Scandinavia and the World
 
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It's very common for Brits and Scandinavians to joke about how Vikings loved using Brits and the Irish as slaves, which is often met with a mix of confusion and horror by Americans who are unlucky enough to witness it. How can we joke about slavery like that!?
Part of the reason is of course that it was so long ago there's no reason to be angry anymore, but Northern Europe in general has a very "don't forget but forgive" approach to history. That's why we're already happy to be drinking with Germans but also joke so much about WWII. We've done so much bad shit to each other we'd never get anything done if we had to stay mad about it.


29th November 2019
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10 days ago #9825571        
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The Europeans are much better at letting history be forgiven than Americans (well, unless they're royal, then that's debatable, but eh).

But in this case, it's useful to remember that Americans have a *much* worse experience with slavery than Europe. This is for one express reason... American slavery was a bastard child of European slavery and African slavery in all the worst possible ways, and was way worse.

Here's the run-down...

European (British-style) slavery: This was debt slavery. Basically, to pay off your debts, you became a slave to someone who paid off your debts until your debts were paid. Then you were free again. If you didn't pay off your debts, your kids were also slaves. This continued until the debt was fully repaid (usually, at worse, only slightly through the child's childhood).

European (Nordic-style) slavery: Basically, spoils of war. *Usually* it was Serfs who were kidnapped (sitting targets, not let in the walls when the cities were attacked, no weapons to defend themselves, etc.) Being a Nordic slave meant you were now part of a Nordic hold. Sure, you put in with the animals, but that was only until you proved yourself useful, and not much stopped you from building your own home on the hold. Heck, play your cards right and it was hypothetically possible to move up to having your own hold someday. (Not that I know of any who did off the top of my head, but it was at least -hypothetically- possible). In a lot of ways, being a Nordic slave was better than being a British serf. And your kids definitely weren't slaves, but full-fledged members of the hold (if you didn't learn to make yourself useful, someone else would raise your kids, because you weren't considered capable of raising them).

African slavery:
Prisoners of war. They came from all walks of life: Kings, merchants, wise men, and even slaves turned slaves again. Once your village/city/whatever was captured, all those of the defeated land were now slaves. On the positive side, it was the parents that lost the war, not the kids. Kids born to slaves were free. There is no way out of it if you're a slave though.

American-slavery: Take the worst part of British slavery (it can be passed to your kids, inherited from the British), and the worst part of African slavery (once you're in, there's no way out, came from sells of African slave merchants to American slave merchants who told them it was perpetual), and stick 'em together. It's perpetual, with no end ever in sight, not even for your kids. It is 100% hopeless. The Irish slaves that came over had an expiration date. The African slaves that came over didn't; so the African slaves were in very high demand, which drove up enslaving wars in Africa to fuel the high demand for them in the U.S. Even when the U.S. finally quit importing slaves, the African ones they did have were perpetual. To bolster political defense of this, slave owners pushed for lots of pseudo-science 'explanations' of how Africans were somehow innately inferior, this kept them down (and to a degree is something the U.S. is still struggling to overcome). And to prevent slave uprisings in the more hopeless scenario, instead of the European style where slaves were encouraged to make themselves useful and valuable, American slaves were forbidden to even learn how to read (to help prevent them from organizing). This completely decimated any social structure after the end of slavery for the freed slaves to help build themselves back up. Further, 'freed' slaves were basically brought right back into British-style slavery under the psuedo-name of "sharecropping". (Although it wasn't American-style slavery anymore, it was almost British-style slavery, just not called that so it could be legal). This kept up for quite a time too, indebting one generation after the next. On top of it, there was lots of legislature in place to keep Blacks from voting, so the cards would stay stacked against them. And then, in later generations (up to current day), lighter forms of these practices continue. Lots of practices exist in southern states that make it much easier for blacks to get thrown into prison and have their voting rights stripped away. Further, black neighborhoods are generally taxed for schools more than white neighborhoods, but white neighborhoods receive more of the taxes to fund schools.

