Category Archives: Denmark

Winding Brook Stories: Communicator-Recruiter Justas


Justas picked me up at the train station. We rode in an elder Tvind car to the campus where I would live for eight days preparing for this series. I hoped this would be a positive story for me—being with people who actually embody the vision of liberation, and fight with the oppressed, jointly struggling to empower their lives. This would be a rarity for me as nearly all my writings reflect the evils and profiteering humans inflict upon one another and the planet.

Justinas Volungevicius (Justas for short and as play on words indicating that justice is sought) came to Tvind when 16. After six years of going through two educations, he is now a Tvind administrative-communication worker. As such, he does media and recruiting work for the various schooling processes. When The Necessary Teacher Training College class of 2017 (DNS 17) started, Justas assisted as a media aid advisor.

There were some criticisms about a few aspects of the program presented. Some thought that parts were outdated. They also wanted to improve residential conditions, and the garden. This resulted in a name change of the residential building where they live and where I would stay:  “Radical October 17”.

Justas explains:

Radical October came about because of DNS teams expressing the need and the wish to be part of making the school better. DNS17 stepped in the middle of this process. It was not a rebellion against an ‘establishment’ rather that students and teachers discuss how to improve the school. Everyone got involved out of a longing to be part of making the place and the schooling better, learning in the process what it actually takes to run the school together.

When I discuss enrollment with potential students, I ask: ‘Are you ready to face challenges? Because our program is by far from perfect. But if you choose to take ownership and responsibility of what we have and are part of creating what is missing or not good enough, I guarantee you will learn a lot.

They brought their critical ideas to the school’s weekly meeting with two teachers (also from Lithuania), and the headmaster Annica Mårtinsson. Born in Sweden, she came to Tvind a quarter-century ago to take its schooling and join the Teachers Group (TG). The staff agreed to implement the students’ ideas even though this would set back the three-year schedule by one month. The work was done in October and thereby the new name for the building.

Justas recorded some of this work for the DNS website.

DNS17 students had invited me to follow their study period this week, and to offer a half-day’s “course” on Cuba’s revolution and US subversion. These eight students come from half-a-dozen lands: three from Italy, two Portuguese, two Lithuanians, and one from Hungary.

I could tell that the building had recently been renovated, and it is kept clean. The rooms are usually for two students. I was offered a room to myself. There is enough space for two single beds, writing desk and chair, closet, and some bookshelves. Heat comes through a radiator furnished by wood cut from their forest and from wind.

Before Justas and I had discussion time, another young member of TG, also from Lithuania, Nadezda Jevdokimova, was my guide for the day. We went through the campus six schools and the residential areas, workshops and maintenance—30 buildings in all.

The school community currently have around 100 students-boarders, and 30-40 teachers, teacher assistants, administrative and maintenance workers. Each of their schools has its own leadership, board of directors, financing and book accounting. Now there are four DNS classes (with start dates 2016-19), the PTG youth school (Practical-Theoretical Basic Education), a Day School for especially needy youth in which they get some education and are boarded, and three “villas” where 15 adults can be cared for. At PTG and the Day School, a special program is designed for each student, and another criterion is made for adults at the “villas”. Every student is offered a computer. Each school has its own library. Tvind has its own printing press for posters, placards, brochures. Their hardcover glossy text and culture books are printed elsewhere.

All who are able physically and/or mentally to travel out of Denmark for one to three week annual trips can do so in groups with teachers. This is paid for with government funding. Municipality payment for students and adults needing special care helps finance the studies of DNS and other well-functioning students through their wages as many work as assistants with the boarders.

Gateway to the campus designed by architect Jan Utzon. 

Nadezda introduced me to “The President”, 51 year-old man, who has been at a Tvind Villa home for 16 years. He suffers from serious deterioration. His nickname comes from the fact that he was well educated, is intelligent and a feisty talker. He had been a soccer coach at schools. Since the villas are not at full capacity now, he has a whole building by himself. “I prefer living that way, alone. There is always togetherness if you want it, and that is fine. If I want that, I can always find it here,” he tells me with a twinkle.

