Oct 202021

No doubt about it: There is more domestic violence (“Intimate Partner Violence” or IPV) in the Nordic countries and the UK than in, for instance, Spain, Italy and Ireland. In spite of greater gender parity!

Allow me to draw your attention to an Icelandic TV series, “The Flatey Enigma”. This is to all appearances a fairly ordinary crime story, true enough from the 70s., with a vibrant female heroin and a dull and ugly scoundrel who happens to be the investigating police officer.

However, there is nothing ordinary about the series. Just as the heroin has to revert (in 1971) to blackmail to have a particularly interesting article published in an academic journal – because she is only a woman, after all – the director of this series has had to use a “crime device” to demonstrate that Icelandic women were battered in the 1970s.

I watched the four-part series with growing dismay. I had known that conditions were hard for everyone in Iceland back then, and that women rarely had reason to laugh or even smile, but I did not know they were battered. I decided to look into the issue.

In the seventies, some very few women were fortunate or brave enough to go abroad to work and/or study. They had no trouble finding work throughout Scandinavia, because they had a reputation of being extremely hard-working. While abroad, they learned that women need not defer to men, and they learned to talk back. In 1975, back in Iceland, they were able to organise the most remarkable demonstration of female power I have ever heard of: They persuaded the country’s entire female population to go on strike for one day. How they managed, I cannot imagine! But they did.

It was a stunning affair. The country was absolutely paralysed for a whole day. No food on the tables, schools and childcare centres closed. Male doctors had to nurse hospitalised patients, daddies had to change toddlers’ nappies, planes were grounded…

After that, things changed. Everything changed, and very quickly. Vigdis Finbogadottir became president, and Iceland evolved from a miserable backwater where many people still lived in turf huts into a truly modern country. (I hasten to add that the greedy bastards who drove Iceland to the brink of extinction in 2008 were not women. Mind you, women can be greedy bastards too.)

No, Icelandic women need not bow to any man in public. BUT, in private, alas, things are still not well. An article in Foreign Policy notes:

One theory to explain the Nordic paradox is that increased gender equality fuels male resentment, creating frustrations that are channeled into physical violence—a mode of action where men can easily still dominate. Violent outbursts of this sort, fueled by feelings of injured masculine status, are so deeply psychologically motivated that they can be difficult for governments to counteract.

In the same article a link takes us to the abstract of a study carried out by the National Hospital.

Aims: The purpose of this study was to analyse the prevalence of hospital visits and nature of injuries caused by intimate partner violence (IPV) against women and associated costs. All visits to Landspitali National University Hospital by women 18 years or older subjected to IPV, inflicted by a current or former male partner during 2005–2014, were observed and analysed
…. punching (29.7%), shoving (17.8%), kicking (10.5%) and attempted strangulation (9.8%) were the most common types of aetiology. Repeated new visits were 37.8%.

I repeat: There are few Muslim immigrants in Iceland, so it’s no use blaming them.

If asked to pick one of the suggested causes of the Nordic Paradox, I would vote for “backlash”. If you impose norms on a recalcitrant group, it seems intuitively obvious to me that there will be resistance. Some will protest loudly. Others will just take private action.

Female emancipation dethrones the male. Many men have absolutely no wish to sit on a throne and be “boss”, and for them female emancipation is liberating. For many others, however, it is perceived as socially castrating and as a violation of what they consider their birth rights.

There are lessons to be learnt here for countries where female emancipation is still a matter of the future (e.g. Afghanistan). Action will have to be taken to help the male population come to terms with a new and disconcerting (for them) reality.

Oct 192021

Have you heard of the Nordic Paradox?

I quote a paper on the subject:

Intimate partner violence against women (IPVAW) is a global public health issue often assumed to be associated with gender inequality. The so-called Nordic Paradox, the apparently contradictory co-existence of high levels of IPVAW and of gender equality in Nordic countries, has not been adequately explained.