This is why it's still an issue in the U.S. It was a much worse form of slavery, and the repercussions of it are still being felt to this day and still trying to be cleared up.


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11 days ago #9825501        
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It's because Americans have been brainwashed into believing their part in slavery was the worst thing men have ever inflicted upon other men. As horrible as any involvement with slavery is, America's was but a drop in an ocean. The African and middle Eastern slave trades were orders of magnitude larger, and still alive to this day. Just the number of European people alone taken into slavery overshadows the American slave trade. Where is the outrage for them?
Both Americans and the British would do well to remember that it was them that put an end to it.
We're all, as nations, guilty of horrible things. We must learn from them and be better. Holding an entire nation emotionally hostage for something it abhors and, indeed, it has eradicated, is amoral and horrible.


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11 days ago #9825485        
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Well, I think there's a bit more here than just different approaches to history or "not being able to take a joke.". African Americans, as you must remember, still face a lot of discrimination and the effects of institutional oppression. They're not their own little prosperous kingdom now with no real reason to still be pissed. Our slavery era was also relatively recent, it ended in a war that killed more Americans than any other, it was followed by several more years of Jim Crow, and we still have people today (even on this site) making endless excuses for why the side fighting to keep slavery in that war "wasn't so bad."

i.e., We don't see slavery as a joke or something to simply move past here because we're still mopping up after it.


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11 days ago #9825494        
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I think that the two things that are the cause of this situation (or two of them, at least) are:
-In Europe, culture has mostly moved on: current Norse people are not vikings, current Germans are (mostly) not Nazis and so on, so it's easy to separate past grudges from current people; in the US, however, since when they fix things they either go back or they do't really fix the thing, the wounds of slavery have carried on to today, even if step by step they are being (very) slowly mended.
-Peple in the US are often under the impression that things outside have been exactly like how they've been there.

11 days ago #9825495        
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The other issue is that America didn't really end slavery, it just redefined it via redlining and Jim Crow laws. While on paper blacks had equal rights, the reality is that Blacks were systematically kept as a second class for 150 years, and in many places are still dealing with laws and expectations to keep them in an inferior role. If you discovered Norway was still keeping foreigners in subservient roles, it might not be so funny. Heck, a lot of the English intolerance towards eastern European workers is the exact same thing. They want them to work, but they want them to be inferior to justify making them work. It's not that the English are pining for housekeeping jobs. It's that they're pining to think less of the people they employ, so they can pay them less and treat them worse.


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10 days ago #9825546        
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The situation in the States is a little different. There are folks here only a few generations removed from slavery and Jim Crow is within living memory. Moreover there's a sizable chunk of the population that wishes for and actively pursues a return to such times... white supremacist and pro-Confederate rhetoric is disturbingly common in local and state level politics; Republicans bend over backwards to gerrymander minority populations into irrelevance and close more polling stations in minority population centers every year; Trump is heartily endorsed by the KKK. And those are some of the least controversial issues.


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11 days ago #9825490        
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Not sure you can include England in that given current developments, not when the electoral cycle is all about England wanting to celebrate and glory in xenophobia and how WW2 means it should get to treat the rest of Europe and its home colonies like dirt.


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10 days ago #9825512        
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My name is Inigo Montoya.
Your great great great great great great grandfather killed my great great great great great great grandfather . Prepare to-
Y'know what, this is silly - let's get a drink instead.


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Zenon

27
10 days ago #9825508        
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There's still slavery in England, but in the form of Muslim Child-Grooming Gangs.
England sweeps it under the rug and even defends them online against those who call attention to it because it's apparently fine to be a nonse, but god help you if you're islamophobic.


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10 days ago #9825531        
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Key issue here is time. You’d be hard pressed to find somebody in Scandinavia or England who can trace his genealogy back to the Viking era; however, in America there are people alive whose grandfathers were born slaves, and quite a lot of people who remember the Jim Crow days that came post-emancipation. It’s not funny to us because it’s still having a real effect on people’s lives today.


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