21st Century Alchemy: In the Green Card Scheme fallout, where were all the Danes?

Since I’m employed by both companies and individuals, I tend to avoid being political by hiding behind the façade of professional neutrality.

READ MORE: Green Card law amended following demonstration

Passive endorsement
But this recent debate on the Green Card Scheme has really got under my skin – most particularly how there aren’t a lot of Danes standing beside the immigrants, which makes me wonder …

“What are we willing to tolerate?” As a society, are we passively encouraging political bullying because it doesn’t directly affect us? Are we the ones who stand at a distance, watching the victims publicly paraded in humiliation, unwilling to get our hands dirty and silently supporting the erosion of human rights?

The same as you
As you have no doubt already figured out, I’m an immigrant, which these days feels like a bad word or a crime. But immigrants AREN’T social pariahs, we don’t have anti-social tendencies, and we’re not trying to change Danish society and undermine time-tested values that are a part of Danishness (NFS Grundtvig’s Danskhed).

And while I’m no spokesperson for all immigrants, it isn’t difficult to imagine that what immigrants want is what everyone wants: to be treated like a human being. None of the immigrants are claiming rights, but no-one should ever have to – there are some things that we should never need to ask for, but should be provided.

What everyone wants, immigrants included, is to be able to work in a role that looks more like a career than the menial labour that no-one wants to do. Despite what you may think, the taxi driver with two engineering masters would rather be a professional engineer than driving you to the airport in the middle of the night.

We want to make an income so that we can pay our taxes, buy our groceries, and put a roof over our heads and clothes on our backs. We want to provide a life for our family that is at least the same and hopefully better than the life we had before we came here regardless of whether it was from the USA or Syria, Iran or Japan. And above all, we want to be functional members of society like every other person.

Dehumanised, undeterred
Scrapping the Green Card Scheme (even the thought of it) is putting the blame on the immigrants who paid to come here, who’ve worked hard to integrate and, if they’ve been fortunate, continued to work hard at the humdrum jobs that they could get, all the while doing their best to learn the language and navigate the gauntlet of every societal and governmental hurdle in the way.

But none of us choose to be unemployed – including immigrants. Seriously, who does?! Five years ago, it wasn’t part of my grand plan to immigrate to Denmark, destroying both my career prospects and downgrading my hard-earned education to worthless pieces of paper. That wasn’t my vision, but sadly that’s my reality.

Unemployment dehumanises as the individual’s identity and values slowly evaporate, as they become a number, failure and defect, as they’re labelled unproductive, desperate, wishful, delusional, depressed and poor – separated and isolated because they were ‘unwilling’ to integrate with ‘respectable society’. Being unemployed is to be silently erased; it’s on a par with being homeless, mentally-ill or addicted.

Valuable assets
Every single immigrant has had real life and work experience. They now possess professional and world perspectives that are unique and potentially enlightening to any Danish business desiring to be more than a mom and pop fishmonger on the rocky shores of this little island.

It’s obvious that nearly every Dane speaks English, yet nearly every immigrant speaks it better, so instead of focusing on how to disqualify the masses – thinking of the million or so expats and immigrants as liabilities and burdens – start thinking of them, of us, as untapped resources that can be easily utilised.

And remember that every immigrant you hire is desperate – desperate to work, desperate to stay in a country that apparently doesn’t want them and desperate to care for their families.

Embrace them
If you don’t want immigrants to be tax burdens, then employ them and transform them into assets. But don’t think of them as 2-for-1 discount workers who are not worthy of a living wage. Don’t prey upon their circumstances. It’s immoral and inhumane – two characteristics not found under the definition of Danishness.

And what will you get in return? You’ll never find a more dedicated and hardworking individual than the one who’s been unemployed or under-employed in brainless bullshit for years. And as every business leader already knows, you can teach skills but you can’t teach character, you can’t teach work-ethic, and you can’t teach loyalty.

During the next few weeks, I’ll be shifting to more practical matters like job-seeking, letter writing, resume structuring, interviewing and negotiation.

I also hope to inspire you a little as you face the abyss separating you from meaningful employment (or your next job).

I hope that as you read the column you’ll feel little more encouraged, a little better equipped and whole lot more empowered.

And if you have any questions, please send them in. I’d be happy to respond.