COPENHAGEN, DENMARK – A while ago, Bent A. Jespersen received a phone call from a woman he used to date in the 1970s. Today, almost five decades later, Bent says that she is among the women he cared for the most. Ever.
On the phone, she told him that she was coming to Copenhagen. She knew he had an apartment in the city, so she asked if she could come and stay for a few nights.
Bent said yes.
“I remember when I saw her the first time in my life. She was in hot pants and looked really good. She still does!”
The excitement, though, was not shared by the woman. When she saw him, she was obviously disappointed and basically told Bent that he is falling apart.
“And she is right. I know that I am falling apart. But why is she saying that? I am falling apart whether she says it or not,” Bent says.
I met Bent on the street in Copenhagen. I was listening to music, when I locked eyes with this older, unshaven man who stood on the sidewalk with a broken frame in his left hand. His lips were moving, so I removed one of my earbuds and smiled.
“Where have I seen you before?” he asked. “I know I have seen you somewhere.”
Usually, I know right away, whether or not I’ve met a person before. I did not recognize Bent.
We started debating this, when he at some point told me about his six-bedroom apartment on the adjoining street, Istedgade. This detail reminded me of a story my friend told me not long ago.
In short, the story is about her mom who contacted an old friend/boyfriend in Copenhagen, because she needed a place to stay for a couple of nights. When she came to town, my friend met up with her and together they went to the apartment. When the old friend/boyfriend opened the door, they were both taken aback by the extraordinarily mess in the apartment and the state of the old friend.
The old friend was, of course, Bent.
Bent’s new election poster is indeed inspired by Barack Obama’s poster from 2008.
Back on the street in Copenhagen, Bent took his hand off the broken frame and pulled out his wallet to show me a postcard-seized poster. The poster was basically a replica of Barack Obama’s red, blue and white HOPE-poster from 2008, though this one showed Bent’s face and encouraged people to vote for him as mayor of the town Sorø.
The poster was for the election in November 2017 when the Danes decided, who they want for mayors and lower ranking local politicians. On the ballot, a vote for the one-man-party Liberalsocialistisk Borgerliste is a vote for Bent.
“I have participated in almost all elections – local, regional and national – since 1973.”
This story is only for this online journal, and I do not have the ressources to verify Bent’s claim but I found stories about him from elections ten years back (in 2013 he represented the established party Radikale and got nine votes) and he told me in detail about his first election in 1973. That one was also his best election so far.
“I usually don’t get many votes but I also tell people not to vote for me. I don’t really want to be elected, I just want to carry the flag of liberal socialism all over the world.”
Despite four decades of campaigning, Bent never got elected and he usually convince less than 30 voters. Still, he does not plan to stop anytime soon.
“I have lived a life on first class in 76 years and now I want to make sure other people have the same opportunities as I’ve had. I owe this society everything,” Bent says.
Bent gave me his business card, we talked about meeting up some other time and then I moved on.
Shortly afte the street, Bent told me: “When I was a young man I was just as handsome as you are today. Actually, I was more handsome because I was taller.”
A few weeks later, I wrote Bent an email asking for an interview for this blog. Bent replied shortly after: he was indeed interested in talking to a serious journalist and especially in explaining the major ideas of liberal socialism.
I went to his apartment the same day.
Then I saw for myself what my friend had told me. This place was: Full. Of. Stuff.
All surfaces, the floor, the walls, everything was covered. When he showed me around in the six-bedroom apartment, we had to follow a narrow, cleared path and step over a few boxes here and there. Bent collects to sell.
“You can take whatever you want.”
In one room he had a stack of violins and the walls covered with big and small paintings, a box with blue coffee pits, heavy dark furniture and a shelf only with brass candlesticks. He also had an orange and white life saver on the wall.
In one room Bent had a little desk where a freelance journalist used to sit.
Apparently, the guy had trouble getting people to pay for his work.
“At one point he just had enough, so he stood up and began pissing in his computer.”
One of the walls in Bent’s apartment. The framing of my image corresponds with the mess.
When Bent and I sat down in his office, he began explaining his political philosophy and visions and what still drives him towards political influence. Bent began with a quote from N. F. S. Grundtvig: A very influential Danish pastor, philosopher and teacher from the 19th century.
Translated, the quote sounds something like this.
“And in our wealth we have come far, when few have too much and fewer too little.”
The words sounded a little strange after having seen all the stuff in Bent’s apartment, but I do believe they capture the Scandinavian welfare model pretty well: a rich society is an equal one.
Bent explained his visions, which in most ways sounded like what we already have in Denmark and what most politicians say they are aiming to optimize in the future.
So why vote for Bent?
It was never clear to me, but Bent says that the current politicians are only concerned with “gluing their own asses to the seat” and putting out political fires. No one has any real vision. You can read his manifesto yourself (it also contains more radical ideas than what he told me).
In the office. Here Bent is trying to find an email he got from a minister in the Danish government after contacting him about issues with the current law.
Bent mixed all his political ideas with stories from his 76 years on this planet.
About how he met famous Danish politicians, his wide range of educations (from blacksmith to sociologist – though he prefers to be called a philosopher), his construction work in Africa, a written but unpublished biography and a life where he has helped and motivated other people to try to be ‘something’. Online I also found stories about how he was in charge of a school that went bankrupt, and one man took the time to give him one star and call him “maybe the biggest fraud in Denmark” in a review on Google.
“I don’t think you can find anyone with a life as eventful as mine,” Bent has said in an older interview.
I listened to Bent’s stories for a couple of hours. Several times he mentioned the woman from his past – my friend’s mom. Back then, almost 50 years ago, they were never formally together but just had an agreement not to fool around with anyone else.
At some point, she broke that agreement – or that is at least what Bent thinks – and it all turned sour. Not because of what she did, but because she afterwards lied about it.
Now, Bent has told her not to contact him again. The not-so-glamorous reunion was enough and he doesn’t need anyone telling him that he is falling apart.
Still, as he told me, he will not stop caring for her.
“Even if you piss on me and afterwards tell me that I smell of piss, I will still care for you.”
Bent didn’t feel like smiling on camera. Or rather: Bent didn’t feel like being told to smile on camera. I got this one though.
This story was first time published on adanepassedby.com in September 2017.