#LoldiersofOdin: Do you work internationally?

Loldiers of Odin, I have been deeply impressed by your upstanding actions and determination to keep our streets safe – and joyful!

Via your actions you have set an example to us all: when facing the kind of arrogance, narrow-mindedness and down-right stupidity that simply shoots off the radar, combined with unthinkable inaction by those in current offices of political power, we should all do the right thing, get painted up, and take to the streets!

I have also been delighted to see the vast positive reaction that your valiant actions have awakened both in Finland and internationally. Indeed, it is no minor endeavor to braze the Finnish winter in nothing but a pair of striped PJs and a bathing robe. I’m overjoyed that the cold Finnish nights have not deterred journalists both from Finland and elsewhere from documenting your cheerful patrolling.

I have no doubts that you already have big plans for the future. In this vein, I would like to inquire: do you already work internationally? Could you?

This question actualized itself recently as I found myself longing for your cheerful presence – and protection. Let me elaborate. The following series of events took place on a Saturday night flight en route Edinburgh-Amsterdam

(Hint to all fellow travelers: NEVER do this! EVER! Not even if you think that you have no choice. It always exists. And if there is none, just cancel your journey! Trust me on this one.)

The journey set off in exhilarated spirits; I was returning from the EASA Anthropology and Rights–network workshop ‘Legal Anthropology in Europe at a Crossroads’, marked by invigorating debate, the renewal of earlier collegial relations and the enjoyable formation of new ones. As we departed, we all agreed: the future of European legal anthropology is looking bright indeed!

I arrived at the airport still feeling excited – the day so far had featured an enjoyable lunch in good company and some inevitable shopping for funny hats.

Yet my travel spirits were dampened soon after I boarded the plane: it was crowded with what I interpreted to be the Soldiers of Odin’s international sister act, aka a rowdy pack of uncivilized, unpleasant and continually more drunken ‘lads’ who acted as if they owned the plane – nay, the world.

(The Soldiers of Odin are a notorious Finnish coalition who started to patrol the streets in numerous Finnish cities via claims of ‘keeping the streets safe in the midst of urgent danger of violence by immigrants’. In particular, the group has been arguing to protect Finnish women from the claimed threat of violence by immigrant men. Like most European countries, Finland has in recent months seen unprecedented numbers of asylum seekers enter the country, awakening sadly prevalent anti-immigrant sentiments. The scariest response so far has undoubtedly been these street patrols by groups containing numerous individuals previously known to the police – because of criminal convictions for violence against immigrants and (Finnish) women, of all things. There is some irony also in the fact that the group embraces the name of Odin, a figure not linked to ‘Finnish national heritage’ by any means, but rather a god in Germanic mythology – thus Odin is very much an immigrant ‘figure’ himself.

The Finnish political leadership – a poor excuse for a government more generally for their despicable determination to destroy the internationally acclaimed Finnish educational system, particularly our universities, not to mention the very basis of our social welfare system – demonstrated customary inability for anything resembling an appropriate response, instead either falling guilty of inaction or mildly even condoning these patrols. The only sane response came a few weeks later, fortunately, as a group of clowns calling themselves the Loldiers of Odin joined these street patrols, dressed in colorful attire, doing summersets and dancing in the streets. The group attracted ‘Lots of Laughs’ both from onlookers as well as the media both in Finland and internationally).

After we had boarded the plane, the ‘lads’ started to get loud, with exaggerated bursts of laughter, occasional girly-sounding giggles – all of which kept on escalating as the journey continued and the drinks kept on flowing. Inevitably a few songs broke out, accompanied by a growing cacophony of what came across as tribal-like male bonding.

That their speech alternated between English and Dutch, and possibly something more incomprehensible still, strengthened the image that the group formed an unexpected reincarnation of a neardertahl tribe, still existing in a pre-verbal stage of communication.

I find it very difficult to describe what happened next – throughout the journey the ‘lads’ didn’t really do anything directly upsetting, such as punch someone in the face or blurt out threats of violence. Yet their behavior was deeply upsetting all the same. The sound level of their cachophonic tribal communication was deeply disrespectful toward everyone else present, their continued buzzing for the airhostess was both aggressive and arrogant, their irreverent yelling – this is what their communication amounted to quite soon – across the cabin was deeply violent on a non-physical level.

Jointly it embodied the fact that at that moment in the air, in a very real sense, they dominated the scene – backed up by a collective knowledge that there really was very little that anyone could do to control them. We were literally up in the air, 5000 meters away from the nearest police station or security guards.

The ‘lads’ were too many – there were at least 15 of them – they were too wired up, out of control. The air-stuertists testified as much via their repeated unsuccessful efforts to tone the ‘lads’ down.

