Denmark

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Denmark. Long a symbol of open-mindedness and tolerance, first in the world (1989) to extend the right of marriage to same sex couples — even as Danish society moved away from the expectation of marriage overall. Freetown in Christiania, a self-governing alternative community in he middle of Copenhagen. Primarily Danish in ethnicity, but with significant minority communities from at least 10 other countries; officially Lutheran with a strong tradition of religious freedom, including Catholic churches, synagogues, and mosques — and a high percentage of non-observant. One of the highest rankings for gender equality and for eco-friendly practices. And of course: an overwhelming orientation to the sea.

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Denmark is surrounded by the sea, a dominant factor in its history — and in modern society. Life, community, time — especially in summer — revolves around the waterfront; this tableau is Copenhagen’s harbour, with many more waterways to choose from.

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The Danes also have a long tradition in the arts, as embodied by Copenhagen’s new waterfront opera house. Denmark has contributed to the humanities far beyond expectation for such a small country — visual and performing, writers and composers, unique design in furniture as well as architecture, philosophy — and in the sciences as well.

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Copenhagen’s Workers Museum pays tribute to the working class of Denmark, going back more than 1500 years. Relevant philosophies, including social welfare, industrialisation, Marxism, and socialism in its varied forms, are represented equally and neutrally, and the workers’ unions and labour laws highlighted.

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Much has been made of Denmark’s rescue, during WWII, of 6400-8500 Jewish people — 90% of the country’s Jewish population at that time. In 1943, average Danes put their own lives on the line to help their Jewish neighbors, by hiding them or sneaking them out of the country in small fishing boats. The story is more nuanced, of course — and there is an anti-Semitic thread in Danish culture, then and now, that cannot be denied. Nevertheless: the Danes took action, on principles of ethics and a shared humanity, when many others failed to do so. [Photo: Jewish Museum, Copenhagen]

~EWP