Høj Anxiety

Sep. 21 - According to a recent study, one in four Danes believes that feelings of insecurity are having a negative impact on their quality of life (English - Dansk).

An explanation to the growing sense of existential crisis could be found in natural catastrophes and terror incidents rearing their ugly head in the consciousness of Danes, according to sociologist Eva Steensig.

"We have probably been a bit naive with regard to our little bubble of welfare, protected from terror and natural catastrophes. But the uncertainty that countries outside of the Nordic region have lived with for years is now becoming part of our everyday life," said Steensig. "This finds expression in less mental surplus, which especially makes us uncertain about things close to home: family and work."

Personal factors independent of normal criteria played a role in the growing malaise, said sociologist Henrik Dahl.

"If you really investigated this insecurity to its root, I think you would find that feeling a lack of recognition is the most important factor. If you don't feel love from your family or appreciation on your job, and feel that it doesn't make a difference if you are there or not, that creates uncertainty," said Dahl.

Ms. Steensig's line about about "less mental surplus," I should note, is translated correctly. Her words in Danish were "et mindre mentalt overskud," which would be hard to translate any other way. I'm not sure what she means, myself. I'm going to assume it's some kind of standard Danish sociological jargon, but for all I know it could just be the awkward phrasing of a woman who's talking nonsense.

(Interesting aside: the Danish word for nonsense is vrøvl, which would probably be my favorite Danish word of all time if I could get the damn thing out of my mouth.)

The real story for me isn't that 25% of Danes are feeling a little insecurity, but that 75% aren't. I found that intriguingly smug and wandered over to the source of the study, an organization called TrygFonden (link is to study).

I'm assuming the conclusion making headlines came from question 10 of the survey:

On a scale from 1 to 7, where 1 is "I feel fundamentally secure in my everyday life" and where 7 is "I feel fundamentally insecure in my everyday life," just how secure do you feel?

The results can be seen on page 11 of the report. Annoyingly enough the analysis inverts the values of the question, so that in their chart 1 represents the highest insecurity and 7 the greatest security. Pretend I didn't say that: I'm going to present the answers as they correspond to the original question. (And I'm just eyeballing the chart since I can't be troubled to read the lengthy text in search for the hard data.)

Answer 1: about 43%.
Answer 2: about 32%.
Answer 3: about 13%.
Answer 4: about 5%.
Answer 5: about 3%.
Answer 6: about 2%.
Answer 7: about 2%.

I think it's strange that they're lumping five out of seven scale points against two. If this is supposed to be a continuum, wouldn't you figure 1-3 would be secure, 4 would be neutral, and 5-7 would be insecure? If you use that analysis, you'd get 88% secure, 5% neutral, and just 7% insecure.

You could make the argument that security is like virginity, and that once you leave it, it's gone forever—and all that remains in question is the extent of your sluttiness. But it wouldn't be a very sensible argument, since it would require an altogether different interpretation of the data. You'd have to count 1 as secure and 2-7 as insecure, giving you 43% secure and 57% insecure.

My own informal data based on 2-1/2 years of life in Denmark suggests that Danes are no different from Americans, Nigerians, Laotians, or Chileans: they're all insecure, anxious, and neurotic. Some of them just too crazy to admit it.

Come on. We're thrown into the world for no apparent reason, surrounded by people to love and hate, all of whom will either die during our lifetime—with all the sorrow and horror and guilt that implies—or outlive us, which implies our own mortality and therefore isn't much nicer to think about. We're buffeted about on this stupid rock for however many decades before, inevitably, we're snuffed out completely and cease to exist. Are there actual human beings making it from one day to the next without any anxieties or insecurities? If so, they're insane.

So if the survey as originally interpreted is correct, then I think it's safe to say that although 25% of Danes are insecure about their daily life, 75% of Danes are lunatics.

Which might explain why I'm so comfortable here...

We All Fall Down

Numerologists of the world must be thrilled that tomorrow's autumnal equinox occurs at 22:22 GMT (on the 22nd, no less). I may not be writing an Almanac tomorrow, so I'm going to include my annual introduction to fall today.

Many people in the northern hemisphere are disturbed by the changes they see around them at about this time each year. It gets darker earlier, temperatures drop, leaves change color and die, and the Red Sox drop out of playoff contention. (We'll consider last year the exception to the rule until proven otherwise.)

There've been myths about the changing of the seasons as long as there've been children to lie to. Some primitive peoples believed that leaves changed color because Nature was pining for her abducted daughter; others blamed it on the seasonal absence of sunlight-fed chlorophyll, allowing xanthophyll, carotene, and antocyanin to determine leaf color.

We may never know the truth.

* * *

Today's birthdays include Ricki Lake (1968), Rob Morrow (1962), Bill Murray (1950), Stephen King (1947), Larry Hagman (1931), and H.G. Wells (1866).

It's Independence Day in Armenia and Belize and "International Day of Peace" at the United Nations.

Happy Hump Day!

© 2005, The Moron's Almanac™

[close window]
[Daily Briefing Archive]