24 October 2007

How The Vikings Got Universal Health Care and Other Bedtime Stories

In the current state of geo-political affairs one tends to think of Christianity as being the religion of the West, of Judaism perhaps straddling the West and East and of Islam being more or less firmly Eastern -- Oriental in the now incorrect parlance -- along with all those other weird faiths that hardly bear mentioning. But the fact remains that Christianity along with its monotheistic bretheran, Judaism and Islam, is most certainly an Eastern religion, formed and forged in Jerusalem and environs: a product not just of Abraham, Moses and Jesus but of 1,000s of years of philosophical, cultural and legal development far removed from the unknown Americas and the brutish heathens of Northern Europe.

The farther one got from the Mediterranean rim the more tenuous the hold of Jesus and Moses, Abraham and Mohamed, at least within the native populations. Christianity did have a brief vogue in Scandanavia which, while staying within the general area, is about as far as one could get from Jerusalem and Mecca. Churches and cathedrals were built over cast-down pagan shrines, sermons were said, maidens ceased being strangled on the funeral ships of Viking lords and Thorvald and Svengaard gave up rading, raping and pillaging for universal health care. But I don't believe Christianity ever really took hold. Odin, Thor, Loki and the host(ess?) of Valkyries were shunted off to Valhalla and mostly forgotten but nothing stepped in to firmly take their place. Remember that the ancestors of the modern and tolerant Philipsons and Svensons moved up into these inhospitable parts a 1,000 years ago or more and while they spent a lot of time bothering people from the halls of old Paris to the shores of Constantinople, nobody much ever bothered them except the Danes -- and that doesn't really count.

Scandanavia looms above the rest of Europe, hangs really, with modern Sweden like a huge uncircumcized phallus with Finland for its balls and Norway alongside like a giant sperm, dangling there above everythng, pretty much untouchable due to geography and the at least formerly ferocious disposition of its inhabitants. Besides, there wasn't a whole lot up here to take even if one were suitably motivated to attempt moving an army North, facing less-than-friendly Germans and Danes along the way, crossing open water and finding oneself cut off from supply lines in a frozen land surrounded by the bastards who'd been raping and pillaging you for centuries. No, better to leave them alone. It's a myth, of course, that all the Nords did was rape, pillage, plunder and kill. To be certain they did quite a bit of that but they tended to do it West and South towards England and France. Towards the East they tended to trade that which they had plundered, human or otherwise, as well as their own goods: finely made weapons and armor from natural iron deposits, Baltic amber, furs and skins. So, best to deal with the big, blonde bastards since you couldn't do much about them anyway except close the gates and hope Thorvald and Svengaard would get bored and go back home rather than getting in a stubborn Swedish snit and staying until they leveled the place.

And so Christianity spread, as it did, and maybe no one here really cared all that much about Odin and Thor and company anyway and one day Thorvald and Svengaard were sitting around drinking fermented honey out of finely tooled drinking cups made from Parisian skulls and Svengaard said something like, "Ya know, Thorvald, I like this Viking stuff, I really do, but..."
Svengaard burped and grabbed a handful of passing wench and replied, "Yeah, but you know, there's something missing..."
"Right, like we already have all the large breasted blondes, or at least as many as we'll ever need."
"No need to get crazy dude!"
"No really, man, I'm being serious."
"OK, OK, chill, pass me another mead."
Thorvald was warming to the subject, "Like we have cleverly designed ships and swords and helmets but what about furniture with minimalistic lines and things to hang our helmets and swords from?!"
Svengaard, despite his flippancy, had obviously been giving the matter some thought as well, "Maybe in blond wood and brushed steel?"
"Yes, that fit efficiently in our small but comfortable longhouses!"
Thorvald was quiet again before adding, "And while we're away, you know, doing what we do..."
"What about our families?" Svengaard finished.
"Like what if we don't come back from Vinland, who'll take care of them?"
"Or if I, or you, get hurt or disabled while butchering Scraelings who will pay for our rehabilitation if we can't be out there pillaging?"
"And, and, uh, Helga is always on at me about being preganant...."
"It really is hard on the girls, er, excuse me, women. There ought to be some sort of State funded program to allow for time off during the post-natal period..."
"Good idea!"

And so it went. The Viking eventually hung up their (not horned) helmets and invented universal health-care, realizing that their pillaging ways were only feeding the male hegemony and contributing to the oppression of the less fortunate. In such a new world old one-eyed Odin and his death ravens, Thor and his hammer, really didn't make much sense. Neither did the teachings of the whacky new Christian God, though. Why turn the other cheek when no one since the dawn of time had ever slapped your cheek and gotten away with it. Why care if He died for your sins when you'd never sinned anyway (sin to a Viking being a completely different thing altogether).

I would almost suggest, although it is ultimately ridiculous, that the Nords' current debilitating lack of spirituality might best be solved by returning to their original gods for whom they seem much better suited than to some weird ONE God from far off hot places. Of course the world, and Swedes, have changed so the old gods would have to adapt as well. Being pagan and adaptably un-Koranic, this should be of little problem. Thor could be the Hammer of Social Conciousness and Activism, Odin the symbol of the almighty State that provides for you until the ravens pick your bones, Loki the trickster that allows the Swedes in good conscience to go on being one of the world's largest arms dealers. Of course it will never happen but still, it is nice to imagine holding a naked Swede woman in your arms and hear her cry out, "Oh Thor, oh Thor, oh, oh my Thor, Thor, Thor, oh, my god."

That would be very fine indeed...

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