, ignorant policies as administrator of Iraq.

And while we are at it: its nuclear megalomania.

The US is the only country in the world that has used nuclear weapons (for no good reason, Japan was finished) and also not having apologised for it. The only country which has a military doctrine that includes the first use of nuclear weapons also against conventional attacks and cyber attacks and, finally, the only country that has official reports about the possible de facto use of nuclear weapons to win a war in the future.

Yes, there are wonderful sides to the US. But these dark sides – all facts, no fake – need to be taken seriously, particularly in all things security.

A lover rejected – more submissiveness

That sort of thing has never upset the Danish foreign policy establishment – and if it has, it’s been kept secret in politics, research and media.

It was necessary to be submissive and loyal to the point of giving up all Danish/Nordic identity – socio-cultural values, international solidarity, empathy and decency – to be close to the US. To really show how much it loved the US (and hated Russia) has been Priority No 1.

And thus, Denmark has become a super active rogue bombing state – however, sadly, while most of the Danes drink latte and couldn’t care less about what their government does in Libya or Syria or what is problematic about the collective punishment of the Iranian people called sanctions.

And now – having done all that – being rejected, humiliated by the object of one’s blind respect/fear and even love?! Yes, it is hard – as can be seen from today’s statement: This is how you treat us in spite of all we’ve done for you!

And that’s why the subconscious thought, or hope, is that this is only an interlude, a parenthesis called Trump. After him, with a more “normal” president, the good old relationship with the beloved good old US will re-emerge.

Sorry, it won’t. Don’t be delusional. There’s been enough self-blindfolding!

This is the real character of your loved one – and you’ve only experienced the mildest version of it. Don’t keep believing there are only good sides because he will beat you up again if you commit the same crime again of saying no to the US!

It is perhaps the first time since 1945 Denmark is exposed to US foreign policy in its confrontational mode. Instead of self-pity, Denmark should take it as a wake-up call. Look around and reduce its total dependence just a little.

In terms of foreign policy, little warrior Denmark has never been anything but a pawn in the Empire’s game and the NATO sub-game. And, thus it is utterly unprepared for a crisis such as this.

Trump’s cancellation is a fine opportunity

See President Trump’s dropping of the visit as a wake-up call, as a wonderful opportunity to begin thinking – Denmark hasn’t been thinking independently before – of new ways to navigate and strategize and find partners with a vision whom you can cooperate with the next 50 years. It is not the US.

Because the future of the world – if there is going to be one – must be about cooperation and civil tools, not confrontation and military tools. It must be about mutual respect and benefits. Not exploitation and exceptionalism by any. A world in which there will be no new empire trying to rule the world – the Chinese are not that stupid, so feel good!

Denmark, it’s time to drop your dependency and self-pity. Instead, try a little new thinking for the first time since you became a member of NATO: Keep your friendship with the US society – the Republic – but distance yourself from the militarist – and declining – US Empire – and build new cooperative relations with the rest of the world.

Walk on two legs.

A wise person doesn’t put all her eggs in one basket. Neither does a small country that wants peace for itself and the world.

Post Script
This afternoon at a press conference, prime minister Mette Frederiksen said repeatedly that the cancellation of the visit will/should have no consequences for the otherwise good relations between the countries. And that the invitation to the US about closer security political cooperation still stands “completely untouched”.

So, one must see this whole story a serious diplomatic crisis in more than one sense. Just imagine that she had accepted an invitation to visit President Trump and cancelled it with a similar excuse – for instance, that she could not buy Trump Tower or Hawaii. Oh no – We’ll obey you forever, no matter how you treat us!

And, so, Donald Trump will put on one of his self-satisfied winner smiles and say to people around him – “there you see, I get away with everything.” And he and his country will do much worse things tomorrow. All Empires do.

Until they fall.

Colonialism Lives on in the Mind of Donald Trump

Outside of melting glaciers and global warming discussions, Kalaallit Nunaat does not often find itself in the spotlight, and when it does, it is usually referred to as Greenland. United States president Donald Trump’s real-estate aspirations have given Kalaallit Nunaat/Greenland prominence in recent news. It seems Trump is serious about the US purchasing Greenland. Judging by history, if Trump could swing such a purchase, he would certainly garner severe gravitas as a big-time deal-maker. And there is a precedent to such a real estate transaction between the US and Denmark. In 1917, Denmark sold the Danish West Indies to the US for $25 million. The islands were subsequently renamed the US Virgin Islands.

$25 million check for purchase of Danish West Indies

Said Trump about the proposed acquisition of Kalaallit Nunaat/Greenland:

It’s just something we’ve talked about. Denmark essentially owns it. We’re very good allies with Denmark. We’ve protected Denmark like we protect large portions of the world, so the concept came up. Strategically it’s interesting and we’d be interested, but we’ll talk to them a little bit. It’s not No. 1 on the burner, I can tell you that, Essentially, it’s a large real estate deal.

A lot of things can be done. It’s hurting Denmark very badly, because they’re losing almost $700 million a year carrying it. So they carry it at a great loss.

Trump, commander-in-chief of the nation responsible for “protect[ing] large portions of the world” was ostensibly unaware that the per capita GDP (2018) in economically “badly” “hurting” Denmark is $62888.7 while the US has a per capita GDP (2018) of $54541.7. Neither did Trump mention that the projected US deficit for 2019 is $896 billion.

Moreover, in conducting such a mega-real estate transaction in the media, Trump does not come across as consummate or skilled in the art of a deal.

Some Kalaallit were not impressed.

“We are not for sale and are not a commodity. If Trump really thinks so, he can only dream of it. And it also finally shows his distorted view of his fellow humans,” said Muté B. Egede, a leader of the Inuit Ataqatigiit (Community of the People), a separatist party in Kalaallit Nunaat.1

Denmark’s prime minister, Mette Frederiksen, was of similar opinion:

Greenland is not for sale. It’s an absurd discussion, and Kim Kielsen [Greenland’s current prime minister] has of course made it clear that Greenland is not for sale, and that is the end of this discussion.”2

Forbes states the sale of Kalaallit Nunaat is a matter for Denmark to decide.

But as the name Kalaallit Nunaat makes clear in translation, the world’s largest island is the “Home of the Kalaallit.” Denmark is the European home country of the Danes; Kalaallit Nunaat, on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, is the home country of the Kalaallit. Few would dispute this. Consequently, on might wonder what moral or rightful basis would people from one country have to sell the country of another people to a third country?

Tillie Martinussen, Kalaallit Nunaat member of parliament with the Samarbejdspartiet (Cooperation Party) responded:

That’s just completely crazy from Donald Trump. I wonder if he doesn’t do it to draw attention to the Arctic. He can’t be serious. Colonial times are over, and Donald Trump is harming the good relations Greenland and Denmark have to the US by saying something like this.

Martinussen playfully came back with a counter-offer:

We think Donald Trump should drop the plans and start by figuring out how much California, Florida and Alaska cost, as we want to buy them.1

Imagine if the deal did go through, Denmark sells Kalaallit Nunaat/Greenland to the US; then, following the sale, the Kalaallit hold a binding plebiscite whereby the result shows people voted overwhelmingly to become independent.

  1. Translated from Kassaaluk Kristiansen, “Partier tager kraftigt afstand fra Trumps ønske,” Sermitsiaq, 16 August 2019.
  2. Translated from Nis Kielgast, “Mette Frederiksen: Nu stopper snakken om at sælge Grønland,” DR, 18 August 2019.

Thoughts on Greenland

Greenland was given its name by Erik the Red, the Norwegian who, after settling in the Viking colony of Iceland in the 960s, sailed west and in 982 discovered the huge island.

(There were people there already — Inuits, a people of Siberian origin scattered across northern North America. But it took a while before the Scandinavians and the indigenous met. This was not an early instance of European imperialism and the colonization of indigenous subjects so much as a quest for arable land and expression of medieval Nordic wanderlust.)

