Can Viking Virtues Defeat “Wokeness”?

Arthur Herman, writing at Fox News, is concerned about the “plague of CRT and wokeness”, but he thinks it’s about to end:

The return of Bob Iger to leadership at Disney, and Elon Musk’s takeover of Twitter, are signals that the leftist madness that had seized America’s biggest corporations is starting to turn around. Americans are also more aware than ever that this systematic attack on American culture, history, traditional institutions, and the American family has benefited communist China

He also thinks he has the solution for the “leftest madness” (aka progressive policies) – he thinks that conservatives need to adopt more Viking virtues.

I would suggest that the key for doing this can be found in the virtues that brought the first Europeans to the shores of North America, despite the risks and uncertainties — namely the Vikings. The virtues that sustained those intrepid explorers, traders, and settlers, in the world’s most dangerous waters, are precisely the ones Americans will rediscover in 2023.

What kind of virtues does he ascribe to the Vikings? According to Herman, they are the spirit of entrepreneurship, an instinct of workmanship, commitment to family, and meeting all challenges with agility and bold innovation. How do these values challenge progressive policies? It’s not terribly clear, especially since the values he cites are hardly exclusively conservative values. What do I mean? Well, let’s take a look at a couple of his examples.

He defines entrepreneurship as their drive to go out and explore the world, both robbing and pillaging and as merchant traders. Coming from the harsh Northern lands where “carving a life … out of bog, ice and forest” gave them the “perfect skill set” for when their descendants came to America. How does it apply to today?

The opportunities for entrepreneurship are very different today, but they are still there. All it takes is the willingness to climb into our long ships with the crew we trust, and row out to the far horizon.

OK, I’m not sure what about that is inherently anti-progressive or pro-conservative, but let’s keep looking.

He says that the instinct of workmanship was the part of Viking culture that pushed them to constantly improve all the work they did, be it running a farm or making arms and armor for their raids. And today?

Today, it’s the instinct to make a technology or app better, as a regular workday habit. At a time when we have 7 million prime working-age males sitting idle on the sidelines; the heroes of 2023 America will be the men and women at their jobs every day, in order to build better lives for themselves and in the process rebuild the nation

Again, nothing necessarily anti-progressive here.

As for commitment to the family and meeting challenges with agility and bold innovation, he gets a bit closer to describing how those virtues might be used to defeat progressives by giving examples of families coming together and fighting against CRT in the classrooms, and needing to fight back against the “paralysis and passive victimhood” from dealing with COVID-19 with “proactive solutions to our biggest issues.” The problems here are that the only reason these are any closer to describing how to defeat progressives is because he chooses examples of things conservatives claim progressives support and are pushing into our society, when that’s simply not true, and that the values he describes – being loyal to family and community, and facing danger head-on instead of running away – aren’t values unique to conservatives, or Vikings. Many cultures emphasize both of these factors, as do today’s progressives.

There are a number of problems with this article, but the biggest one is that the values he cites as being “Viking virtues” are hardly exclusive to the Vikings (or conservatives.) Entrepreneurship, workmanship, commitment to family and meeting challenges boldly and head-on are really fairly common values. And, as I noted, they’re not things that will necessarily defeat progressive policies, especially since they are also cherished by progressives.

What Herman doesn’t seem to know is that many of us have found Viking virtues to be quite valuable. In fact, they’re at the center of our faith, known as Heathenry. It is based on the pre-Christian gods and values of the Scandinavian and Germanic people, and while there are some right-wingers who claim to be Heathen, the majority of us are mostly center-left to progressive.

We see how the Vikings not only traveled around the world, but many also decided to stay in the new lands they found, due largely to a lack of farmable land in their home territories. These Vikings intermarried with the people already there and began new families and communities.

They were willing to trade with merchants who looked – and believed – differently from them. Many coins from Islamic areas have been found in Viking graves and other archeological sites. When faced with Christianity, they didn’t react with fear and violence but accepted them as neighbors and trading partners. Some Vikings even began to honor Jesus alongside their Norse deities.

Women had many more rights in the Viking world than elsewhere, and were considered equal to men in many ways. Women were frequently left alone for long periods while the men were out raiding and trading, and were responsible for not only caring for the family but also keeping the family farm or other business running and handling any emergencies that came up. Some women took up arms, traveled with and fought alongside the men, and a woman could initiate a divorce if necessary.

They found value in the elderly and disabled. The Havamal is a collection of wisdom said to be from Odin. Verse 71 says

The lame rides a horse,
the handless is herdsman,
The deaf in battle is bold;
The blind man is better
than one that is burned,
No good can come of a corpse.

and from Verse 134:

Never laugh at the hoary sage.
The old often speak wisely and clearly.
Wise speech oft comes from the dried skin
that hangs with the hides,
dangling with the furs
and swinging among the bushes.

Maybe part of Mr. Herman’s thesis isn’t too far off after all. Maybe we, as a culture, should adopt more Viking virtues in the coming year after all. Just don’t expect it to lead to an end of progressiveness. It might just make us stronger.

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