Straight Up | The madness in the freedom of expression

(photo: scanpix)

Insanity in individuals is something rare – but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule (Friedrich Nietzsche, 1886).

Théâtre de l’Absurde
Some acute madness is going on. An artist prosecuted in Sweden for racial profiling is given a VIP welcome to Denmark. Matter-of-factly, his art, pregnant with racial innuendo, is exhibited at the country’s seat of law: the parliament.

Elsewhere, Nasim Mashir, an Afghani man, is denied Danish citizenship despite meeting all the requirements simply because – get this – a fire accidentally broke out when he was clearing grass in his compound. In the eyes of the government he is a criminal (because he should have stopped the wind from blowing). It is Théâtre de l’Absurde at its peak. Madness galore. Can we sink any lower?

Blame the hormones
The Dan Park controversy has brought to the fore the subtle racial problem that we hate to admit exists. Unlike the UK’s English Defence League, America’s KKK and France’s National Patriotic Front, racism in Denmark remains largely faceless.

It hides in the psyche, occasionally coming to the surface through hormonal outbursts. It is the reason why, in just two weeks, over ten demonstrations have taken place to denounce or support Dan Park’s exhibitions. On TV and social media, a battle of the loudest has been looming.

Park’s supporters feebly hide behind freedom of expression. But racism and racial incitement are crimes. When jailing Park, a Swedish court pointed out the dehumanising nature of his pictures. Here at home, eyes are wide shut to this distinction. The million kroner question being: is freedom of expression more important than dignity?

Living in denial
Absolute freedom is a fallacy. With our freedom of expression, we also all have the right to not be dehumanised. But for blind supporters of freedom of expression, anything goes.

In the extreme push for human rights we are annihilating human dignity. This is the biggest tragedy of our time. On the bloody fields of Iraq and Syria, IS insists its beheadings are a means to freedom (and a tilbud of 72 virgins). At home, we dress racism and incitement as art in the name of freedom of expression.  Where is human dignity in all these?

What society are we nurturing? Is it one that exalts absolute freedom of expression, which includes dehumanising and racial slurs? One that allows praise for the Holocaust and condones black people being called slaves and niggers? One that allows homosexuals to be termed faggots? Is that the society we want to build for freedom’s sake?

Candle in the wind
The wind of change is sweeping. Danish universities are internationalising, absorbing more foreign students and staff; socially, Danes are increasingly looking east and south for love; corporations are employing more expats; the number of mixed-race kids is on the rise.

Yet a dark cloud still lingers. While the country is trying to move, the corridors of power contain right-wing extremists. In a year’s time the nation goes to the ballot. Woe unto us if the likes of DF and Venstre gain more ground. Refugees will be shipped to Africa and people of colour hung on slave chains or worse converted into Haribo candies. They call it ‘art’. It is the madness in freedom of expression.