By Mads Neess Priisholm
Setting the scene
Here is a story and it is true. The story is about a cultural encounter that takes place in the basement of an old industrial facility building in Copenhagen. Where, on the street view, there is a fitness, auto-shops, and a massage-parlour, that also takes ‘late-night-calls’.
The whole thing is orchestrated by a guy, who has made quite a bit of the building into a bazar, from where he rents out stands and small spaces to many different people, selling many different things.
In the basement of the about to be demolished establishment, I, together with some friends, have a creative collective. Working on different art projects, events, and the absolutely strange and ever changing experience of working closely in connection with other people.
Our neighbours have a similar task, however, with a focus on hiphop and rap music. This has in effect, created a somewhat paradise, for, what most would consider, ‘shady’ types, to hang around and have lots of parties. Some of these partygoers make it into our little workspace and from these encounters, we meet X.
Voices from the underground
X is 26 years old, with ethnic roots in Iran, from where he fled from war at the age of 8, together with his mother and brother, after seeing his father shot in the streets. He came to Denmark as a political refugee.
X grew up with feelings of being segregated from society, from an early age. Despite efforts from his mother to really learn ‘the Danish way of living’; the Danish language and customs, and insisting on her boys to finish at least high school. X went to a public school, mainly dominated by immigrant children and also grew up in the neighbourhood that he did, which was until recently included in the infamous “Ghetto Liste”.
Now, a young man, X wants a career in music, but has in meantime, until successful, taken on the crazy occupation of being a drug-mule, travelling several times, with a ‘package of illegals’ from Spain to Denmark. This is not known by his family, but his girlfriend knows about it.
His girlfriend, is much more religious than he is, wanting to live a more traditional life with a foundation in the Islamic faith. X wants to marry her, but is very conflicted by also wanting to live a more free way of life and trying to achieve success in the music industry. His girlfriend’s family is also more religious, than the family he grew up in. He feels them trying to get in between him and his girlfriend, because he is not religious enough.
The bigger questions of..
So why did I choose X as an example of a religious cultural encounter? In my mind, he is a great example of a person, caught in between categories. Coming to Denmark as a political refugee, but grouped with other people of different heritage than Danish. The feeling in him, that it is okay to believe, that you can become whatever you want, if you try hard enough. But still being drawn towards the illegal drug trade and the easy money.
I feel no point in having a higher sense of morality, pointing a finger, saying, I think that he is wrong, in so and so many ways. Instead I want to argue that since X is not likely to tell the story from his perspective, I feel it prudent that I give words to his story. By that, I give a perspective to the ongoing discussion on, how we as subjects are interpellated by structures of society.
The big question is: Is X in fact being exactly, what we as a society, wants him to be? From low class to middle class, and higher above, in political halls and high school proms, there have always been a high demand of illegal drugs.