“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark“. Thus spake Hamlet’s mate Marcellus, back in the year 1600. It could just as easily have been half an hour ago.
For Borgen’s freshly minted right wing government is busy cribbing British Prime Minister David Cameron’s reactionary austerity politics for use in their spanking new raft of policy proposals. All the while, the Brits are equally busy arguing about exactly how many thousands of sick and disabled compatriots have died less than three weeks after being declared ‘Fit For Work’ by Iain Duncan Smith’s Stasi – the Department for Work and Pensions.
It would appear that Borgen’s new Statsminister Lars Løkke Rasmussen is hell bent on steering the happiest, most equal and well functioning nation on the planet headlong in the direction of the most miserable, most unequal and dysfunctional country in Europe. From inhabitants to immigrants, asylum seekers to average citizens, everyone’s in the firing line. Confused? You should be.
And as Shakespeare proves prescient as ever, let’s stick with the theme and see how it pans out:
“That it should come to this!” (Hamlet, Act I, Scene II). You might well ask. And it is curious, to be sure. Like everywhere else in the western world, or just ‘the World’, for that matter, Denmark’s surefooted welfare system is certainly creaking under the strain of an aging population, greedy corporations, the aftermath of the 2007-8 banking heist and a transmogrifying labour market. Add to this the greatest number of people on the move since WW2, and you have what looks, on the face of it at least, like the perfect storm.
Faced with this brand new set of challenges, Borgen is proving incapable of thinking outside the box. The system has been purring along hyggeligt for so long, with the odd tweak here, a change of a light bulb there, that there’s no one left with the guts to step up and try out a bold new clutch of ideas to meet the new world. Like rich people, who incarcerate themselves in gated communities, Borgen is choosing to see the newcomers as a threat and not as the human resources they really are. And that’s apart from the humanitarian compassion one would expect from the world’s most contented country – allegedly.
“Frailty, thy name is woman!” (Hamlet, Act I, Scene II) Or, for the purposes of this exercise, let’s say “Frailty, thy name is Venstre”, Venstre being the name of the governing party at Borgen. And before any smart Alec pipes up, yes ‘Venstre’ does mean ‘Left’ in Danish and the party is a right wing party. It just is, ok? And, just like Hamlet’s mum Gertrude, Venstre has wasted no time getting into bed with the British Conservatives and their unique set of yesteryear’s ideas. Not forgetting the Hungarians and their rather Draconian approach involving considerable quantities of nasty looking wire coils.
And all this global prominence, just as Venstre was getting going with gauging the guts out of the ‘far too generous’ welfare system! Instead, international pressure is now piled on to double the welfare spend, not halve it! Jeez, that’s just so unfar.
“Neither a borrower nor a lender be; For loan oft loses both itself and friend, and borrowing dulls the edge of husbandry.” (Hamlet, Act I, Scene III) This line could clearly be taken straight from the George Osborne “Road to Austerity” if, indeed, he’d penned such a tome. And sure enough, it has been cloned enthusiastically by Venstre, who are merrily chopping midwives off at the knees, ripping rugs from under the feet of students – and halving the assistance to asylum seekers. All budgets hitherto jealously guarded as strictly taboo, by governments of any stripe, whenever belt tightening was on the agenda. It clearly has not occurred to anyone that this Brave New World might just offer an opportunity for some Brave New Thinking. Or would that be too much like hard work?
“This above all: to thine own self be true.” (Hamlet, Act I, Scene III) This is a funny one, when applied to politicians. As the old joke goes – Q: “How can you tell if politicians are lying?” A: “They’re moving their lips”. But are politicians at least true to themselves? Or are they merely the poor deluded fools the rest of us fully expect them to be?
For any politicians reading this, here’s some advice: At night before you go to bed, gaze into the mirror, think of a policy you pushed through today and ask yourself, “What if I were at the receiving end of that policy…?”
“Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.” (Hamlet, Act I, Scene IV) ...and while you’re doing that (see above) and if you happen to be a member of Lars Løkke Rasmussen’s Borgen brigade – the above line should stare back at you. If it does not, go back to START and do not collect 4000 Kroner. Because what you’re in the process of doing might as well be a game of Monopoly (UK), or Matador (DK). Except that this is for real. With real people. Their money. And their lives.
“Though this be madness, yet there is method in’t.” (Hamlet, Act II, Scene II) Sure, there is method in it all right, only problem is that it’s the method applied by asset stripping hedge funds and apartheid regimes the world over. And that is deeply disconcerting. The painstakingly crafted Nordic Model of inclusive economic governance has been a beacon of modern, progressive, effective and compassionate politics for decades. That it should now be so impetuously dismantled, purely in pursuit of short-term profit is nothing short of scandalous.
“To be, or not to be: that is the question.” (Hamlet, Act III, Scene I) And so we arrive back at IDS, the DWP and the two-thousand-five-hundred dead people, who were pronounced ‘Fit For Work’ by a Conservative government a short time before they could no longer ask themselves whether they preferred to be or not to be. Do they all stare back at IDS as he gazes at himself in the mirror every night? Is that where Lars Løkke’s journey will take him? How many Syrian kids will come into view in his goodnight mirror?
“The lady doth protest too much, methinks.” (Hamlet, Act III, Scene II) As spoken by Queen Gertrude, sufficiently deluded not to recognise her own behaviour in the play within the play. And just like Lars “Ulykke” Rasmussen and Call-Me-Dave, Gertrude never exhibits the ability to think critically about her situation, but seems merely to move instinctively toward seemingly safe choices.
It takes a lot more than that to be a true statesman guys. Unlike our little parallel storyline, this is not playtime and while the UK may tragically be a lost cause for the foreseeable several decades, Borgen’s Venstre government is in mortal danger of throwing the baby out with the bathwater, destroying the nearest thing we have to political beauty, for the sake of last century’s failed neoliberal, protectionist dogma.
Think about it
Please do think about it