All that the rest of us passengers shared was a continually strengthening desire to imagine being somewhere else – the aspiration to make no eye contact, offer no provocation that might flair up the imminent sentiment of violence that lurked on the background. So strong was our collective desire to escape the scene that we pretended almost not to notice when one of the lads – likely as a part of some prehistoric dare – bounced up from his seat at the very moment when we were landing with a beer bottle in his hand, causing an exasperated air stuertists to virtually scream ‘SIT DOWN NOW!!!’

My own reaction to all this rather astounded me. Throughout the journey I grew increasingly anxious, dreading the moment of having to disembark the plane. I’m not the type that usually has to fight off unwelcome grabbing, it is something connected to my thoroughly aloof demeanour, I think. Yet now this felt like a tangible possibility. Feeling like there was no one present who would have been able – or perhaps even willing – to defend me intensified my upset immensely.

By the time we were about to land, I found myself physically shaking, fighting back tears of anxiety. I realize that the following is problematic bias on my part – I promise to work on this – but the habitus of the ‘lads’ contributed to the intensity of my emotions. With their shaved heads, thick arms and large tattoos the ‘lads’ embodied a group from whom I under normal circumstances would keep as much distance as possible.

In my mind flickered images of idividuals with similar habitus in neo-nazi marches, football riots, and more recently – the Finnish anti-immigrant street patrols. I would guess that many of my fellow passengers felt the same.

I felt a deep sense of hatred for these uncivilized baboons – the same small white men who are responsible for so much of what is wrong with the world today, as well as what has been wrong in history. My fury was intensified by the knowledge that most likely these jackasses would face no consequences for their behavior – that the air stuertists would write it off as ‘yet another one of those flights’, perhaps making some log entry into their time sheets.

(Fortunately I was wrong here, but sadly not wrong enough: when we landed, the group was held back, and taken to the terminal on a separate bus. Yet to my great disappointment none of them appeared to be confined – not even the ‘Master Idiot’ who had balanced his beer can sans safety belt upon landing, something that I thought would at least bring him a fine.)

For a moment I played with the mental image of just what the aftermath would have looked like had the group in question been constituted of men from the Middle-East, preferably all with long beards using language alternating in between English and Arabic.

It is likely no exaggeration to assume that the police would have been summoned, and that likely the entire airport would have been in a state of alert. Not that I really believe that a group of Muslim men would behave as badly on a plane anyway – apologies for this evident orientalistic stereotyping.

Indeed, it almost felt that the moment when we left the plane summarized all the ills of the world: after such assaults and disrespect, not to mention genuine threat to the plane’s safety, this bunch of baboons was simply allowed to walk straight through to the terminal – with no demands from airport security staff that their shoes be removed, that their luggage be inspected; with no scrutiny of finger-prints, iris scans, no flicking through passport pages, lengthy questioning into the motives of their journey. The solitary security guard who had been summoned at the terminal felt almost offensive in disproportionateness to what had just taken place on the plane.

So, Loldiers of Odin, this time all ended well – but I have bad feelings for the next time to come. To clarify, it’s not really the Soldiers of Odin and their kind that I fear. (And, just to ensure that there is no confusion: it’s really not ‘the others’, aka the newcomers, refugees, immigrants from whom I feel that I need to be protected – and no events on any New Year’s eve will change that.)

Rather I fear what is brewing up inside myself – the feelings of loathing and hatred that these ‘lads’ and their kind awaken. I try to escape these sentiments, but there are just too many neo-nazi demonstrations around, too many shaved heads hijacking public spaces – and way too few overt condemnations of these actions by those in power all around Europe.

All this has made me seriously worried over what I might do in the face of next similar episodes. I doubt that I’d engage in physical violence – realistically I may not wish to try my odds against such formidable bicepts. However, I do fear of falling guilty of verbal abuse. And this would not be good as it would certainly contribute to the kind of negativity that I identify at the heart these goons’ actions in the first place – not to mention that such acts on my part might aggravate any confrontations with them.

So Loldiers of Odin, what do you think: could you help to protect me from myself – to accompany me on the next weekend evening flight from somewhere in the UK/elsewhere to some party location in Europe/elsewhere, or in other ‘high risk’ instances of ‘idiotic encounters’?

Could you via your example remind me that we are all better off if instead of anger and hatred we fill our hearts with joy and love – and that laughter really is the best form of resistance!

For this much I know beyond a doubt: if we give into the dark side of our emotions, then ‘the other side’ will have won. And that we just cannot have.

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All photos courtesy of ‘Loldiers of Odin‘!

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