The happiest nation on Earth! The happiest nation on Earth, yet not willing to share happiness. The happiest nation on Earth believing that happiness can be sustained in isolation; that happiness has no moral connotation!
Denmark, my home country, has decided that a Syrian life is not worth a bit of inconvenience, that Danish comfort dictates heartlessness! Denmark revels in its historic role as the saviour of the Danish Jews during WWII, but sees no relationship to the ethical imperatives of today.
One of the really depressing things about current political discourse is that any political action must be justified from the perspective of the national interest of the country, defined in the narrowest sense. This is the detestable legacy of Senator Jesse Helms and his ‘America first’ ideology. But why should this ‘national interest’ perspective be right. In our private lives we do many things that are not in our own interest, but we do them because they are right. We help those of broken minds or broken bodies although we dearly hope we shall never be in that position ourselves. We do these things because they are right. The same within our countries. We see that communities take pain in order to serve the general good, although the inhabitants of these communities will be worse off. A new motorway is built leading to more general prosperity but at the cost of all those living close to the new road. We do it because it is right. We then come to the national level – and suddenly we say that we will not sacrifice anything for the common good because it means that our own prosperity will be impacted. We will not do what is good, because it may not be good for us. This is the logic that would have kept us in the Stone Age if we had applied it across the board. But more importantly it is wrong, wrong, wrong!
The almost as depressing thing as the national interest perspective is its misapplication. Because even if you adopt its logic it does not lead to the xenophobic attitudes of Denmark. Denmark has the same problem as many other European countries of an aging society, and immigrants are on average younger. That will make the pension burden easier to carry. But also, figures from Germany show that foreigners there pay more to the state than they take out in social benefits, and, of course, the long term productivity boost can be considerable depending on how well newcomers can be integrated. Look to the US of yore to see how immigration creates wealth (a lesson the US sadly has also forgotten). But all this is secondary. The real issue is how it can ever be justified to deny refuge to human beings in terrible distress!
I love Denmark, still. After all, home is where the heart is. But if home has no heart how can you love it? When you live in Vienna you are confronted with the misery in the middle of all the incredible prosperity. You go about your daily life as usual, yet something is amiss. The horror of the migrants is there for all to see. In fact, not so different from life in Denmark during the occupation. Back then Denmark took action, showed heart. Now it has lost heart – does not want to see, does not want to understand, does not want to help. Denmark is better than that, I know that. But it is highest time to reject the demagoguery of xenophobia, and to finally show who we are. A nation of good people ready to help, a nation of happy people understanding that happiness does not grow on stones of inhumanity.
Does this have anything to do with my book? No! But there are things much more important! Do not be on the fence. Show heart!