Several school-boarding residences have their own ecological vegetable garden, small park and art works. While each residential group lives separately, most of them eat together especially at lunchtime. Everyone is permitted to deliver a short message at lunch time by tapping a glass.

Smoking areas are apart from the buildings. The main one is at the edge of the forest. Half of the 13 hectares is in pine trees they planted. Workshops, maintenance hall, and climate center with windmill museum contain the tools, equipment and vehicles necessary for near self-sufficiency. Tvind even has its own sewage purification plant.

Several buildings have posters or placards showing a common vision:

“Alone the world changes you; together we change the world.” “Don’t talk about the change, be the change”.

Tvind maintenance worker with special student helper in the seat hope to use parts from this old tractor for another tractor before having to buy a new one (Ron Ridenour photo)

Tvind has several annual arrangements. Around 5000 outsiders participate at events and/or visit the grounds on their own.

Winter Concert, January 26. Involves professional classical musicians, dancers and singers from all over the word performing unique compositions on Tvind’s international stage.
In winter sometimes many students take ski trips to Norway.

Earth Day, April 22, includes activities to protect mother earth.

Peace and Justice Conference, May 10-13.

Summer Camp, July, for youth with limited means to get away for the summer. Some summers there are theater performances by students and teachers.

DNS Boot Camp, July, this is 16 year-olds and up—an international event for another kind of education enthusiasts for a week of learning, connecting, action and cultural exchange.

Hot Air Balloon National Competition August 7-10. Tvind’s students have often won the national competition. They also travel to compete in other European national competitions.

“Tvind OL”, September 13-14. Students from 30+schools and care homes where TG has a presence gather for two days to compete in 60 sport disciplines: table tennis, soccer, volleyball, archery, cycling, fishing, dancing, climbing, chess, darts, athletics…

Justas Story

I got to know about PTG from my brother, who was a DNS student. He had seen a small ad in a Lithuanian newspaper about Tvind’s schools. He took the education and then taught DNS for five years before moving back to Lithuania.

I wished to be part of a social environment, and learn some life skills. I was quite a lonely child, and quite well cared for living with my mum in Lithuania. I became good at sailing, even made a national team, but I was stuck at computer games too much, and too isolated.

At the PTG boarding and day school for three years, I helped others in the more ‘needy’ category. I didn’t have to pay, rather I had responsibilities in the school which covered my costs. I took care of the sports hall, tidied up Day School after classes, for example.

I joined TG in 2013, because at that point my brother was in it. I was very impressed with the Teachers Group. Especially after having the privilege to travel the world: to Africa for a four-month bus trip. Also to Palestine, Sri Lanka, Russia. This center and college changed my life greatly. My worldview opened. I saw TG as a good way to grow as a person and be part of something that has a positive impact.

After PTG, I started DNS in 2014 and graduated in 2017.

The Necessary Teacher Training College

DNS is structured in three annual periods. The mix is half time working while learning, and half study. Year one, Global reality”: two months preparing for the four-month bus trip through western Africa. The aim is to get to know the people and to assist in projects underway. Then three months bringing what one learns to the European public. Then three months “saving up” for tuition by doing some pedagogical or other work.

Year two, European reality: six months with one’s class moving into a flat in some European city to explore ordinary people and to get jobs. Students participate in the local community and organize cultural-political events. This is followed by three months of study back at school, and then three more months in Europe doing what is “most appropriate”.

Year three, School reality: eight months of full time teaching practice in schools with care homes and or students with special needs. Student-workers are supervised by graduated teachers. One learns pedagogy, didactics and epistemology. Followed by four month study period back at DNS school. At the end, one takes the bachelor monograph exam.

A DNS slogan states: “2 teach is 2 touch lives—forever.” Special for DNS (and DRH) schooling, as the TG calls their education, is the Doctrine of Modern Methods (DMM). It has three categories: studies, courses, experiences. DMM is a digitally based system. A computer is provided each student connected to the school’s digital library containing 18 subjects each with scores of tasks.

