The Scandinavian Vikings are a symbol of history and culture that the Nordic countries embraced during the early Middle Ages, and now look back and reflect on today, as a rich part of the past that formed the present. Vikings were the barbaric backbone that shaped Scandinavian society by traveling, trading, exploring, and settling new lands. They are more memorably noted for, however; looting, raping and pillaging villages around northern Europe. At the time, Vikings were feared and known to inflict great danger and harm on those who crossed their paths.
Today, on the other hand, eyes are turned towards the Nordic region as inspiration and as a role model for fair governance, politics and an image of a peaceful society of equal rights with an emphasis on environmental sustainability and innovation. Usually history plays a hugely important role in developing what a culture will see in the future, but with Scandinavia, what changed? Usually the citizens of a society don’t go from being pirates, sailing the seas and stealing what they want, to green-loving socialists whose biggest concern is making sure their trash gets into the correct recycling bin. “Socialism! It’s harder to imagine anything further from that old Viking spirit. Instead of trading, exploring, and settling, or even a little pillaging on the side, prosperity and living standards are kept high by strong governments, thick and hearty safety nets for the poor and elderly, and tax rates close to 60% of income.” (source: http://politics.pagannewswirecollective.com/2011/02/18/socialist-vikings/) What were the factors that influenced such societal reforms, and actually caused the Scandinavians to behave the way they do today?
Sweden, Norway, Finland, and Denmark have shown up near the top of the human happiness rankings; with peaceful, free, and prosperous societies that have low crime rates, low infant mortality, high employment, great health care systems, low personal and governmental debt, and innovative ways to improve their already above average way of life. Aren’t these the type of things all humans seek? Even the Vikings? The difference is the roundabout ways that these are achieved. In the United States, and other large capitalistic societies, the emphasis in governance is put on the individual and the family – not the state. Sweden on the other hand, emphasizes the individual and the state, family comes second tier. “The State is there to balance inequalities of opportunity, so that each individual has the maximum freedom to order their lives as they see fit. [In this way] the Nordic system allows individuals to sail away into the life or career of their choosing, to trade, explore, and settle as they like, unencumbered by family obligations, ill health, or fear of old age.”
So maybe there was never that big of a change. With new technology, modernization and industrializations, the same morals and ideals were held constant while the means by achieving them were altered. Today Scandinavia’s non-exportable model of governance is the ideal way for the old Viking spirit to attain what they were always striving after.