Could Neo Nazis Stop Using Our Sacred Cultural Symbols, Please? - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Could Neo Nazis Stop Using Our Sacred Cultural Symbols, Please?

Could Neo Nazis Stop Using Our Sacred Cultural Symbols, Please?

Published July 29, 2017

There are few people easier to despise than Neo-Nazis. They are the actual worst. The hateful, rabid, spitting pond scum of humanity and before any Alt Right (read: Neo-Nazi) trolls start accusing me of intolerance, I remind you that you cannot be intolerant of intolerance. That makes no sense. Not that anyone has ever accused Neo-Nazis of logical thinking.

Here’s the thing. Every time I’m exposed to Neo-Nazis, either in films or TV or on the news, there’s always a thuggish gang of bald white supremacists. You notice this? And inevitably they’re covered in tattoos of swastikas, Celtic crosses, runes and Thor’s hammer. Why? Why! Why must they use the sacred symbols of my culture and heritage to announce to everyone their horrifying bigotry? Was Thor strong? Yes. Clever? Not really. An advocate of racial purity? Hell fucking no!I’m sure the Irish aren’t excited about the Celtic crosses either—any more than Indians have enjoyed seeing their sacred symbol for prosperity used as a logo for modern genocidal movements.

Vikings, our Nordic ancestors who worked as seafaring tradesmen during the late 8th to the late 11th centuries, are traditionally associated with runic symbols.

“Is there not a single racist graphic designer among them that could be tasked with this?”

The Vikings traveled up and down Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia and North Africa, working with and for people of many backgrounds and ethnicities. While generally portrayed in modern media as drunken savages, the Vikings actually embraced globalisation (it was profitable, after all), adopting and evolving their culture as they were exposed to new ways of life. If the Neo-Nazis are trying to associate themselves with some kind of discriminatory ideal, then the Nordics are really not the right group to latch onto.

Even during WWII, the Norwegians fought a guerrilla war against the invading Nazi forces. Sweden, while officially neutral, was an underground safe harbour for Jewish refugees. Danes, I admit, surrendered pretty quickly (a few hours) but they nurtured a healthy resistance movement and saved almost all the Danish Jews by smuggling them to Sweden at great risk. Icelanders were terrible anti-Semites in the first half of the century. I don’t think there’s any point hiding from that. They forced assimilation, demanding Jewish Icelanders take “Icelandic-sounding” names. But suffice to say that Vikings weren’t waging a race war, and neither are modern Icelanders, so why can’t Neo-Nazis just make up their own symbol and leave us, the Irish and Indians the hell out of it? Is there not a single racist graphic designer that could be tasked with this brief?

“Vikings weren’t waging a race war and neither are modern Icelanders.”

There are real problems in this world, I know that. You may wonder why I even bother to complain about this. But symbols matter, images matter, narrative matters—and having Norse mythology and our old alphabet used as a branding tool by literally the worst incarnations of humankind is depressing. Culture is fluid and borderless, I know. I’m not feeling sorry for myself here. Icelanders fortunately do not need to contend with the constant cultural fetishization and capitalistic exploitation that most minority cultures are forced to endure, that they fight against daily.

But the Neo-Nazis? Nobody deserves to be associated with them.


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