One example of subjects is “Big Issues of our Time”. It has 50 study tasks, some for the collective and some each student can pick for himself. Some anchor themes: “We need a future that is bright, green and free”, “a new model of sustainable prosperity”; “We must decide which type of capitalism or no capitalism”; “defy and defeat capitalist globalization”; “doubt superpower politics and its constant wars”; “Lousy dictators must be substituted with non-violent revolution.”

Those are not topics and points of view found in other forms of schools.

During the studies period, which is primarily individual, the student reads on one task for hours or days, not only what is in the digital library but also suggested books. He/she writes a synopsis and sends it to the teacher. There are usually two teachers for a team of from five to fifteen student-teachers. The teacher corrects the task and makes comments. Teachers act as assistants and advisers to students. Both live at the same facilities and are engaged in every aspect of the school, including cleaning and gardening. Daily pace is quick and constant. One is exhausted at the end of the day.

Study time takes up 50% of the program. Then there is the course period, which teachers or outside experts speak on a topic, and engages all in discussions. That takes up a quarter of the program. The remainder is experiences planned and performed by the team, and others by the individual.

The school is governed by the weekly common meeting. Anything related to schooling and living conditions, complaints included, are discussed and decided upon. Adjustments can be and are made.

Back to Justas

There is so much individualism in the West; so much alienation. We must have a better purpose for living than our own careers and money. In Africa, I did investigations into agriculture and migration. We saw the poorest and richest, even hitchhiked with one very rich plantation owner. I learned that human societies are messed up, and this made me realize I needed to be part of making an impact. Africa, and the DNS schooling, gave me a broad understanding and a sense of belonging that nourishes activism.

I didn’t take this journey on my own. Other people help to guide me, to challenge me. Therefore, I believe travelling alone is not enough. To learn, we need people. Have you ever heard the saying ‘1+1 is more than 2’? Maybe it does not fit in math, but I believe this is true when we think of humans – we can do more when we stick together. We can complement each other’s weaknesses. We can motivate and challenge one another. We need to meet the people on our planet, to work with them, to learn from them and to use our collective knowledge to make life better for all. That is my life goal, and I believe that we can achieve this through education – Another Kind of Education.

This education has given me a lot of insight into the reality of people in the world, but also a strong feeling of injustice. I learned that there is a lot of inequality in the world, I found out that too few do something about it, and I decided that I want to be part of changing that. I wanted to be a teacher who fights for justice together with the people. A teacher who is not limited by the four walls of a classroom. The world is our classroom.

What makes me feel attached to DNS is that students and teachers together shape the school, and create something bigger than ourselves. One quote that stayed with me throughout the DNS program is: ‘You do not join DNS as it is, you join DNS as it is going to be.’

My role in the school is the daily running, and recruiting students for the program. DNS is a unique model for future schools. I wish to spread the idea that it is possible to run another kind of school, and we are doing it here. It makes me happy to hear people getting inspired, learning about our way of learning, or if they choose, join us on this journey.

When Justas returned to Tvind from Africa, and then set out to bring Africa to the West, he participated in protesting coal mining in Germany. His six years of schooling at the College Community encompassed a lifelong education in itself.

Author’s Observations

Most of the students and teachers eat breakfasts held in smaller kitchens and dining rooms where their schools and boarding residences are. At DNS, breakfasts are always lively with talk, body movements, facial gestures, hugs, and maybe soft music.

Marian often comes by for a fruit breakfast. He was born in Rumania but ended up in Germany for most of his youth before coming here to PTG at age 15. German social workers sent him to several of their special school but he was an uncontrollable rebel, so much so that one employee convinced the municipality to pay for his transportation and care at Tvind. Marion is now 30, a well-functioning paid maintenance worker living in a small rented house nearby, in Ulfborg.