Greenland was an ice-covered wilderness, not green at all. Calling it Greenland was an expression of dry Nordic humor, and an advertising ploy. Erik wanted settlers for this newly discovered land, and they did come, from Norway and elsewhere.

Erik’s son was the famous Leif Erikson, who sailed further west and reached what is now Newfoundland, in Canada, although the Vikings established no permanent settlement on the continent.

(Always remember:  Columbus was not the first European to “discover” the New World. The Vikings preceded him by half a millennium. So might also, by the way, some Celts and Basques.)

All of this is a matter of Scandinavian pride. Of one-quarter Swedish and three-eighths Norwegian ancestry, I myself am proud of it. Proud of the record of Viking exploration and trade, if not the brutal piratical raids. Proud of those Viking ships, marvels of efficient design. Proud of the fact that Scandinavians were the last Europeans to be Christianized; they held out heroically but capitulated eventually. Erik the Red was upset when son Leif tolerated Christianity in Greenland, ca. 1000.

Proud of the fact that both documentary and DNA evidence places my ancestors in Hordaland province, Norway, whence many of the Viking raids and voyages were launched.

I have cousins who legally changed my mother’s maiden name (Nelson) to “Nilsson” supposedly to be more authentically Scandinavian. I find this unnecessary. But I did name my only son Erik, with an emphatic K to make it clear this is not a British Eric but a Nordic one.

Greenland’s on my mind, of course, because the U.S. president has let it be known that he might want to buy the island. Then it would become part of my country. The romanticism of that! Trumps acquires the Viking island for the United States and I take my son on a pilgrimage to Erik the Red’s grave. (There is none, but one could be found and hotels soon established to handle tourist traffic.)

The hotel staff would likely reflect the local demographics — over 80% Inuit, or part-Scandinavian, part-Inuit. And my son Erik is half-Japanese. We could celebrate Viking achievement without wallowing in white nationalist pride.

But I suspect Trump’s white nationalism impels his (already repelled) initiative. (His interest, by the way, is not all that preposterous or unprecedented; President Harry Truman had been interested in 1946 in buying the huge, lightly-populated island sporting a U.S. Air Force base from Denmark. The Danes said no thanks. The U.S. has expanded historically through purchases of territory from France, Britain, Russia and other countries.)

Trump has a special admiration for Scandinavians. Why? Because they are quintessentially, famously, obviously white…no one whiter in this world!

Look at the map and imagine a White America spreading across the hemisphere to the world’s largest island (which geographers consider part of North America). (Never mind that the inhabitants are mostly descendants of people from Siberia, who crossed the Bering Strait after the major wave of Native Americans passed from Russia to Alaska thousands of years earlier.) Think of the white Danes in an impressive ceremony turning over the torch to Donald Trump, entrusting to him the development of Greenland’s rich resources.

Trump could then recruit white people especially from Scandinavia to better populate the island and exploit its rich natural resources. Icelanders — constituting one of the world’s most isolated genepools, with almost everyone descended from Norse ancestors with some Celtic thrall admixture — live nearby and could be coaxed to resettle in the U.S. Greenland Territory, preparing it for eventual statehood. It would be an almost all-white state due to policy and African-Americans’ sensitivity to the Arctic cold.

Ah, but I am fantasizing. The Danes and Greenlanders are laughing at Trump, joking about him — as would Hans Christian Andersen, as an emperor with no clothes. Or they’re indulging in angst over the man’s mental meltdown, as perhaps Soren Kierkegaard might do under the circumstances.

Or reflecting — as did Prince Hamlet (in Shakespeare’s depiction, “the melancholy Dane”) — that the “oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely” and “the insolence of office” while intolerable deserve resistance (as opposed to the “bare bodkin” of suicide).

They perhaps see in the foreign berserker a type like to that of their old King Canute (Knud) who once famously commanded the incoming tide to halt, to test the power of kings.

Embarrassingly, according to the legend, the tide didn’t halt for the king. The king conceded his limitations. Greenland’s not for sale, and — to emphasize the positive — President Trump again made an ass out of himself in even bringing it up.

Denmark Peace and Justice Conference Connects Activism Against Poverty, Pollution and War

Most people in the West think of Denmark as a tolerant, peace-loving country, even—according to Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump—as a socialist country. Trump views this as a disease to be excised, and avoided in the US at all costs, while Sanders sees this as an ideal for America.

The truth is far from these tales. Denmark runs on a solidly capitalist economy, and it has been at war against all the countries the US has invaded since Iraq in 1990. Its troops remain in Afghanistan and Iraq; and its planes bombed Syria not long ago. The various governments have cut back the social network of “free” education and healthcare to the bare bones in the last decade. The elderly, for instance, who cannot bathe themselves, must wait up to seven weeks before a social welfare assistant can come to wash them and clean house, and must do so in the few minutes strictly allotted. (See my series, ”Scandinavia on the Skids: The Failure of Social Democracy”.)

There are a few, quiet progressive or radical groupings in Denmark, no peace movement, but a burgeoning climate movement. Yet one alternative institution, Tvind, tries to influence people in Denmark, throughout Europe and in some “third world” countries to be activists and teachers of activism. Tvind started in 1970 (see sidebar below) and for the past five years has sponsored an international Peace and Justice Conference.

One of the unusual aspects of Tvind, at its schools, residences and conferences, is that no alcohol or any drugs are allowed. I was there four days and never did anyone, not even the 20-30 year-old majority, speak of any need for these normal crutches, and they danced after all the work until after midnight stone sober. Maybe they got their energy from a sense of fulfilling togetherness and the delicious vegetarian-ecological food they prepared for two dozen students and another 150 people, who came to the conference from Denmark and a dozen more European countries east and west, a handful from India, Africa and Latin America.

This year’s conference took place in mid-May for three days. The kick-off speech dealt with “the Russian ‘peace threat’”, other global perspectives, and how to resist; how to bring the deadly and polluting institution of militarism and its wars into the consciousness and the agenda of those opposing climate change. Previous conference themes had dealt with how to stop wars not refugees; to transform from militarism to conflict resolution and peace; and no justice no peace.

”A culture of peace will be achieved when citizens of the world understand global problems, have the skills to resolve conflict constructively; know and live by international standards of human rights; gender and racial equality; appreciate cultural diversity; and respect the diversity of the earth. Such learning cannot be achieved without intentional sustained and systematic education for peace,” read the invitation.

This year’s program included over 30 workshops, half-a-dozen key speeches, music, a theater piece, artwork, poems, sports and networking. Workshop topics included: fighting with the poor; humanity in action in India; youth in climate action with refugees in Europe; movements for change in the USA; the difference between what the US government tells us about why it wages war and what the real reasons are; war and ecocide; songs for peace; pedagogy of liberation; what is going on in Venezuela; perspectives for our future, and how to take part of creating one.

Making music together with Italian musician Paolo Rossetti

Hans Blix-Noam Chomsky did not attend but Blix was interviewed for the conference, and a Democracy for Now interview with Chomsky was viewed. Blix was the UN’s chief investigator sent to Iraq in 2002-3 to find out if the government had “weapons of mass destruction,” the excuse that President George Bush used to invade it. In 2004, Blix stated that, “there were about 700 inspections, and in no case did we find weapons of mass destruction.” Nevertheless, “let’s kick ass” Bush set up the “coalition of the willing” to destroy much of Iraq and murder over one million people. The Danish government declared war on Iraq to please the US—the only country to actually declare war. While Blix is a man of the Swedish Establishment, a strong supporter of capitalism, EU and nuclear energy, and Chomsky is a rebel anarchist, the two agreed that the greatest threats and challenges to humanity are: climate change and the growing possibility of a nuclear war. Blix said that the former is slow suicide; the latter is quick suicide. The doomsday clock stands at two minutes to midnight, the first time since it did during the Cuba missile crisis, in 1962.

