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On "punching holes" in the Nordic cultural heritage

Runestones vg 62
~1900: Men at a rune stone (Vg 62) in Ballstorp, Edsvära parish, Västergötland. The carving says: "Utlage erected this stone after Öjvind, a very good seal". A "tägn" can be a self-sufficient farmer, an odalman or a warrior. Photo: National Heritage Board (no copyright)

Yesterday SVT also jumped on the fake news bandwagon and present loose speculation as pure fact. So it is with the now infamous Allah "discovery" in Viking cloth from Birka.

The "discovery" that was made after the researcher "put the puzzle together" and twisted and turned the patterns until the sacred sign revealed itself - if you squint your eyes, look in a mirror and can't read Arabic that is, as is the case with the current researcher. The state media channel deserves a little credit for correcting the headline during the day and also adding partly of the criticisms I raised in my article earlier this week, from Professor Stephennie Mulder, an American professor of Islamic art at the University of Texas. But let's rewind time a bit. In 1881, this strip of cloth, B6, was dug out of the ground in Birka, if my sources are correct. More accurately, from grave 965 - the final resting place of the only woman in Birka (excavated grave) who was buried alone with a horse(!). So for 136 years the piece of cloth has been waiting to reveal its secret message to the "right" researcher. Sweden in 2017 delivered! With this little piece of cloth as undoubted proof, the media cabled out to the world that the Vikings had pretty much taken their entire view of death and the afterlife from Islam (yes, the "Vikings" are okay to talk about as a homogeneous group, I guess.) But don't get me wrong. My calling the news "fake news" is not about whether or not the Vikings took influence from other cultures. There should be no doubt about that among serious scholars. After all, it is very human to be affected by encounters with people who live differently from you - and the Vikings were, after all, flesh-and-blood people just like us. It's also no news that they brought back fine cloth from distant lands to be worn as symbols of boast at home, even into death. You'd have to be pretty narrow-minded to imagine that Northerners lived in a cultural bubble separate from the rest of the world. But in fact, that seems to be exactly the condescending view of Swedish citizens that prevails in the university and cultural sector. They seem to seriously believe that ordinary people don't understand these things and are therefore in need of their good education. Just listen to how the researcher at Uppsala University sounds in SVT's article:

Today, when we talk a lot about integration, this is a great opportunity to take the Viking as an example of a past cultural exchange and that it is not something new that is happening today.

See, that's nothing new happening today? Is it perhaps the case that already in the Viking Age the Norwegians had to pay huge sums of money in taxes to pay for their cultural exchanges with foreigners? Or is she perhaps drawing a comparison between the time in the early 9th century when the Arab envoy Ibn Fadlan witnessed Vikings burning a grave ship on the Volga River, and how cars burn in present-day Sweden? No, joking aside, the Vikings were not isolated from the outside world. They traded, waged war and no doubt had a lot of sex with people from other cultures. They were human beings, as I said. But why are we so quick these days to draw such drastic conclusions about our cultural heritage? That a few pieces of cloth suddenly mean that the Vikings' entire religious thought world would now have come from Islam. After all, we are talking about high-level historical revisionism. The researcher's stated opinion to SVT gives a clue; she thinks that research should delegitimize "Swedishness" and "knock holes" in the Nordic cultural heritage because she believes it is "a common cultural heritage with countries to the east". This view is not at all strange if one takes into account the National Heritage Board's new Vision for cultural environment work 2030, where they are working "aggressively" to realise a vision that goes like this:
The core of the vision is that by 2030: "Everyone, regardless of background, should feel that they can claim the cultural heritage that has shaped Sweden".
A seemingly harmless vision. It's nice if all whatever background can relate to Vikings, rune stones and Falu red paint, and not just the descendants of those who are buried in the burial mounds, erected the rune stones and built the red cottages with white knots. But why is it so important to the state - the power - that everyone, as soon as they step across the border into Sweden, should be able to make a personal claim to Sweden's history and cultural heritage? To what someone else's ancestors have built up over countless generations? Why do you want, like past and present totalitarian states, "use" cultural heritage and history as propaganda in their state-building? Why spend tax money on political history revisionism? Well, because whoever can claim Sweden's history and cultural heritage can also claim Sweden, which at present means the Swedish welfare state and the right to someone else's money. Swedish taxpayers' money. That is why the postmodernists deconstruct history. Basically, they are not primarily after your history. They're after your wallet - your ownership - and your future.

He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present, controls the past.

George Orwell in 1984

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