Med spørgsmål og udveksling skal demokratier bestå
The more diverse the Danish population becomes, the less we talk to each other
With questions and exchanges, democracies must survive
When I was a teenager, I threw myself into as many discussions with my family as I could possibly get to. My mother often looked at me angrily as she said, “Not everything is a discussion, everything is not to be debated!” “This is how you say when you do not have enough arguments”, I thought and continued my questions and arguments.
My mother was and still is one of Jehovah’s Witnesses, and so was I, as a teenager living at home. There was just the problem that the older I got, the more critical questions I started asking.
“Why not have an abortion if you have become pregnant after a rape?” “Why is it the husband who is the head of the family, if it is the wife who is the wisest?” “Why not have sex before marriage?” “Why is the only permissible cause of divorce that one party is unfaithful?” “Why not love the one you love if you share the same sex?” – yes, to my mother’s great despair I had many questions.
My mother gave up, called the congregation elder who came and tried to knock some scriptures into my head.
At school I was called Ask Jørgen. I was hugely curious and inquisitive, I still am.
Exchange of views enriches
I live in the United States, just outside Seattle in the state of Washington. Fortunately for me, the vast majority of Americans are open and accommodating and like to share their thoughts on most things.
Living in the United States is a paradise for a curious soul. Here live people from vastly different cultural, religious and ethnic backgrounds. There are many reasons why people think, believe and think the way they do – and I love hearing about them.
Today I had a conversation with a man about being the only Trump supporter for a baby show in Seattle, where the rest of the guests were Bident supporters.
I ask and ask. When I meet Trump supporters, I ask them what it is that appeals to them by him. When I meet African Americans, I ask how they experience the system in terms of race and equal opportunities. When I meet people who belong to LGBTQ, we talk about prejudice and acceptance.
We like to exchange views – just not when it comes to religion
But when it comes to religion, the situation is different. The only ones who bother to talk to me about that subject are the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses who occasionally knock on my door.
Jehovah’s Witnesses like to talk about their religion – on their terms. They have rehearsed answers to most things. I know, because even as a big kid, I practiced with the adults before knocking on people’s doors.
But if you start asking Jehovah’s Witnesses questions that they have not practiced, then the ground is shaking under their feet. Maybe that’s why they operate in pairs?
In Denmark, Jehovah’s Witnesses have always been looked down upon when they came in their suits with their Watchtower and Awake! Some have felt sorry for the poor children who are being dragged around Saturday morning and have offered them a cup of coffee. Others have suggested that if one simply spoke reason to them, then perhaps they would change some of their archaic attitudes.
Diversity closes the conversation, it is not good for democracy
In school we learned that if you have an attitude, then you must be able to argue for it – with words or pen and paper. Not in the form of pants water or a blood spout in the recess. No one should be afraid to say their opinion – or whether it would be settled in cash after school if they said something the bully of the class did not like.
Talking together and listening to each other and being critical is one of the crucial pillars of democracy, it is socialized into our pods from day one. It is through questions that we get to know each other – and perhaps dots for seats and customs that need a post-check.
If one cannot answer questions but has to resort to scriptures or hand out a spout of blood, then one’s attitudes are not strong enough. Questions can be difficult, they can be strong and powerful – they can make even the toughest nut to crack when he can not answer for himself. That’s why we taught young people in Jehovah’s Witnesses not to ask too many questions;
Democracy is in danger when anxiety stops for questions
Because it is i.a. that a secularized Western democracy can. Ask questions, be critical, engage in dialogue without regard to God, King and Fatherland. Or so it has been in the past.
As Denmark’s population composition has become more diverse , we should be able to have more enriching, interesting, exchanging conversations.
But it seems to me that the more diverse the population group in Denmark, yes in Europe, becomes, the fewer exchanging conversations we have with those who do not think, believe and think the same as us – for fear of being exposed to what is worse than trouser water and a blood spout.