Danes, Englishmen, The Killing, killing a giraffe – and your kids

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The Killing, a giraffe and your kids – why shooting Marius in the head may be good for children

Ok, that headline is from a sub, but the rest of a recent article about Marius the Giraffe and how it illustrates some of the differences between the two countries I call home is all mine.

In it, I explore why most Danes thought that dissecting an 18-month old giraffe in front of a zoo audience including kids wasn’t exactly something to get that upset about, while the rest of the world – at least in the eyes of the Danes – went absolutely mental and basically said that they might as well have mowed the poor thing down with a machine gun that uses live kittens for ammo.

After the whole incident, the Danish zoo director, Benght Holst, published some of the comments he’d received on his facebook page.

Here are a choice couple:

Camille Gorski wrote:

“Your DNA is inferior…shoot yourself in the head in the lion’s den for their breakfast tomorrow. Repent you sorry bastard. Nazi.”

Loredana Pucci was shorter but just as blunt:

“Shame on you, you’re not human, you’re the devil!!!!!”

Brits were – as Brits often are – slightly more polite and, shall we say tut-tutting in their response.

“I find it hard to excuse the justification for the weekend’s actions,” Ben Fogle wrote in the Guardian.

Channel 4’s Matt Frei interviewed Bengt Holst about Marius and the decision to put him down.

This is the whole interview, and for anyone in the media industry it’s a sort of text-book example of two things: how to keep your cool under pressure and how not to ask questions – at least if you want to look like an objective journalist.

Now here’s where I got a little philosophical. If you watch the interview, there’s a point where the interviewer says that it would never have happened in London Zoo, because English people want to protect their kids from something like that.

So here’s a long quote from the article:

“I think that the whole story represents an interesting difference between England and Denmark. The way that Danes are less afraid than the English to show all sides of life – including death – to everyone, even children.

Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall recently visited Denmark to look at the country’s food and mentality – and to find out why they are so good at noir crime stories.

He met with Søren Malling from The Killing, and asked him about why Danes, who are officially the happiest people in the world according to the UN, are so good at portraying darkness, as seen in for example The Killing.

“I know one thing for certain: we are not afraid of the dark. Many people are afraid of talking about the dark side, but I think that many people in Denmark actually recon that it is part of our lives, so why not talk about it. That it is a huge part of being a human being,” Søren Malling responded.

This is something that extends to the way that Danes raise their children. My experience is that Danes introduce subjects like death at a younger age, and that an experience like the one the children got at the zoo by seeing Marius being dissected and fed to the lions is something that’s valued.

The argument is that children should learn early on not to shy away from the dark sides of life, but to confront them. Children have a more acute understanding of the world around them than many people probably give them credit for, and will find out anyway. It might be a country versus city thing, in which case many people in the West Country might be more understanding of the Danes’ actions and their reaction to the outrage over Marius.

While it might be stretching the argument a little, I think this difference in dealing with the dark sides of life, including death, might possibly help describe what I tend to think of as the double life of British children, where they are very different when with friends compared to when they are with their parents.

Their parents have tried to shield them from reality, in order to protect them, but as a reaction British children create dual realities where they behave like good children at home and swear like sailors when they go out the front door.”

you can read the whole thing here.

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One Response to Danes, Englishmen, The Killing, killing a giraffe – and your kids

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