Trine Wendelboe is a Dane who moved to Dowagiac, Michigan 13 years ago. She directs research and development at the One World Center connected to Tvind. This small town is headquarters for the Pokagon band of Potawatomi Indians. The center aims to take action against worldwide poverty and climate change.  Wendelboe spoke of the growing poverty and anxiety overwhelming Americans, and about some of the movements resisting the disasters people confront.

The closing workshop and last speech were held by the Dutch transformation coach and Camino Real guide Gert-Jan van Hoon. Along with young DNS teachers Nadezda and Justas they asked how participants can stick together, how do they not get “blown away”, in order to heal the soul and Mother Earth.

Gert and open future workshop at Tvind’s Peace and Justice conference

I spoke with a dozen participants about what the conference had meant to them. Some were DNS students, a few were in the 10-month international development volunteer program, and some had only attended the conference. Here are comments regarding what they got out of it and how they might “not get blown away”.

Annie Wood, an English student in the DNS program, immediately took up planning her first action following the conference—a student strike in the nearby city of Holstebro. This would be part of the Friday For Future movement actions, which began in March with about 1.6 million strikers at 2000 locations on all continents

She had been inspired by her studies at Tvind and by the conference to write a poem, “The Choice”, which she read to the participants. Here are excerpts:

Here’s my first rhyme for the world to hear
written from inspiration about something I hold dear.
To me it makes clear sense and I think it should to you too,
because right now I’m heartbroken, this has got me feeling blue.

We are killing our home, this great big planet earth.
We are plundering, draining and polluting it for everything its worth.
Yes you’ve heard this story before, maybe you’re bored with the same old lines
but if you don’t help make it better, this story will tell the end of our times…

Maybe we don’t know what is right or what we want,
but we should know by now it’s not war but it is provident.
It’s not hate, destruction or poverty.
It is love, peace, justice what brings a happy life to me.

A Danish youth, Lars, heard of Tvind from The Establishment’s prejudiced view that its founders and teachers are authoritarian “brainwashers”. “Strange”, he surmises in typical Danish irony, “I never knew that brainwashing actually could open up hearts as it has done these days. We clearly felt a warm welcome to share our ‘stories’, as they say in America. We did that but most importantly we engaged in enthusiastic discussions one-to-one and in groups what it is that we want and need to do to save this world, to make it better than it is.”

Maxsim, a 22-year old Lithuanian, said, “We are all impressed with one another in that each of us has so much to share that is useful and positive.”

Maxsim had been deluged with a hateful view of Russia so pervasive in his country. But at the conference he heard a different picture of Russia today, one that indicates neither its people nor its leaders wish nor are acting to make war but rather are acting to protect their sovereignty and defend themselves against an escalating war threat from the US/NATO.

Mariana is a college student from Portugal studying management. She won a free week-long trip to Tvind to help prepare the conference. “These days have shown me that I am not content with becoming a manager for capitalism. I have to find something else for my future, some kind of education that can lead to a job that people actually need. I don’t know what but it shall come.”

Jette, a retired nurse and amateur illustrator, felt it was “lovely to see that people actually looked at one another and smiled or spoke a few words together as they passed by, instead of what we are used to here that one looks away from one another when passing by. And then such a pleasure to see how effective everyone is in doing their tasks while also so willing to play.”

Yusef is a 22-year old Kurdish refugee from Syria who looks ten years older. His parents fled the war-torn land first and made it to Denmark. Yosef was homeless for a time, hungry, on the run. He came to Denmark five years ago, and now lives with his parents.

One summer three years ago, Yusef wanted to do something useful, to participate in a summer camp. A camp at Tvind was among the choices his social worker showed him, something unusual for government paid workers to do.

Yusef said that he, “fell in love with the place and I’ve come here three years in a row now—to the camp and to this conference. I’ve learned a lot especially at this one. As a teenager, I had joined some demonstrations against Assad. I thought it was cool, you know. But I saw that the opposition was brutal too, and some of them were/are being supported by the US. One of the issues that we Kurds had was that we couldn’t automatically get government work when we graduated from universities with degrees, say, in medicine but Arabs could. Otherwise, we also had free education and health care. Shortly after demonstrations began in 2011, Assad agreed to change the rules so we could get government paid work. I realized after a while and since being here, that we were, and are being used and misused by the Americans and all the media hysteria. I now regret that I took part in demonstrations. Assad is not nearly as bad as he is painted to be.”

Vladimir is a 19-year old Russian, offspring of South Korean parents, living in the Czech Republic where he saw an announcement about this conference. He and I worked together in the kitchen one morning, two persons from two entirely different worlds and one four times the age of the other.

Vladimir is shy and not much for words but he opened a bit in our talk. “It is new for me to see people embrace one another and to work together. People here are not thinking so much about themselves. They are not selfish but thinking about the environment, about humanity and the planet.

“I’ve decided to join the ten-month traveling-learning-teaching program. I’ll be back to prepare for the African program, to open new horizons.”

*****

Sidebar: About Tvind

Tvind started (1970) near Ulfborg village (2000 pop.) on Denmark’s west coast by the North Sea. A small group of young teachers settled there to live collectively and with a shared economy. They sought to become pioneers in social development, education and with sustainable environmental projects. Today, there are hundreds of members in the “Teacher’s Group” in several countries.

The first task was to build living quarters, mainly from prefabricated wooden buildings. They dug foundations and made water and sewage systems. They bought and repaired ten buses, which would be used to travel to other countries to learn and teach.

The “Teacher’s Group” developed an educational system based on the concept of a rural collective and a travelling school. They expanded internationally becoming a global people’s corporation.

On September 1, 1972, 100 youth—ten young teachers and 90 students—created a four-year training program to become teachers in primary and secondary schools. This program is called the Necessary Teaching Training College (DNS in Danish letters).

DNS was started from a “necessity to train another kind of teachers to bring more relevant knowledge, mobilization and life to children.”

The times were a-changing but the Establishment and its schools were not. There were pressing issues and contradictions, such as the growing inequality between rich and poor, which were not on the agenda of society’s schools.

DNS became an international program. Today most students at Tvind are from many European countries. There are few from Denmark since the state has refused to support studies at Tvind financially following allegations of tax evasion and misuse of funds by former leaders—a matter still pending. Clearly Tvind/DNS are as controversial today as they were half-a-century ago.

In 1996, Tvind started an international network “Humana People to People”. Humana assists people to lift themselves out of poverty. During a ten-month program, international volunteers learn and work with poor people to learn new skills to farm organically, using windmill energy, assuring clean water, building solar water pump and solar light systems, producing jatropha seed oil for biodiesel energy and animal feed, building homes, and establishing mini-loans for self-employment especially for women. Another aspect is planting tens of millions of trees.

Humana programs exist in the Caribbean, India, Malawi, Mozambique, Guinea Bissau and Zambia. One form of financing these activities is the UFF—development aid from people to people—which collects used clothing that is sold to support Humana projects.

With a DNS bachelor monograph graduates (now over 1000) can become teachers at some schools in a few countries; take jobs with UN aid programs; work with the poor in many countries. Their notion is that the battle for the future of humanity is, “the fight of the poor against the three sisters of capitalism: free trade, free enterprise, freedom of endless profiteering.”

Tvind in Ulfborg also has a care center for people with special needs, a day school, and a school for youth with special needs and others who seek an alternative education—all supported by the local municipality. Students, other than those in the day school, live on campus. The DNS students also live there. There is a second school in Denmark, One World Center at Lindersvold.

The “Teachers Groups” has three other schools in England, Norway and Michigan, USA using the “determination of modern method”, the pedagogical approach shaped at DNS. This gives the student the main responsibility for training and results. Learning is structured with 50% individual studies, 25% common courses, and 25% personal experiences.

Tvind is renowned for building the first modern windmill (1975-8), the largest in the world at that time (54 meters tall with a 54 meters wingspread). Four hundred people began the construction, and through the years several thousands participated. An estimated 100,000 people visited Tvind to watch the process. When the mill was completed, it had only cost the equivalent of $1 million in today’s value—paid for out of Tvind teachers’ salaries.

