Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Once more, the Danes provoke us

We are, once again, on the brink of conflict with the Danes, this time over shrimp.
It does seem a little odd that a country that destroyed the East Coast cod fishery is claiming the high ground on conservation.
But it does give me an excuse to post this column from 2005, when Hans Island loomed as our own Falklands.

A father’s advice, on the eve of war with Daneland

VICTORIA - Son, I know you’re ready to serve your country.
Art school is fine. Perhaps you’ll go back there some day.
But right now, it’s important to stand up to the Danish war machine, before they launch a sneak attack from Daneland and crush the non-existent inhabitants of Hans Island.
No, that’s not near Saltspring. Don’t you students watch the news?
Hans Island is in the north somewhere between Greenland and some Canadian cold place. Defence Minister Bill Graham angered the war-mongering, cheese-loving Danes when he flew over the island in a helicopter and, in a rare carefree moment, said ‘Hey, let’s land on that rock and take some pictures.'
Provocation, the Danes whined, scoffing their fancy open-faced eel sandwiches. Eel sandwiches, son. These people are barbarians, who have never even grasped the concept that a sandwich requires two pieces of bread.
Now the Danes are ready to do battle to try and take away an important Canadian rocky outcrop, which they falsely claim as their own.
Sure, Hans Island is nothing special. A flat rock in a cold ocean, about 100 metres wide and 3,000 metres long. Even birds aren’t dumb enough to live there, and based on that penguin movie they are not picky.
But darn it, son, Bill Graham says it belongs to us. And if we aren’t willing to support a man who has spent a lifetime travelling the world preaching the Gospel in overheated arenas, can we really be Canadians?
Yes, it’s a useless lump of rock today.
But wait a few centuries and global warming will turn Hans Rock into a strategic must-have, our government says. Cruise ships and oil tankers will be booting it through the Northwest Passage as if it was a police-free shortcut home from the bar on Friday night.
Hans Island could be our toll booth, or help us protect the environment, or something. And maybe there’s oil, or kryptonite, waiting to be discovered.
Anyway, that’s not the point, son. This is about sovereignty, and national pride.
Those Danes are laughing at us, an insult made more cruel because of their normal melancholy. They’re taking breaks from watching their beloved women’s handball games to sneer at our way of life, wandering around with their freakishly large dogs, munching their beloved Danish pastries, telling each other Canadian jokes.
They’ve been tormenting us for years, those Victor Borge loving lowlanders.
Consider Ole Kirk Christansen, his company supposedly making ironing boards, stepladders and wooden toys, flying under the radar. In 1955 Christansen struck, unleashing Lego. Three generations of Canadian parents have spent the best years of their lives on their knees each evening, picking up hundreds of tiny plastic blocks, inevitably missing the ones that will later stab into their heels.
The coming conflict won’t be easy, son. It took Germany less than four hours to conquer Denmark in 1940, but we aren’t Germany. Denmark has about twice as many tanks as Canada, and air and sea forces are evenly matched. (Although we outnumber them six to one in population.) We need to negotiate rules of engagement that allow some sort of time-out if anybody gets hurt or one of our submarines catches on fire.
I know what you’re thinking, son.
Is this really your fight? How come I’m talking so tough for somebody who never fought anyone? Where is Daneland? What don’t Graham and his Danish counterpart fight this out on the island, with an appropriate split of the pay-per-view money? What’s with all the question marks?
But ultimately this is simple. The enemy isn’t just trying to take our freedom, or extract some revenge because Aqua was a global one-hit wonder. (Though Barbie Girl was catchy.) No, they hate our freedom, and our liberty.
It’s tough to go to war.
It’s especially tough when the whole conflict would have been ignored if it wasn’t summer and the media desperately short of real news stories.
But life is cruel. Good luck, son. Bring us back some cheese.
Footnote: The Danes have a secret weapon - “hygge.” Hygge is a Danish term for a happy life, suggesting a "warm, fuzzy, comfortable feeling of well-being," a life of good food, good company, wine, nice furniture, good music. The risk, of course, is that our brave young warriors may end up lounging on an oiled teak chaise, knocking back Aquavit and herring. Be strong, son.