Annie Woods initiated a FridayForFuture demonstration in the nearby town, Holsetebro. Around 50 Tvind students and teachers participated alongside a few locals. They were inspired by the Swedish teenager Greta and by their own Peace and Justice Conference last May (Photo by Jenny Jagodics)

At the common cafeteria, meals are simply marvelous. Something for every taste and particular diet: meat-eaters, vegies, gluten-free specimens. Many meals are prepared without meat, sometimes with fish, sometimes only vegetables and fruits. Annie Woods is the kitchen coordinator during her first year at Tvind’s “saving up” period. While waiting to start school with DNS19, Annie plans the meals. This is a day’s lunch and dinner menu: broccoli cream soup, eggplant bites, vegetable pie, baked potato, caramelized carrots, salad. Dinner with spinach lasagna, tomato-soya lasagna, beef lasagna, steamed vegetables and salad. Liquid is always water with lemon option, various milk products and juice.

It seems to me that the resident-students, in good health or otherwise, are well integrated. Most get along well with one another as far as I can tell, and there are arguments. Everyone in the regular school programs are constantly engaged. The overall DNS teacher council of seven educated teachers and two in training meet weekly, as do all the other schools’ teachers’ councils.

Piotr Dzialak is a young TGer from Poland. An avid reader, Piotr takes care of several administrative-coordinating matters and books. He tells me, “While we do concentrate on the collective rather than the individual, no one is left alone when in need, and all who need special attention for learning get it. We have long been accused of authoritarianism but the years I have been here, I see that we express what we wish including disagreements. Our process grows, transforms.”—revolution must be permanent say sages.

“The world is our classroom.”

Winding Brook: Preface

This series of teacher-student stories, interspersed with journalistic materials and writing, is aimed  at showing how thousands of mainly white Europeans and Americans from both continents together with millions of Africans and peoples from India struggle to eradicate, or greatly reduce, poverty by “fighting with the poor”. They do so out of “solidarity humanism” by using a unique and radical schooling—“another kind of school: learning by doing”—and through concrete development projects for sustainable agriculture and environment; community development; and improving the health of people by preventing-treating HIV and AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria and other epidemics.

What is unusual and noteworthy about these radicals, in contrast to most Western radical-revolutionary-communist groups and political parties, is that they have survived, are even growing and making progress, and doing so despite much political opposition, including by media not only in Denmark but also in the US and elsewhere.

On July 1, 1970, a team of ten young teachers and 40 students started the DRH (Danish letters for The Traveling Folk High School). Under the leadership then of Mogens Amdi Petersen, they hired the Rantzausminde Efterskole (literally “afterschool”, the equivalent of the 10th grade) on the Danish island of Fyn. They renovated five buses to travel back and forth to India (Nepal)—a seven month hands-on, practical-theoretical educational-solidarity trip.

Students studied the background and history of the countries they were to visit. Once returning they traveled Denmark to learn its reality and bring to Danes what they had learned in India. Later on, they elaborated their studies so graduates of 9/10 to 24-month DRH studies could become Development Instructors (DI). Since then they have brought their knowledge and practical solidarity to people in many countries. Today, the curriculum includes learning English well, at least some Danish, global affairs, political science, international and economic development.

Many of these educational pioneers started the “Teachers Group” (TG). They took ideas from several radical and revolutionary groups seeking an end to capitalism’s greedy economic system, an end to its exploitation and oppression of workers and others, an end to their wars for profit. They supported liberation struggles against colonialism, especially in Africa.

Teachers Group made a life style commitment as a family of teacher-revolutionary comrades that includes living with a common economy, common time and common distribution. All earnings are shared. Each individual takes a like sum for personal expenses, which varies depending upon needs, and the larger portion pays the common bills, and helps finance agreed-upon projects to advance their ideas. Even rarer for radicals was/is their firm commitment from the get-go not to imbibe alcohol or any drugs, including marijuana, neither on the premises nor during their educational travels, and that means all teachers and all students. They learned that alcohol and drugs impair people’s abilities to work smoothly together, and get in the way of effective work habits.

When accepted as part of TG, one decides to hold together through thick and thin. The minimum commitment asked for is five years. Many make a decision for life. If a member decides to leave, so be it, although in the early days there was substantial pressure to fulfill the time commitment made.

