Friday, February 29, 2008

Denmark, the Happiest Country

Most Danes must have had a great belly laugh when they read or heard that Denmark was rated as the Happiest Country in the World. The Danes do not see themselves as a “Happy People”. They do not even see themselves as a “Content People”. In fact they would have difficulties describing themselves in any way that involved a label. What would be much more descriptive of Danes is that they are a politically active and socially involved people. They take pride in their social democracy and their place in Europe and the international community. In the TV documentary that described Denmark as a happy country they also talked about the pried that Danes place on their chosen work career, and that no one have to worry about having the money to send their children to University, or looking after ageing parents.

To really understand what makes a Dane or Denmark, different from other cultures you need to know Danish history. I will list a number of significant historical facts and events that helped shape Denmark.
1) There has been a Danes nation for almost two thousand years.
2) The Danevirke, a 30 kilometre wall, was build and maintained in Southern Jutland between 738 and 1864ce. This was the largest ancient defences in Northern Europe . It protected Denmark from the Charlemagne conquest of the Saxons and forced conversion to Christianity. It marked Scandinavia 's political and cultural southern border for more then 1000 years. The Danevirke was finally lost in 1864, when Bismark took the two southern provinces of Slusvick and Holstine from Denmark. Loosing the the southern two provences was a psychological blow to the Danish psychic that is still felt today. The Danes do not trust Germany or the EU.

3) The Danes have never been conquered or subjugated into a foreign empire.
4) It is one of the oldest Democracies in the World.
5) Land reforms occurred relatively early, which established family farms that became a cornerstone of Danish society.
6) Denmark did not join the Holy Roman Empire and there by escaped the religious wars of Germany.
7) There was no Witch burning or religious inquisition in Denmark.
8) Denmark managed to stay neutral during the Napoleonic Wars and the First World War.

9)During the Second World War Denmark was occupied by the Germans. No battles or major destruction occurred in Denmark.
10) During the German occupation an incident occurs that depicts a significant
characteristic of the Danish people. When the Germans told the Danish authorities to hand over their Jews, they were told that there were no Jews in Denmark. There were about ten thousand “Danish People” who were follower of Judaism. All of these people were immediately hidden away by fellow Danes, and then smuggled to safety in Sweden.

It would be an excellent debate to argue, is the Danes the luckiest country in Europe or the smartest. The Danes have so often avoided the horrors that the rest of Europe suffered.

After World War Two, the Danish Government developed a social system where wealth is shared to a high degree, and all citizens receive free education through University, and complete health care.

The Danish nation has survived is Europe, surrounded by much larger and more powerful and aggressive countries, by maintaining a formidable army and navy. It has refused to take sides in European power struggles and maintained its own unique political focus and direction. Today, even as a member of the European Union, Denmark maintains its own monetary currency, and is prepared to step out of the Union if it means loosing it's own independence. The one thing that almost every person will agree on is that the most important thing to them is that they are Danish.

To return to the statement of the Danes being the happiest people, I am not sure that I have the correct word to describe this characteristic accurately. What I will say is that the Danes are focused on “Living Life in the Now” more then most people. My last, but important point, is that the government has made sure that beer prices are low.

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