Tvindkraft (windmill’s name) offered the designs and ideas to any and all, but the state didn’t want them because it was committed to going with nuclear energy. Nevertheless, the Danish people soon rejected this idea, in part because Tvind showed that windmill energy was possible, cheaper and much better for the environment. Tvindkraft is the basis for all of Denmark’s famous windmills.

By 2015, the windmill had produced 20 million kWh. Tvindkraft still provides all the energy Tvind uses. Yet Tvind gets no credit from Denmark’s Establishment since they teach that collective living, common production and sharing is better for people and the environment than capitalism’s greedy foundation.  Nevertheless, in 2008, they won the European Solar Prize, one of the most prestigious awards in renewable energy.

Tvindkraft still standing and functioning 41 years later. Tvind comes from the local dialect word for the surrounding “twisting” brook in that area (Jette Salling Photo)

For All the Bicycles in Denmark


Of ghost bikes and bike lanes.

I grew up on a bicycle. At least once I learned to ride. Somehow or other I didn’t manage to do that until the age of ten. But starting then, the bicycle became the ticket to freedom and independence, as well as another way to appreciate the natural world and get a lot of exercise.

For many people who grew up in suburbs similar to the one I grew up in, what I’m describing will be familiar. Looking at it from this distant vantage point, and back at the time, the reason is and was obvious. It was all about infrastructure. Walking from my suburban home to the town center took an hour or more. I only did that when there was too much snow on the roads for anything with wheels to function. Biking it took a fraction of that time. The nearest video arcade was several miles beyond the town center. Walking there and back would have been a day-long event, but by bike it was just a good little workout.

All of this will be familiar to many. And then what happened next will be, too. At the age of sixteen I got a driver’s license and inherited an ancient Volvo from my parents, which they were passing on to me both out of love and kindness but also because the car was deemed to be no longer reliable enough to use for their interminably long commute from Connecticut to Long Island, which they both had to do multiple times a week. From the time I got that driver’s license and car, I rarely rode a bike.

There are so many forces in the society I grew up in, suburban America, that pushed me and most other teenagers and adults in that direction. With a car it becomes easier to go still further than you could easily do with a bike, and so you do, for lots of very good reasons having to do with important things like getting an education and making money. And there’s the question of your dating prospects and all those other social pressures.

But fundamentally, it comes down to infrastructure. Young teenagers in the suburbs of America often become serious bicycling enthusiasts because the distances they’d need to go by walking are impossible, there’s no mass transit to speak of, and nobody wants to ask their parents for rides all the time if they can help it, for a whole variety of different reasons. Once they’re driving cars, however, the whole equation changes. Now they can really participate in the society, as it has been designed to function — by car.

And it’s not just the distances people often need to go that is the main problem here with infrastructure. It’s not just “how it is” in a sparsely-populated place like so much of the US is. The spreading out of the population, in the way it spread out, were choices made by people and urban planners, governments and corporations.

Still we are fed on a steady diet of the mantra that we are personally responsible for the climate crisis and we have to do things like eat less meat and ride bicycles more. We are told this in so many ways, from early childhood. But despite all the propaganda, in the most bicycling cities in the US, the percentage of people commuting to work by bike on a regular basis is in the low single digits. Contrast that with cities like Copenhagen or Amsterdam, where it’s the majority who is getting around by bicycle or mass transit.

Is it something peculiar to the Danish or Dutch psyche that makes their entire societies as bicycle-obsessed as your average suburban American teenager? Or is there something else at work here? Obviously, it’s once again about infrastructure, laws, what’s easy, what’s possible. Denmark and the Netherlands being flat countries of course is hugely influential in this, let’s not minimize that. But there are many other flat parts of the world that do not have a dominant bicycle culture going on, such as most of the American midwest. In Denmark, on the other hand, it’s prohibitively expensive to own a car or fill its tank with gas, while bike lanes are everywhere, and they’re all full of people of all ages riding in them.

You’re also not risking your life by taking a bike ride. Here in Portland I see new ghost bikes cropping up everywhere — white-painted bicycles that friends of those killed while riding a bicycle often put up in their memory, and to serve as a statement. The statement can be many things to many people — it can focus on the individual responsibility of the drivers not to text and drive, not to drink and drive, etc., and/or it can put the spotlight on the need for better, safer infrastructure, like real bike lanes, tunnels, and bridges.

Meanwhile there are cities in Scandinavia that have achieved zero annual traffic fatalities of any kind. They have done this not by relying on humans not to make human errors, but by creating infrastructure that makes a fatal accident very difficult to have. In Copenhagen, for a driver to hit a bicyclist, they generally first have to drive through a line of parked cars that separate the car lane from the bicycle lane. It is not a matter of crossing an imaginary line represented by some faded paint job they’re calling a bike lane, such as at least 99% of the so-called bike lanes in the United States, in my conservative estimate.

The UK, incidentally, is just as bad for bicycling as the US, with no real attention having been paid to this form of transit in the development of the infrastructure of the country. So the idea of Extinction Rebellion activists being slandered by the mayor of London and most of the British media for tying up not only car traffic but mass transit as well, on the basis that if they really cared about the environment they wouldn’t cause problems for commuters on the Underground, is a lot like someone saying because 2+2=4 and using the Underground saves petrol, using the Underground is the solution to the climate crisis. It’s very elementary school logic that falls apart immediately upon inspection, but it is totally mainstream logic, from Saddiq Khan to the BBC, and it is pernicious.

London and other British cities are ecological disasters with industrial-era infrastructure that is crying out for radical transformation of the sort that only massive government re-prioritization of values and massive infrastructure investments can hope to deal with — as is very much the case in the cities of the US and many other countries. Only after spending so much time in Denmark did I come to realize to what a tremendous extent it is all about infrastructure, and the priorities of a democratically-run society. Danish democracy has been controlled by active bicycle-riders for a long time, with bicycle infrastructure spending being a significant part of the national budget every year since around the time I was born, and what has been achieved is obvious.

Telling people to ride their bikes more often in places like London, Glasgow, New York City or Chicago is like inviting people to die early deaths from either getting hit by a car or breathing the air made so foul by the dominance of the private car for the functioning of these societies as they are. Telling people to ride their bikes more often in Denmark, well, it’s not necessary. It would seem like a very strange thing to do. How else are you going to get around?

To the stooges of the real estate speculators pretending to be viable political leaders who like to preach about mass transit and social inclusion while they reign over societies where rampant speculation on the real estate market means people are forced to live in further and further suburbs with less and less infrastructure and more and more dependency on the private automobile for their increasingly difficult prospects for survival, we must say no, this stops now, the solution is not your band-aids – it is a total transformation of the physical infrastructure of the society, and serious, effective government regulation of the housing market.

With all respect to those many good friends of mine who are actively striving to make Denmark an even better, more ecological and more inclusive society, it is already an entirely different reality from what we know in places like the UK or the US — including in the supposedly progressive hot spots like Brighton or Seattle or wherever. In fundamental ways, it bears no resemblance.

In Denmark, the question is almost never “shall we ride or drive?” It’s almost always the former. Yes, there are fewer bus routes than there used to be, and this is not the right direction to be going in, but the point is, it’s still nothing like anywhere you’ve probably been, unless you’ve spent time in the Netherlands. These are the societies you get when you create the infrastructure for it. If you don’t create that infrastructure, you don’t get that society. We can do it, too — but first we have to stop deluding ourselves that the way forward involves anything other than society-wide collective action, of the sort that brought Denmark its bike lanes.

Mystery Killer Spans the Globe

Public health experts have been warning for decades that overuse of antibiotics reduces the effectiveness of drugs that cure bacterial infections. At least 2,000,000 Americans get antibiotic-resistant infections per year.

