The breaking news from Finland is that the country is alive with self-appointed ‘protection guards’ who call themselves the Soldiers of Odin. Yes, you understood it correctly: the name of the organisation is in English, and it refers to Odin, one of the gods in old Scandinavian paganism.
Even though Finland is usually understood to be one of the Scandinavian countries, it should be remembered that we have our own language and mythology that has little in common with the old Nordic gods. It would be equally ridiculous if a gang of street fighters in Ireland would call themselves ‘Les Poilus de El Cid Campeador’. Now you are probably wondering what the hell French soldiers and a Spanish national hero have in common with Irish identity. Absolutely nothing, of course – as little as ‘Soldiers of Odin’ have with Finnish identity.
It seems that the Soldiers of Odin were somehow inspired by the so-called Finnish Resistance Movement, a violent right-wing gang which is basically just the Finnish chapter of what is called the Swedish Resistance Movement. This is a movement hellbent on converting the Nordic countries into one Fascist state – which would leave the Finnish language in a minority position with the rest of the country conversing in their own languages, which are no more different from each other than Irish and Scots Gaelic. Everybody knows what will happen to a minority language in a Fascist country. However, the people of the above-mentioned movement have the sheer cheek to insist that they are ”protecting the culture of Finland”.
You’d think that there were no need for such clowns to come and teach our culture to us. For in days of yore, newspapers and magazines in this country were staffed with columnists arguing back and forth about Finnish identity. In fact it was a standing joke in Finland how obsessed we were about views regarding our identity. Everybody had their opinion, especially historians, and the telly was filled to the brim with documentaries about this.
Since then, though, things have changed. Right-wing radicals have put an end to this kind of small talk by terrorising the press and columnists to keep mum about Finnish identity. They think they are the only ones who can define it – although they are so ignorant of that identity that when they are looking for a name for their fisticuffs ‘guards’, they can only think in English, and only think of a Scandinavian pagan god.
Many Anglophile Irishmen are of the opinion that, for instance, the 100-year jubilee of the Easter Rising should not be celebrated, because it’s only a celebration of violence. I must say that I don’t agree with them at all. There might indeed be aspects of the Rising that can be criticised, but when all is said and done it is part of Irish history – the key event that started modern Irish history.
Moreover, the struggle for Irish decolonisation inspired many Irish nationalists to compare Ireland’s plight with that of the Third World, and to express solidarity with the people of the Third World. Thus, the best part of Irish nationalism is a shield of protection against racism. Forgetting that nationalism, Irish people would only open the gates to a much more racist, much more brutal understanding of ‘nationalism’ – that represented by the Soldiers of Odin and similar gangs.
Panu Höglund is a Finnish writer of Irish expression.