Saturday May 27, 2017

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The View from Copenhagen
Michael Keldsen
The View from Copenhagen

Final view

Even good columnists can run out of things to say about a country with as much promise as Greenland
Ending on a pleasant note (Photo: Visit Greenland)

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Tacitus, a first century AD Roman senator, is credited with saying “Nothing is said that has not been said before.” Ironically, Taciturn, whose name means ‘the silent one’ in Latin, was anything but. He was an accomplished historian, senator, solicitor and later consul.

His observation is probably true in some way or other, but, as his example shows, it is human nature not to remain silent. In fact, it is an essential element of human society, particularly democracies.

This has more or less been the guiding principle I have followed during the past four years as columnist for Sermitisaq newspaper in Greenland (and for nearly the past three years also for The Arctic Journal). My columns have dealt with all manner of subjects: art and culture, education, food, demographics, independence, reconciliation, fisheries, language, international issues, economics, Greenland’s future and, perhaps most importantly, the way the country’s elected officials administer their nation of 56,000 souls.

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Much of what I wrote has, no doubt, already been expressed before. Some of it by yours truly. I’m under the impression that my columns have been eagerly read, but I am under just as much of the impression that my columns haven’t resonated with everyone – and especially not politicians. That’s as it should be. The most important thing is that they are read and they encourage people to have an opinion.

The time, however, has come for me to take a break from being a columnist. Firstly, because Greenland right now is in the midst of a local election, and the space my column fills in Sermitisaq could be better used by candidates looking to speak their mind. Secondly, because I believe that the political leadership of this fantastic country fully understands the need to address the realities Greenland faces, rather than to try to turn fantasies about its future into reality.

There is no shortage of areas where improvements are necessary: education, healthcare and child welfare are but three. On the other hand, lawmakers should spend less time on things that mean little for the serious issues the country faces. I won’t say what it is I think they spend too much time on, but most can probably guess it fairly easily.

Mostly, though, I’d like to express my hope that Greenland does not get caught up in the same unpleasant wave of populism that is washing over many a Western country right now. It is a wave that is made strong by xenophobia and dupes people into thinking that there is a simple solution to all of the problems they face.

SEE RELATED: Silent minority

One of these mistaken assumptions is that as soon as we rid ourselves of the people we have made the scapegoats for our problems things will fix themselves. In western Europe, and in Great Britain in particular, voters appear certain that once the eastern European workers are kicked out, things will go back to the way they were in the good old days.

Few countries in Europe have escaped this trend, but what about Greenland? Is there a divide between Greenlandic speakers and Danish speakers that can lead to one group being blamed for certain problems? And is there someone who is going to stand up and say they have a ‘solution’? Unfortunately, a quick scan of the Greenlandic media in recent years will find more than a few examples of people who might.

Rather than end on a sour note, it’s more worthwhile to point out that there are a lot of people in Greenland who work hard for their community. It is also refreshing to see that among younger people there is a sense of self-awareness that is independent from the generations that came of age in the 1960s and 1970s, and who waged a necessary youthful rebellion against the system that existed at the time.

If only Greenland can make sure that more of its young people were ready for their future (by giving them a proper education) it will turn into a country that people consider moving to, not moving away from.

For now, this will be my final column. But, who knows, perhaps I’ll be back at some point to say something that’s already been said. Until then, thanks for reading.

The author is a Danish barrister and a columnist for Sermtisiaq newspaper, which is owned by this website’s parent company.