Notably, gluttonous overuse of antimicrobial drugs to combat bacteria and fungi via hospitals, clinics, and farms is backfiring and producing superbugs or “Nightmare Bacteria,” which is especially lethal for people with compromised immune systems and autoimmune disorders that use steroids to suppress bodily defenses.

Federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (“CDC”) recently labeled a fungus called Candida auris or C auris an “Urgent Threat.” This Nightmare Bacteria is a brutal killer that’s unstoppable and flat-out travels fast.

The CDC claims antibiotic resistance is “one of the biggest public health challenges of our time.”

According to the World Health Organization: “The world is facing an antibiotic apocalypse.”

The UK’s chief medical officer believes antimicrobial resistance: “May spell the end of modern medicine,” as routine surgeries turn into medical emergencies.

In short, new antibiotic resistance mechanisms are emerging and spreading worldwide, quickly. Knowledgeable sources worry that society at large is headed for a “Post-Antibiotic Era,” in which common infections and minor injuries can kill once again.1

According to a recent British governmental study, without new medicines and without curbing unnecessary use of antimicrobial drugs, infections followed by ensuing deaths will likely eclipse cancer deaths over succeeding decades. The harsh fact is nearly one-half of patients that contract C auris die within 90 days.2

Nowadays, the dangers of “Nightmare Bacteria” are growing out of control. The latest concern is that C auris will begin spreading to healthier populations, even though healthy people are normally not at risk. Within only five years, C auris has established itself as one of the world’s most intractable health threats. It is drug-resistant, tenacious and nearly impossible to exterminate and travels the globe looking for innocent victims, killing people mostly in hospital settings.

C auris has already established a beachhead in Venezuela, Spain, the UK, India, Pakistan, South Africa, New York, New Jersey, and Illinois. Nobody knows where else it may be cloaking.

A British hospital aerosolized hydrogen peroxide in a C auris-infected room for one week solid. Subsequently, only one organism grew back in a Petri dish in the room. It was C auris. The hospital serves wealthy patients from Europe and the Middle East, and it has not made a public announcement of the outbreak.

An outbreak of C auris at a Spanish hospital resulted in 41% deaths of infected patients. The hospital has not made a public announcement of the outbreak.

In the U.S., the Brooklyn branch of Mount Sinai Hospital had a case of C auris with an older man hospitalized for abdominal surgery.

According to a New York Times article:

The man at Mount Sinai died after 90 days in the hospital, but C auris did not. Tests showed it was everywhere in his room, so invasive that the hospital needed special cleaning equipment and had to rip out some of the ceiling and floor tiles to eradicate it… C auris is so tenacious, in part, because it is impervious to major antifungal medications, making it a new example of one of the world’s most intractable health threats: the rise of drug-resistant infections.3

Indeed, Mount Sinai’s public exposure is an exception, as hospitals and governmental agencies keep C auris’s whereabouts secret. Public transparency is shunned. Hospitals and local governments are reluctant to disclose outbreaks because of concern about tarnishing reputations and spreading of rumors. Even the Center for Disease Control is not allowed, in a pact with states, to publicly announce outbreaks.

There are multiple causes behind antibiotic-resistant infection outbreaks. As for one, using antifungals on crops to prevent rotting, in turn, contributes to drug-resistant fungi infecting people. Also, infamously, antibiotics are widely used (in fact, overused-by-a-country-mile) for disease prevention of farm animals.

Indeed, researchers estimate that up to 70 percent of all antibiotics sold in the U.S. are given to healthy food animals to artificially expedite their growth and compensate for the effects of unsanitary farm conditions. This routine use of antibiotics in animals presents a serious and growing threat to human health because it creates new strains of dangerous antibiotic-resistant bacteria.4

Furthermore, and of serious deliberate interest, Denmark is testament to what occurs by restricting non-therapeutic use of antibiotics in cattle, broiler chickens, and swine. Following Denmark’s restrictions, the use of antibiotics for swine dropped 50% from 1992-2008. Results: (1) swine production increased by nearly 50% and (2) antibiotic resistance in humans decreased.

By way of contrast, in the United States up to 70% of antibiotics go to farm animals that are not sick.

One pressing issue is no new classes of antibiotics have been invented for decades. In fact, all the antibiotics brought to the market in the past 30 years have been variations on existing drugs discovered by 1984, meaning they are just follow-up compounds, without a novel mechanism of action, meaning no major breakthroughs.

Problematically, only a few large drug companies are involved in antibiotic research and development because the cost of developing the drugs is high and profit margins are slim. In that regard, according to the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy: The antibiotic pipeline is near collapse, and the country needs to act now to preserve the infrastructure to support antibiotic research and development.

Pew Charitable Trust/Antibiotic Resistance Project is trying to muster public support for the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA, H.R. 1587/S. 619), which withdraws from animal production use of seven classes of antibiotics vitally important to human health, unless animals are diseased or drug companies can prove that their use does not harm human health.

Other groups in support of legislation include the American Medical Association, American Academy of Pediatricians, Infectious Diseases Society of America and World Health Organization.

In a letter to congressional leaders February 5, 2019 The Pew Charitable Trusts, Infectious Diseases Society of America, and Trust for America’s Health, together with U.S. antibiotic developers large and small, called on Congress to move swiftly to enact a package of economic incentives to reinvigorate the stagnant pipeline of antibiotics.

A number of sponsors for congressional action are urging concerned citizens to call their representatives and senators and push for action on this life-or-death issue.

  1. WHO Fact Sheet on Antibiotic Resistance, November 2017.
  2. Pew Campaign on Human Health and Industrial Farming.
  3. New York Times, “Deadly Germs, Lost Cures: A Mysterious Infection, Spanning the Globe in a Climate of Secrecy”, April 7, 2019.
  4. How Much Do Antibiotics Used on the Farm Contribute to the Spread of Resistant Bacteria?” Scientific American magazine.

Denmark’s PM Admires a Killing Soldier’s Simplistic View of Good and Evil

Denmark’s PM admires a killing soldier’s simplistic view of good and evil

It’s Friday, April 5, 2019, at 9 PM. An entertaining talk show, Skavlan. A dialogue between a prime minister and a special forces soldier who has no regret having kicked in doors and “killed a lot” in Afghanistan.

He justifies himself by the most primitive and long-ago debunked theory about Good and Evil in this world. And then the listening prime minister expresses his admiration.

Something roamed around in my mind hours after the event and I had to check: Did he really say what I think I heard?

It made me think about theories and worldviews on which political decisions can be founded. About the general, normalized fascination of war and killing, and about the soldier as hero and the victim as invisible, non-existent.

It made me think about the sophisticated, almost imperceptible, media methods by which perpetrators of law violations and war crimes are turned (and turn themselves) into victims and perform smoothly as part of a Friday night’s entertainment program.

And, finally, how a similar conversation about alternatives – about nonviolent peace-making – would appear irrelevant, unthinkable. There is no peace discourse today. War is peace given our “Zeitgeist”.

As far as I know, nobody has publicly expressed the view that this conversation was disturbing. I find that highly disturbing. Too.

Setting the stage and sitting on the stage

I had seen that the Danish Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, would participate in the serious and entertaining Swedish Television talk show Skavlan.

The Norwegian journalist, Fredrik Skavlan, is the host and interviewer. He is super professional, a good listener, makes people feel good and he has obviously done his research homework before meeting his, mostly famous, guests face-to-face. He lets them talk and does not see it as his task to challenge them, at least not politically.

According to Skavlan’s Facebook page, the talk show is one of Europe’s largest with around 2 million viewers per show.

Danish Prime Minister, Løkke Rasmussen listens to Ant Middleton in the Skavlan program


The Danish prime minister, Løkke Rasmussen, is responsible for Denmark’s recent bombings in both Iraq and Syria. His party isn’t new to warfare. His party colleague, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, was the Danish PM responsible for Denmark’s role as an occupying power in Iraq 2003-2007.

Fogh Rasmussen (they are not related) was then rewarded for this participation in aggression on a sovereign state without any UN mandate and became NATO’s Secretary-General.