Let me tell you, all this is new-speak in my ears, starting with ” IPVAW”, which is international jargon for what we normally refer to as “domestic violence”.,

The reason I found the said paper was that I was confronted a few weeks ago by friends in Spain who resented my – ehem – “insinuation” that Spaniards go around battering and killing women. Yes it is true that a year or two or three ago, 55 women were killed in Spain. But, my friends continued, how many people live in Spain? So how many femicide victims are there per 100k in Spain?

I was put to shame.

My friends sent me figures and charts and goodness-knows-what, to demonstrate the opposite of what I had posited. Below, you will find a map of the EU countries. Source: Violence against women: an EU-wide summary. The 2012 findings were apparently more or less corroborated in a rather more wide-ranging March 2021 report. You will recognise the “FRA” logo of both reports.

What the map tells us is that the countries with least domestic violence are, interestingly, countries we generally consider Catholic. Countries with the highest reported levels of domestic violence are Denmark, Finland and Latvia. I repeat: these figures are from 2012.

So, are Protestants more violent than Catholics?

Are Catholics more reluctant to report domestic violence than Protestants? What about Muslims?

This line of enquiry is not politically correct, so I will leave it for now.

Norway and Iceland are not on the map as they are only EEA countries.

Statistics Norway provides very little information about domestic violence in Norway. All I found were three terse sentences:

Lifetime Physical and/or Sexual Intimate Partner Violence: 27 %
Physical and/or Sexual Intimate Partner Violence in the last 12 moths: 6 %
Litime Non-Partner Sexual Violence: Official National Statistics Not Available.

As for Iceland you will see that Denmark, Finland and Iceland are high up on a WHO shame list (notice Turkey!!!):

To summarise: In the European Nordic countries, not least in Iceland, there is greater gender parity than practically anywhere else in Europe. Forget the details for now, but let’s just say that women in these countries enjoy as much liberty, pay and prestige as men. E.g.: The Danish, Finnish and Icelandic prime ministers are all women. However, there is more domestic violence in these same countries (and in the UK) than almost anywhere else in Europe.

Again I direct your attention to the interesting paper about a Swedish study that I mentioned by way of introduction. It refers to various suggested explanations for the paradox, such as male backlash at female success, and high alcohol consumption. It discusses whether women in Sweden are more prone to report maltreatment than women elsewhere. It points out that there are reasons to argue that the opposite may be the case. The paper also dismisses the theory that immigrants are at the heart of Sweden’s poor showing, as “othering.

Enter Iceland. Again, Iceland is not on the EU map and is more interesting than Norway in this context, as I hope to demonstrate. Iceland is a particularly interesting country for researchers of — not least — medical, social and natural sciences as it is an island. (Hardly any Moslem immigrants have even considered taking refuge on that cold Atlantic rock. ) Due to its tiny population of about 360 thousand, Island is also frequently a statistical aberration.

So, no, Muslims do not explain IPV in Iceland.

To be continued.

Oct 142021

Have I made fun of the term? I bow my head in shame.

Yes, it is true that being allowed to vote once every four years for some caudillo to lead your country is not really worth fireworks. However, Democracy is not only about ballot boxes! Sometimes, you only understand that, when Democracy has been lost. And it is so easily, alas, lost.

Democracy requires “Separation of Powers” (a concept commonly attributed to Montesquieu). “Separation of Powers” means that the executive branch (i.e. the president, the army, the police and the secret service) have no powers over the judiciary (i.e. the courts) and the legislature (i.e. the National Assembly or whatever assembly determines what laws should apply in a country.) Separation of powers is absolutely quintessential for a “Democracy”. Every once in a while, we see that a hotshot decides that he should be his country’s emperor, like Napoleon. Alas, the basis for such a decision is more often than not sociopathy; certainly not wisdom.

