Sometimes words taken from another language can provide a useful little perspective shift on a topic. Tsundoku, the Japanese word for “the phenomenon of acquiring reading materials but letting them pile up in one’s home without reading them” gave a tiny bit of a rallying cry for those of us who buy books left and right, the Danish “hygge,” which roughly translates to “a quality of cosiness” became a decoration trend and life style for many homes. During the pandemic, the Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen rekindled “samfundssind”, a compound noun of “samfund” (society) and “sind” (mind) to bring citizens together and encourage them to put “the good of the greater society above your own personal interests.”
“Society in mind” might not be as unique as “samfundssind” but it rings slightly different from solidarity or community, and aligns quite well with Fab Cities, if not in the specifics, definitely in the spirit. Energy sobriety, circular economy, eco-consious behaviours, local first, global connection, “green” products, many of these have been greenwashed away or associated with one political stance or the other. Throwing a new word around will not solve any of these issues or propel any movement, but even if only as a reminder, it’s worth thinking about samfundssind once in a while, keeping society in mind. Plus, sometimes a new word even helps things work out.
Rathje says she doesn’t see samfundssind tip-toeing back into linguistic obscurity any time soon. Rather, the idea of putting aside individuality for the benefit of the community has become an even stronger pillar of Danish identity.
Image: Food preparation in the JunkFood kitchen.