TG’s first mentor was the revolutionary Ukrainian pedagogue Anton Makarenko. Makarenko, together with colleagues, ran a farm-school for difficult children, rebels without a cause. The teachers managed to turn most of the juveniles away from a destructive trajectory by combining hard work and disciplined education. Gradually the youth participated productively. The fields were cultivated for self-sufficiency, and craftsmen were hired to train the youth to build workshops. Makarenko often read aloud to the youth.  He later wrote several books. “The Road to Life” is best known. He argued that humans are both natural and cultural beings, and that we can transcend our nature by consciously taking decisions and actions on moral and social-philosophical issues.

The Teachers Group soon moved to an empty hotel on another island, Fanø, and DRH was expanded. Three teams were sent off in 1972, and four teams each year thereafter. In their view, traveling is an education in itself, even an art that “takes your mind and soul to new heights, it confounds you in the process, and it lets you contemplate life and how people live it.”

In August 1972, TG bought a country house with 13 hectares of land (half in pine trees) near a little rural town, Ulfborg, in west Jutland. The farm garden was called Tvind (Its history comes later).

TG members developed a new four-year educational program (sometimes three years), DNS (Danish letters for The Necessary Teacher Training College). They called this education “necessary” in order to adequately meet the “times are a changing”—bringing more relevant knowledge to youth, help mobilize them to meet the new demands and challenges:  reduce inequality and poverty, eliminate racism and wars. Not only a political statement then but also now.

In September, the first seminar started to educate students to be primary school teachers (later on to become teachers for secondary classes and beyond). At first, the Ministry of Education approved DNS as a pilot scheme in which 80 students were to complete the seminar, in 1972-76. The first teachers were DRH “veterans”.

Denmark has a uniquely liberal law that grants state economic support to what is called, “high schools”—privately run free schools, which individuals, groups or organizations can create by meeting minimal rules. These schools are for students who have finished the required nine years of government “folk” schools. This concept began in 1844 as an alternative to traditional government schools. Its founder, N.F.S. Grundtvig, was a theologian-philosopher, poet-politician, who also influenced the first constitution enacted in 1848.

Teachers Group developed other educational programs for many types of students, including those with “special needs”. At the Tvind campus today, one of them is PTG (Practical-Theoretical Basic Education), which is a boarding school for especially “difficult” youth mixed with well-functioning youth. PTG employs educated teacher-caretakers, plus DNS student assistants, who also get help from the well-functioning youth. Municipalities send special needy youth to this boarding school.

In addition, there is a Day School for children who otherwise would be in the regular primary-secondary classes but who need special attention. Sometimes there is one or two teachers and teacher assistants per pupil. Many of the children have been abused or abandoned by parents or by inadequate foster parents. Here they learn what they otherwise would in “folk schools” plus a bit of Teachers Group’s solidarity views on humanity.

Tvind also has a special “residential offer” for adults with social-physical-psychological difficulties. These programs include specially designed care and curriculum for each individual.

At the root of Teachers Group education is teaching that solidarity and peace are essential for all human beings. It is no wonder then that The Establishment soon characterized the TG as subversives who must be stopped. There have been many criticisms of their methods (to be presented further on) even a law prohibiting any state funding, which the Danish Supreme Court overturned; and a court case claiming that its original leaders had embezzled money from some projects and placed funds in others, and had evaded paying taxes. All but one of those charged were found not guilty. The government later appealed the court’s decision after the absolved defendants returned to where they were living, most of them in Zimbabwe.

Despite the fact that the government does not support the DNS and DRH more politically oriented schooling, and propagandizes against the Teachers Group, between 30 and 50 municipalities (around half the nation) send “clients”, “patients” to these other schools simply because Tvind (and sister school Lindersvold) have become good at these specialties.

TG did not organize a political party nor embrace a particular ideology with leading figures—not Marx-Engels, Lenin, Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, Hoxha, Tito, Ho Chi Minh, Pol Pot, Fidel or Che. Albeit, TG’s DRH and DNS educational programs do incorporate some Marxist teachings within contemporary contexts, and they do advocate an economy based on cooperation and equality.

Some revolutionaries criticize TG, and organizations where they work, for seeking government aid to help finance projects that they wish to support, and they raise funds from corporate foundations and NGOs to which some leftists snub their noses. (More on this later on.)