In that role, he will be remembered for leading the Alliance’s destruction of Libya in 2011. There was a UN mandate about setting up a No-Fly Zone but not for the destruction of large parts of the country and the killing of its leader, Muammar Gaddafi.

Well, no guilt by association intended, but I had no expectations that Løkke Rasmussen that would say anything independent-minded, meaningful or critical about war as such.

Another participant in this program was Ant (Anthony) Middleton, a British Special Forces soldier who – evidently – is proud of having kicked in lots of doors in Afghanistan and killed a lot of people seemingly without the slightest remorse (see below).

Ant Middleton – who smiled a lot during the conversation


A quick search of the net tells that Anthony Middleton is a celebrity thanks to having been Chief Instructor for British Channel 4’s hit show ‘SAS : Who Dares Wins’. SAS stand for the Special Air Service of the British Army and the program slogan – Who Dares Wins – is also the slogan of SAS.

In other words, this is Channel 4’s contribution to promotes SAS whose activities around the world are basically top classified and probably not always lawful, noble or moral.

He is in the limelight thanks to just having published his autobiography and at the moment is on the “Mind Over Muscle Tour” around Britain.1

You’ll be able to see the sequence with Ant Middleton and the Danish PM (in English) here until October 2, 2019.

And with this, the stage is set.

The conversation

Now listen to the conversation which I have written down sentence by sentence from the program. Because the program is not available after October 2, I have written the essential passages here. Thus, 4:30 minutes into the clip:

“Skavlan to Middleton: How many have you killed?

Middleton: I’ve taken a lot of lives but what I do remember is not necessarily the people I have killed because – I’m the first man in, I’ve done three tours in Afghanistan and I am kicking down doors on a daily basis, we’re hunting down Taliban commanders. It’s – you know, the list goes on.

But what I do remember is not pulling the trigger. What people must remember is that my job is to conserve life, to save life. I only take life when there is a level of evil that’s been surpassed or I am in an immediate threat or my pals are in immediate danger to life. But what I do remember is being there and I could have taken a shot and every time it just wasn’t right, I took my finger off the trigger. Those are the times I do remember.

Skavlan: Do you think about the fact that you’ve killed a lot of people that is someone’s father, you’re a father of five yourself?

Middleton: No, no, not at all. Like I said, there is goodness and there is evil in this world. I’m a good man and I know that. And, as I said, if you surpass a certain threshold of evil, you do not deserve to be walking this planet, and that’s how I saw it. I never saw it – again it was never personal. I never saw it as this was someone’s… you know…Listen! If you live by the sword, you must expect to die by the sword. You know, it’s again… taking extreme ownership of yourself, holding yourself accountable.

Skavlan: But of course, there are casualties that are less guilty of being evil. Have you experienced that?

Middleton: (Pausing)…. It comes with the territory. It’s part and parcel of conflict. It’s part and parcel of being in a combat zone. And don’t get me wrong, there are bullies with weapons out there.

Skavlan then turns to the Danish PM: You’re the man behind the desk. Because the war he’s talking about is our war too, or has been. I wonder how you reflect on that, how hard a decision to send someone – you mentioned it before Ant came in.

Løkke Rasmussen (speaking to Middleton, not Skavlan): Well, first of all, I admire your attitude. And I totally agree with the way you distinguish between good and evil. But, you know, this is for real and as I mentioned earlier on, we have had 43 casualties in Afghanistan and I have been writing all those letters myself, and each time I have done so, I have felt the — (can’t seem to find the words) — it’s very personal. It’s not just for fun.

Middleton: We train our whole life to do that. I wanted that fight at the highest order. I trained my whole career to fight and when it came, it’s like you allow me to do my job. You know, there is the other side, of course there is the other side and it’s traumatic but…

Skavlan to Middleton: But you are sent by someone behind a desk that you never met?

Middleton: Yes but if they didn’t send me, they would not be allowing me to do my job and….

Løkke Rasmussen: Yes, and I realise that and without going into details, I have been in situations where our Special Forces have asked permission to do something on the ground where we have made the assessment that this would not happen…

Middleton: (smiling) I understand that…

Løkke Rasmussen: And when I have met those people later on and on a more private basis, they have actually been more or less angry with me: Why didn’t you approve? Why did you not give your permission? So…

Skavlan to Middleton: This is the situation you’ve been in…?

Middleton: Yeah, and if you did not use us, you would have just as much up war as if you didn’t. I suppose you can’t get it right?! I love my job. I prioritize it over my family and my children. I am not proud of that but I did it. I was waiting for that call. I wanted to be the first man through that door. You know, use me! You’ve spent millions on training me…

Skavlan: You were 16 when you joined the army. What was the push factor and what was the pull factor?

Middleton: I joined the army because I was a very self-sufficient young man, you know, who always wanted to stand on my own two feet. I always wanted to do my own thing and I always loved the challenge.

I’m an extreme doer. And, you know, I’m not an intellectual, I’m not a bookworm. I do, do, do… and 9 out of 10, I’ve failed and learned from that, so the military was just appealing and to get away, do my own thing, get a roof over my head, be fed, and you know the little bit of money I got I could start to build my life the way I wanted to. It wasn’t ”I’m going in and have this amazing career in the Special Forces.

It was, like you know, it was me as a youngster, let me stand on my own two feet, let me hold myself accountable for my life and see where it takes me. And the stepping stones… I’m good at what I have done and I love extreme soldiering, you know I was a para, then a Marine, then a sniper, then an (intelligence?) operator and the natural progression was into the United Kingdom’s Special Forces.”

What is actually stated here?

  1. There is good and evil in this world. The two are separated and the good people are on one side, the evil people on the other. It does not occur to Middleton, or the Danish PM, that there could be good and evil people on both sides. Or that each individual actor could have good and evil sides – that can be activated depending, for instance, on what the person experiences from the outside.
  2. Evil does not have to be defined, but it can be graduated. Over a certain level, it is right to not only try to stop the evildoer but to kill him. Over that level, the evildoer does not have a right to walk on earth.
  3. The judge that decides when that level is reached, is – he himself, the killer. So, it’s about the killer who does good and does justice by eradicating evil.
  4. Evil and good are qualities of human beings, not for example of situations, structures, or history and traumas.
  5. Although Middleton admits, indeed has no problems talking about, that he has killed a lot, he says that he knows he is a good person. And that goodness does not include any consideration for the humanity of the one he kills; it’s irrelevant to the argument and the deed whether the opponent is a father of children like Middleton himself is.
  6. Middleton mentions no particular, say ideological, reason for his participation in warfare, but emphasizes more than once during the program that he couldn’t wait to get off to Afghanistan, do what he was trained for; he doesn’t want to be stopped in carrying out his killing mission and – essentially – it is all about him doing his own thing, as he says, and loving the challenge.
  7. What is not stated is things like these: having a problem with having killed a lot; a sense of regret, guilt feeling or a wish for forgiveness or reconciliation. This assumption is backed up by the fact that, postwar, he has gone into public activities and entertainment media in which his military experiences come to good use. He has, to put it crudely, become a hero, a celebrity mass killer actor and lecturer.

Why is this really disturbing?

Probably, Middleton is only unique because of the almost charming, smiling and totally emotionless ways he is coping with his killing. Few, if any, go through such situations and kill a lot without having to cope with the fact that, in spite of all, they took life.

When returning from the killing fields, many feel alienated, feel that nobody understand what they have been through (which is true), and sooner or later, take to drugs, alcohol, or the radical way out – committing suicide. Very few become celebrity stars with huge audiences.

One may find Middleton’s witness account and his obvious denial of any wrongdoing rather disturbing. I do – but on the other hand, I have been working in war zones and met perpetrators as well as victims. Few have the moral fiber to go through years of psycho-social soul-searching and healing and ask forgiveness.

Most veterans are also hidden away, are never integrated in society and if they are received as heroes when coming home that status fades before dawn. Governments and societies usually don’t want to be reminded of such things.