An excellent if somewhat lengthy documentary from the European TV channel Arte about conditions in Hungary serves as an illustration of what happens when one man holds too much power. It should give you goosebumps as it thoroughly illustrates at least three points, of which the first, that Hungary is now only nominally a Democracy, is only a prelude. Let me cut to the quick: In the midst of the EU, then, you have a country led by a governmental crime syndicate; a rather chilling thought.

The deceased Portuguese novelist José Saramago wrote a wonderful novel that humorously illustrates how easily Democracy could be subverted, even without violence: “Ensaio sobre a Lucidez”, literally Essay on Lucidity, 2004, (the English translation of which is called “Seeing”). I recommend an article about the book in the Guardian by Ursula K. Le Guin. She concludes:

He has written a novel that says more about the days we are living in than any book I have read. He writes with wit, with heartbreaking dignity, and with the simplicity of a great artist in full control of his art. Let us listen to a true elder of our people, a man of tears, a man of wisdom

The novel can be read as a sequel to “Essay on Blindness” (1997). Whereas the “Essay on Blindness” is horrifying, the tardy sequel is kind to the reader. Yet, it leaves no doubt: On a rainy day, Democracy can be undone by a mere gesture, or absence of gesture, of the hand.

As we all know, of course, many countries are run by autocrats and/or de-facto crime syndicates. Many, many countries. Hungary, however, is in the EU. The EU prides itself on transparency and rule of law. Indeed there is no concealing from the EU what is going on in Hungary and Poland. But as you will see in the documentary recommended above, there is nothing the EU can legally do about the matter. So far.

What about your country? Does it claim to be Democratic? Is it really?

We all saw how close a call the US had, when the country’s voters nearly gave Trump “four more years” in “fair and Democratic” elections. What would happen to France if Eric Zemmour becomes that country’s president in “fair Democratic” elections? (And what will then happen to the EU?

No, I do not subscribe to the idea that Democracy is outdated. China and Russia may believe in authoritarian leadership, in imprisoning or even killing whistle-blowers and journalists that ask difficult questions and expose abuse of power. I do not. I should add, for the record, that China and Russia are not the only countries where constructive criticism is unwelcome. And in case you have forgotten, Julian Assange and Edward Snowden are still wanted by you-know-what country.

No the problem is not that the US and the EU are too Democratic, but that they are not Democratic enough.

Who voted for Trump and who will vote for Zemmour, and why?

I find myself wondering whether sex slaves vote and if so, who do they vote for? They make up a small, yet not totally insignificant proportion of most countries’ populations. Imagine your country as a large empty aquarium. Pour in all your country’s sex slaves and they will just barely form a film over the floor of your aquarium. Add all the people who fill the shelves of all your country’s grocery stores. Add all the street sweepers, all those who wash all the floors in hospitals and all the floors of your cities’ innumerable office buildings… The tide is rising in the aquarium. You still haven’t added the unemployed.

What about the majority of your rural population, which is probably “at risk of poverty and social exclusion“, as the EU puts it: “The at-risk-of-poverty rate is the share of people with an equivalised disposable income (after social transfer) below the at-risk-of-poverty threshold, which is set at 60 % of the national median equivalised disposable income after social transfers.”

Please, PLEASE note that we are talking about 60% of the MEDIAN “equivalised disposable income”. In plain English: half the population have an income above the median and half have an income below it. In my country 18 % of all fully employed people are “at risk of poverty and social exclusion”.

Who do they vote for? Do they vote for Labour, or whatever the equivalent of Labour is called in your country? Will our Labour-equivalents truly improve their conditions? Will any major party that respects rule of law? My guess is that the answer to that question is “no”, and that our “at risk of poverty and social exclusion” voters know that.
No wonder, then, that wild-eyed preachers, charlatans, megalomaniacs and sycophantic scoundrels find it easy to deceive consumers and even voters by offering a deceptive ray of hope.

Take a look at your country’s median income in 2021. You might consider how far the median income would get you if you had to pay rent, electricity, transportation, childcare, insurance, internet, phone bill, etc. etc. etc. oh, and I forgot food.