Monday, February 29, 2016

War and Jest

"They are trying to provoke the Soldiers of Odin to hit them. But the Soldiers o Odin have kept their cool and have not responded to their provocations."
Jarkko, 36, construction worker, Tampere, Finland

"We are a patrol group looking out for the safety of people, the safety of women."
"They write that we are Nazis, but that is not true. The group is not a Nazi group. The group is a patrol group."
Tony, 37, electrician

"Some of them are afraid of us. When they see us, they step aside."
"I think they are afraid for their country."
Ahmed Ramzi al Bayati, 22, Iraqi asylum seeker

"We woke up to a situation where different cultures met. It caused fear and concern in the community."
"The biggest issue was when we learned from Facebook that new asylum seekers were hanging around primary schools, taking pictures of young girls."
Mika Ranta, founder, Soldiers group in Ranta, Finland
A group that call themselves the 'Soldiers of Odin' demonstrate in Joensuu, Eastern Finland, January 8, 2016.
Reuters/Minna Raitavuo/Lehtikuva

Odin, the all-purpose god of yore emblematic of many things, but known principally as the god of war and death, is the symbol that a right-wing group in Finland has adopted to spread their anti-immigrant message. The Norse deity represents what the 'soldiers' march for, to retain their heritage, culture, religion and social customs untainted by the presence of aliens whose own backgrounds are so different, and whose religion is such that Europe has experienced an upheaval of its traditions and values to accommodate those of the immigrants.

So the Soldiers of Odin, clad in leather, and conducting vigilante patrols 'protect' Tampere, the third-largest city in Finland from criminality, disorder and, if need be, when they believe that foreigners are indulging in those illegal activities, to defend the public order against their actions. There is a bit of irony there, in that Odin, the god of war now monitors in a censor-capacity at the very least, victims of war.

Those among the population of Finland who disagree with the philosophy behind the Soldiers of Odin's unstated purpose, have formed a group of their own, calling themselves the Loldiers of Odin, a troupe of mocking clowns whose message is pro-immigration. Just as the Soldiers of Odin gear themselves in quasi battle dress, so too do the Loldiers of Odin dress themselves as colourful clowns.

A member of the Loldiers of Odin carrying a flag with words "Sieg Fail" walks ahead of the anti-immigrant nationalist group, the Soldiers of Odin.
A member of the Loldiers of Odin carrying a flag with words "Sieg Fail" walks ahead of the anti-immigrant nationalist group, the Soldiers of Odin. (Loldiers of Odin) 

The clowns interrupt the soldiers' routine patrols, honking horns, and singing of all things, nursery rhymes; quite fitting. For their efforts several have on occasion been arrested for disturbing a demonstration. The Soldiers group have expanded to 25 cities in Finland, and a Facebook group has surfaced in Norway, taking inspiration from their Finlandish cousins, as it were.

The sudden influx of foreigners into a community resentful of the elite among them, distrustful of the news media in Finland, along with frustration over burgeoning unemployment rolls, have found it quite natural to focus on immigrants as threats to the well-being of their society. Some of their members have been identified as committed neo-Nazis, and others are known to have criminal records for domestic abuse.

A group that call themselves the 'Soldiers of Odin' demonstrate in Joensuu, Eastern Finland, January 8, 2016.
Reuters/Minna Raitavuo/Lehtikuva

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