What no one can condemn them for, not even The Establishment and its mass media, is Tvindkraft (Tvind Power). Built between 1975-8, the wind turbine is 54 meters tall with a 54 meter wingspread, at the time the world’s largest. Four hundred people began the construction. Through the years several thousands participated, and around 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. It still operates today and provides all Tvind’s electric needs.

The Teacher’s Group offered the designs and ideas to anyone, 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. It took the largest windmill company, Vestas, 20 years to make a windmill as powerful as Tvindkraft. (US American political folk singer-writer David Rovics wrote a song about this.)

In 1977, TG started UFF-Humana (Development Aid People to People) to collect, sort and sell used clothing, in order to finance various projects. This was the beginning of what became the Humana People to People (HPP) organization. The first aid was given to Zimbabwean refugees in camps in Mozambique and the first development projects were established in Zimbabwe in 1980. Today, Humana People to People has 30 national associations working with around 8000 employees in 45 countries of Europe, the US, Latin America, Africa and India. There are around 1000 long-term sustainable development programs, which reach between eight and 14 million people yearly.

The Teacher’s Group has grown to 3000 members. There is no one leader rather a council of Teacher’s Groups at each facility where they work. Teachers Group practices the principle of not making decisions based on polls. Discussions take place until everyone agrees. This consensus ruling has sometimes resulted in long and conflict-ridden meetings until the most “articulate” and most enduring persons win. That phenomenon was typical of many left groups but is less so today.

In Denmark alone the schools that Tvind started have numbered in the scores. Today, Tvind school community is the only Danish school that teaches TG’s pearl program, DNS. An associate school, The Travelling Folk High School in rural Lindersvold, teaches two programs of 10 and 24 months. In nearly 50 years now, schools where members of TG teach have graduated around 1000 DNS teachers and 45,000 students in all, including those with special needs.

Traveling Folk High School courses are also offered at the One World Center in Michigan, at Dowagiac where the Pokagon band of the Potawtomi people are headquartered; One World Institute in Hornsjoe Norway; College for International Co-operation and Development in Patrington England; and Richmond Vale Academy in Eastern Caribbean (St. Vincent and the Grenadines).

African DNS schools use the basic program that Tvind school community created, and adapted it to their own local/national needs. The traveling part of the education is limited to other parts of their own country or to an African neighbor.

I have read and skimmed through the two basic African DNS textbooks. The older one designed for three African countries is 400 pages, and the newer Mozambique One World University textbook is 680 pages. Much of the material is taken from Tvind’s newest Denmark edition (2011) of 480 pages. It is not just a matter of the amount of words, of course, but the curriculum, the worldview is comparable to all the schools.

Since 1993, Humana People to People has been at the forefront of educating African and Indian teachers, who commit themselves to work in public primary schools, sometimes that they help construct. More than 42,000 teachers have been educated in Mozambique, Angola, Malawi, Guinea Bissau, Zambia, D. R. Congo and India. The teacher training colleges have DNS programs spanning from one to three years, and all except those in India are boarding schools.

In 1998, One World University was started in Mozambique and now teaches DNS in all 12 provinces. This university is recognized, and partially financed by the government. OWU has graduated around 1000 teachers with a bachelor or masters degree. DNS schooling exists in 14 colleges in Angola with some 6000 teachers graduated. Malawi is launching six DNS colleges and has graduated around 2000 teachers. Guinea Bissau is constructing seven colleges with a goal of graduating 840 primary school teachers annually. Zambia is committed to building eight schools; one is now operating. Congo Democratic Republic has one DNS college with scores planned. There are DNS schools in 18 locations in three states of India.

I spent two weeks at Denmark Teacher Group-run DNS and DRH schools observing some classes, interviewing many people, assisting in the kitchen and garden, and then many weeks reading about what they do, their history, and what their critics say about them. My viewpoint is that these people are dedicated to changing the world where poverty and wars no longer exist. In so doing, they have made many good choices and some I would not. Readers who know my writings probably can say I am too idealistic. I hope that all readers can count on my non-neutral objectivity.

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.