No, I must admit that what disturbs me – for real, to quote him – is that PM Løkke Rasmussen’s bluntly admires Middleton’s attitude and also totally agrees with the good/evil dichotomy.

Løkke Rasmussen probably has less need for a psychological cover-up than has Middleton. But he anyhow subscribes to a theory that is as outdated and simplifying in the extreme and which has been academically debunked decades ago.

It’s also a theory which – when applied in the political realm – is sheer colonialist/racist: We (white/men/Westerners/Christians) are good people, those we kill – particularly abroad and particularly in Muslim countries – are evil: they are less white, mostly men but morally weaker, inferior, non-Westerners and Islam(ists). (Note that the word Christian-ist doesn’t exist – for a reason: Christianity shall not be connected with terrorism; Islam borders on – or is – terrorism; an evil religion. Thus Islamists.

If a prime minister knew as little about theories and concepts in fields such as economy, social welfare, or ideology – s/he would be facing a barrage of criticism. And there would be commentators and editorial writers who would shout at him: How can you say such things?!

Now it is only about war and peace, about “primitive” Afghans and those out there who threaten our ways of life. And it is about Denmark’s blindly loyal US-framed foreign and security politics and in those fields no special, scholarly competence is needed.

One thing is that such a conversation can take place in public, based on a stone-age theory, in the year 2019. Quite another is that it happens in front of tens of thousands of viewers and no one raises and eyebrow. I find that disturbing, very very disturbing.

It speaks volumes about the pervasive peace and conflict illiteracy of our culture and our times. It speaks volumes about the military and other hardline monopoly on the politically correct thinking about war and peace. And what sort of primitive thinking underlies everything called war, never challenged in the mainstream media and no longer even by the so-called Left.

It ought not be possible for educated people to speak on television the way prime minister Løkke Rasmussen and special forces soldier Middleton did and not causing an outcry.

The perpetrator as victim

In programs like Skavlan and in virtually all programs with news about events in the world, we never see simultaneously the perpetrator of violence with the victim of violence.

In this edition of Skavlan, we saw two different perpetrators of violence – the victims – those deserving to be killed – were not represented and had no voice. The conflict in Afghanistan was given no background except the implicit one: it’s filled with evil people and we have a right to find them, kick in their doors and kill them. They should not walk on this earth.

Ant Middleton did not seem to feel pity for himself. But, in the exchange with Løkke Rasmussen, he seems to see himself as a potential victim, namely if he had not been sent and had not been allowed to perform his killing job. If someone in the audience had shouted “You are not as good a man as you think you are” – he would probably have felt like a victim.

Løkke Rasmussen, the man behind the desk who gives orders and sends Danes into warzones, quickly avoids Skavlan’s questions and starts talking about how hard it is for him to personally write those letters to the families of Danish young boys who have been killed.

He may not be aware of it but his answer comes across as “Look how difficult my situation is!” – and he even states in as some kind of self-defence that war is “for real” and “not for fun.”

Their more or less explicit appeal for sympathy, for us empathising with them and their good intentions – well, does not touch me in the slightest. They could, at any moment in the past, have decided to stop being perpetrators of violence. Stopped being directly and indirectly responsible for taking lives. They made their choice.

Imagine instead: “I’ve raped a lot”

Imagine this conversation was not about war and peace. Imagine it was about rape, pedophilia, or inappropriate male behaviour vis-a-vis women – topical issues today and issues where there is a considerable political correctness and ever narrowing comfort zones.

Imagine an individual sitting in an entertainment TV program – but meaningful, serious such – and stating without flinching that he has no regrets about the boys and girls and female colleagues he had molested or raped and that he doesn’t even remember them.

Imagine that he also considered himself a good man and thought that those he had molested did somehow not deserve to walk in this planet. And you found out that, afterwards, this ‘good’ man had become a celebrity in the entertainment and lecturing world.

An intellectual counter argument to this imagined parallel example could surely be: But the teacher and his victims were not in conflict, it was not a mortally dangerous confrontation of “you or me”. And I’d say – “true, fair enough – but!”

Today’s discussions are about individuals feeling hurt, disturbed. The use of violence is limited to individuals and, as we all know, easily ends up on the front page of, say, New York Times, particularly if the involved parties are exactly that – famous, celebrities. It’s usually not about what I would call a worse offence, namely killing.

Warfare, in sharp contrast, is about a system of organised killing – mass killing of people “we” have no relations to. Strangers.

In the case of Afghanistan, it’s about the world’s militarily strongest countries that have fought a war in a small country for now 18 years. It about thousands of lives – if not in some cases and over time – millions of lives lost and whole societies destroyed.

It’s a system managed by huge state powers and profit-seeking corporations, think tanks and more – what President Eisenhower warned the Americans and the world about as far back as 1961.

And it is a cultural phenomenon: It’s about fighting those you look down upon, those who are morally or otherwise perceived as inferior, unworthy, living at a lower civilisational level than “we”.

Wars and killing in other lands are based on such assumptions – on demonization and de-humanization of entire nations and religions. And on the Middleton/Løkke Rasmussen “theory” that they are all evil out there and we have a right to be in their country, kick in thousands of poor people’s doors and kill this evil scum of the earth because we are good people.

Both types – the close personal and far anonymous, collective mass violence – deserves to be problematized. But he more people and media focus on the close personal hurt and harm, the less energy is left for addressing the larger world’s.

Or imagine this from a this thought-provoking angle…

Imagine Mr. Middleton had kicked in tons of doors in houses belonging to Jews, say in illegal settlement areas on occupied territory, and had “killed a lot” of Jews showing no regrets, just doing his job?

Imagine a Danish prime minister stating thoughtlessly that he admired such action and totally agreed with the theory that evil Jews deserved to be killed and not walk on this planet.

In lieu of a conclusion: The new militarism that we need to talk about in informed, intelligent ways

Over the last few decades, war has become so integrated into and intertwined with civil society that it has become normal, acceptable and legitimate. That’s what militarism is about.

Militarism was once about flags, parades, uniforms and song, it was about arming men (since then, weapon systems are manned and then made increasingly un-manned like drones). It was about some kind of rule-based dueling and honour. No more so!

Today’s militarism is about the melting into one the civil and the military spheres of society: the civilianization of the military and a militarization of the civil society. Civil society permeated by the ethos of killing, killing of them – the inferior – Evils in order to preserve us, the superior Goods. Killing for good.

I may be wrong. I have studied these things the last 45 years and there is, I gladly admit, a lot of books I have not read and many conflict and war zones I have not worked in. Be this as it may:

If you think I am wrong, let’s do what is still possible: Dialogue and learn from each other! Write your comments below, stimulate others to join that vitally important debate. But please…

Do not tell me that there is not something wrong deep down, that we are not far out, when such values, ethics and worldviews as those presented by two public figures in Skavlan do not raise eyebrows and provoke debates.

Do not tell me that we have kept decency and humanity intact and that we do right when we discuss individual cases of violence and remain, simultaneously, totally ignorant and illiterate about our own system of mass killing and the assumptions and theories that underpin them.

And, please, if the issue of globalised violence and war – as well as lost opportunities to make the world more peaceful and safe for all before it is too late – is not worth a wide and much more informed global conversation, tell me what is.

  1. Learn more about him on his homepage and on Wikipedia.

Before the Flood



I am, it might reasonably be said, a climate refugee – though a very comfortable one. Escaping the forest fires to run a little cafe in Denmark is hardly a sacrifice. But if the cafe might be a good retirement plan for me, it won’t be for my children – far too soon, the whole country in which Cafe Hellebaek is located will likely be underwater.

There is something so powerful about gazing into the distance over a large body of water.  Especially when you know that water is connected to all the other water in the world’s oceans.  It’s a most thought-provoking experience.

