Over 325,000 Danes helped define the ‘Denmark canon’.
Yet another long-running debate on what exactly constitutes ‘Danishness’ has culminated in the definition of the Danes’ ten most important values.
The ‘Denmark canon’ was launched with great fanfare by the then culture minister, Bertel Haarder, back in June. He asked Danes to submit their choices for what they viewed as the Danish society’s most important values.
Nearly 2,500 suggestions rolled in, which were then pared down to 20 and put up to an online vote. After over 325,000 Danes took part in the online survey, the Culture Ministry announced the list of ten key Danish values on Monday.
Those ten values, along with the ministry’s definitions, are as follows:
• Freedom: “Freedom is the fundamental value of Danish democracy. In the Western tradition the freedom of the population is tied to the freedom of the individual.”
• Equality under the law: “Denmark is often at the top of international surveys on trust and low corruption.”
• Gender equality: “The Danish society is based on equality between the sexes. This means that men and women should have the same rights and opportunities.”
• Hygge: “Hygge is considered a special way of being together in a relaxed atmosphere. Hygge is its own word and many say it can not be translated.”
• Welfare society: “In the Danish welfare society, residents enjoy a high level of protection against social and physical risks and benefit from of a range of public goods.”
• Trust: “The Danish culture of trust is based on an expectation that one’s fellow citizens and public institutions are reliable.”
• The Danish language: “Danish is the mother tongue of more than 90 percent of the population in Denmark. Language is not just a communication tool; it is a culture bearer.”
• Association activities and volunteerism: “Associations constitute a basic way of organizing communities throughout Denmark.”
• Liberal-mindedness: “Liberal-mindedness is based on the premise that all people should have the right to decide over their own lives. To demonstrate liberalism means having an open-minded and tolerant attitude and mindset.”
• Christian heritage: “Christianity’s concept of charity and the Protestant ideas about the importance of work, personal responsibility and equality of all people before God have left their mark upon modern Denmark.”
Haarder, who was recently replaced as culture minister but allowed to complete his Danishness project, said the list covered both the values that shaped Denmark and those that will carry it through the future.
“The Denmark canon was created in a time of growing concern about the future, when many people are unsure of our common values. The ten values that the people have now chosen are expressions of our present and future key societal values – our common cultural DNA,” he said.
Haarder added that formally defining the canon is “a step toward the clarification of our culture, which I believe is essential for the cohesion of Danish society.”
A video of Danes describing the importance of the various values can be seen here. It is obviously only available in Danish, given the language’s inclusion in the list of defining national values.
This is far from the first time that the Danish government has asked Danes to formally identify and define the things they hold most dear. In a 2014 online vote, Denmark declared stegt flæsk med persillesovs og kartofler, thick fried slices of pork served with boiled potatoes and parsley sauce, as its national dish.
According to Politiken, the values list is actually the sixth official canon to be defined in recent years, following lists on essential Danish books and major works, 29 historic events that should be taught in every school, essential democratic values and a culture canon of music, art and architecture.
The newspaper’s satirical cartoonist, Philip Ytournel, summed up the attitude that many critics have expressed about the latest attempt to formally define ‘Danishness’.
“To talk about what is the most Danish is the most Danish thing I can imagine,” one of his characters quipped in a full-page cartoon.