This little village on Oresund, the inlet separating Denmark from Sweden, is a place I keep coming back to.  The reason is because my friends here, people I’ve now known for many years, live here, in a bit of an unconventional situation.  Where they live, and where I stay most of the time when I’m in Denmark, used to be a castle.  The castle burned down and was replaced by a police training academy.  When that later closed, it was purchased by my friends, who ran a school there for many years.  Now there’s no more school, and the buildings are used for many other purposes, mostly involving the act of caring for others in one form or another — whether it’s looking after troubled youth, leasing space for the local municipality to house refugees, or training volunteers to do development work in Angola and other countries around the world.

One of the aspects of touring in places where I don’t live, but visit often, is I see reality in snapshot form.  I meet the baby who is a toddler only a couple visits later.  I see a woman who used to come to my gigs anytime I’d play in Copenhagen when she was a teenager.  Now she’s in her thirties and is a member of the Danish parliament.  A lot happens in between visits.

One thing that happens is the middle-aged people get old, and the old people die.  It’s very systematic, I’ve noticed over the years, and there are no exceptions to this rule.  The middle-aged people who stay healthy often become very active old people, as active as ever, until they’re not, anymore, and they slow down, and eventually die.  Such was the case with my friend Lars-Peter.  I met Lars-Peter and Mette when they came to a concert I was part of, a tribute to Pete Seeger in Copenhagen.  Lars-Peter was a founding member of the particular strain of the folk school movement that became known as Tvind in the 1960’s.  Mette came in later, as a teenage windmill-builder in the 1970’s.

I’ve mentioned the story of the windmill in a previous weekly missive, as well as in a song I wrote about it.  It’s an incredible story.  When Mette was a teenager and Lars-Peter was a young man, they and hundreds of others, with the support in one form or another of thousands more, built the biggest windmill that had ever been built, and then proceeded to give away the patents for it so others could do the same.  It’s a story not only of scientific breakthroughs and engineering brilliance, but of collective action of the most profound and impactful sort.  The windmill they built, Tvindkraft, is still running and providing electricity in the town of Ulfborg, in western Denmark.  Far more significantly, though, this windmill became the model for industrial-scale windmills, and essentially gave birth to one of the biggest industries in Denmark — windmill-building.

Lars-Peter was one of the best storytellers I ever met.  I wish I had recorded any of his stories.  He died of leukemia, and in his last couple years had very little energy.  But when he could get out of bed, he could still be in great storytelling form until close to the end.  In his role as headmaster of a school that educated kids by taking them in buses from Denmark to India and back on a regular basis, Lars-Peter saw the world in ways that very, very few people get to do.  And when he did most of his traveling, it was in countries that were experiencing massive popular movements and, in several cases, revolutions.  Pick a country in Africa or the Middle East, Lars-Peter had lived there and seen or participated in world-historic events in it.  (It’s me saying this, not him — he was far too humble a person to make such claims himself.)

Of course there are others of Lars-Peter’s generation still going strong, but the writing is on the wall.  As I sit here in this little cafe beside the water that I’ll be helping to run this weekend and for most of this summer, which is part of the property the old school is on, I often think of Lars-Peter’s stories of the 1960’s around the world, and also of Mette’s wonderful tales of her experiences a bit later in the evolution of the Tvind folk school movement, when in the 1970’s she and others decided to build the windmill that changed the world.  (There’s a crash course in mechanical engineering, if ever there was one.)

And then, unavoidably, my thoughts drift back to the present — and to the future.   A couple Fridays ago I was hearing a news story about Greta Thunberg, about how she and other students have been skipping school every Friday to protest against their government and other governments failing to address the climate crisis with the level of commitment that would be required to actually really do something about it.

I texted my 13-year-old daughter, Leila, asking her what she was up to.  I don’t normally text Leila on a Friday morning, since she usually has her phone off while she’s in school, but I had a hunch.  What are you up to, I asked.  She wrote me back right away with a picture of herself and some of her friends as they were marching across the Burnside Bridge, walking the two miles or so from their middle school to the other side of the river, downtown, where City Hall is located.

Hundreds of kids skipped school that day in Portland, and in many countries in Europe the numbers were much higher.  On this visit to Denmark — my first since last autumn — I have discovered that the Extinction Rebellion meme has taken root among many young people here.  I gave a couple young folks a ride from Odense to Copenhagen recently.  One of them has spent a lot of time in the struggle against the giant coal mine devouring the Hambach Forest in Germany.  The other one was often making statements along the lines of, it seems so hard to feel engaged with this topic — whatever the topic may be, as long as it doesn’t relate to the climate crisis — when in our lifetimes this whole country will be underwater.

Every time he said something like that it was obvious he really meant it — this was not an intellectual exercise for him at all.  I tend to get really animated whenever I’m talking about anything that I’m remotely interested in, whether it’s related to war and peace, rent control, worker’s cooperatives, collective action, music, food, sex or whatever.  But in the face of the coming flood, it’s easy to see how such passion about things other than the climate crisis can seem a bit misplaced.  It can seem, even, like a form of denial.

I dropped my riders off in Copenhagen, where I was meeting up with a couple of friends — Elona, who was moving from one apartment to another, and Ask, who was helping her move, along with me and my unexpectedly gigantic rental car.  Ask builds boats of the most wild description, the kinds of structures that you’ve never seen before and will always remember, if you see one in the water.  He’s an expert welder and designer, but what motivates him the most is the desire to do something about the climate crisis, using his boat projects as educational tools in various ways.

He was telling  me about his latest efforts, and I was telling him about my plans to run this cafe.  You’re a climate refugee, he informed me.  I hadn’t thought of it quite like that before.  I pay rent in an apartment in Portland, Oregon, I support my family, I have work, no one is threatening my life as far as I know, the city I live in has a low crime rate, and Trump has not yet started rounding up the Left and sending us to camps.  But, as I told Ask, one of the reasons I’m so keen to run this cafe is not only because I love Denmark, which I do, but because in recent years Portland has been home to the world’s worst air, on some days beating Beijing and New Delhi in that grim competition.  The main cause is the forest fires, which are getting bigger every summer, occasionally destroying whole cities, burning hotter than ever, with faster winds than ever — all climate crisis stuff, though there are many other factors involved.

I mentioned Ask’s climate refugee comment to my friend, Kamala.  I’m not sure the term refugee is appropriate, I said.  Temporarily displaced person, perhaps? she suggested.  Thinking more about it I realized the term “climate refugee” is perfectly appropriate.  As anyone knows who has followed the refugee crises in the Middle East or Latin America today, the first people to get out of a bad situation are those with the most ability to do so — the ones with friends and relatives in other countries, who are usually also the ones with good jobs, dual citizenship, and very useful things like that.  We don’t think of these people as refugees as readily as we think of those who had no options but to board leaky boats in the Mediterranean or walk across the Sonoran Desert.  But they’re all refugees, regardless of whether they were able to escape by means of a commercial flight, a valid passport, and a nice apartment in Denmark, or by raft or on foot, with only the shirts on their backs.

Either way, being a climate refugee in Denmark is profoundly ironic.  Why?  Because according to more and more widely accepted projections of what is likely to happen over the course of the next several decades, after all of the ice melts, there will be no more Denmark.  The entire country will be submerged, along with the Netherlands, northern Germany, most of the eastern seaboard of the US, and so many other parts of the world.  If I do end up moving with my family to Denmark to escape the world’s most toxic air, we can be fairly certain that we will become refugees again, running next time not from fire, but from flood.

Welcome to Cafe Hellebaek.  Come let me make you a drink, before the flood that will likely destroy it sooner or later.  The generation that built the world’s biggest windmill might not be around to see the country sink, but Ask’s generation likely will.  My hope is that those who will be living through this century’s impending global cataclysms might have some brilliant new ideas for how we might navigate the waters that are rising around us, after the windmill-builders are all gone.

My hope is that people like Ask, my children and others likely to still be around at the other end of this century will still be able to sit in a cafe, sipping a hot drink and looking out at the water — wherever that cafe or that water may be, however much the flood line rises.