CHAPTER NINE
MENTAL HEALTH AND THE VIKING CIVILIZATION

Scandinavian social welfare, remoteness, homogeneity, wilderness, freezing climate, myths and legends have the advantage of being more like a well-known fairy tale. Scandinavia is still a fairly isolated region, divided into five countries and the home-ruled islands of Åland, the Faroe Islands and Greenland. What becomes immediately clear is that cultural transformation has affected public mental health across the region, none more so than in Greenland where social and cultural change has been the most apparent.

The Faroe Islands are a self-governing archipelago with a population of 50,000. It comprises 18 majestic rocky and volcanic islands between Iceland and Norway in the North Atlantic Ocean, connected to each other by road tunnels, ferries and bridges. From a bystander’s point of view, the Faroe Islands are a combination of modernity and originality. It is place where same-sex marriage is legal, and has been since 2016, and many local men have married Thai and Filipino women due the shortage of native women. Fish products are the main exports. Faroe Ship is the main export link to surrounding markets, which departs weekly to ports in Iceland, the UK and Scandinavia. Through long-time collaboration with Maersk, Faroe Ship offers further links to Asia, Africa and the Americas.

The Åland is simply an autonomous region of Finland, which comprises around 6,700 lush green islands and has a total population of 28,000. This Swedish-speaking archipelago is situated in the Baltic Sea. The capital, Mariehamn, is known for its beaches and streets lined with 19th-century wooden townhouses. Greenland is located between the Arctic Ocean and the North Atlantic Ocean. It has many untold stories under extreme Arctic conditions. The ideological-driven social welfare model has changed the internal and external functioning of this isolated place and touched every community in the region where people now share the same rights and entitlements. Take as examples Greenland in the far north and the Angered municipality in the southwestern part of Sweden. These two places have been flagship states of the Nordic social welfare system for decades.

Greenland with a total population of nearly 60,000 is part of Denmark. It is three times the size of France with over two million square kilometers and covered mainly in snow, ice and forest. Greenland is the largest island and the loneliest place in the world. It is a region where halibut, seals, walrus and whales have shaped the Greenlanders’ cycle of life for centuries. Men fished and hunted here. Youngsters learned the same skills as their parents. And women cooked and raised their children. Over the centuries, Greenlanders have survived droughts in the medieval and the post-medieval Ice Age, Viking invasions and Christian missionaries. However, Greenland lost its spirit with the invasion of the Danish welfare state. Over the course of many generations, life went on for the fishermen and hunters and their families in several small and isolated communities. Local people developed their language, myths, legends, clothing and diet in this peaceful and lonely place. In 1953, Denmark resumed control of Greenland, and the Danish welfare state started to expand its cultural innovations by building social housing for local people and setting up all kinds of social welfare administration. The welfare state assumed social housing would appeal to the local people who had lived in unfashionable igloos or houses for centuries. The main argument was that the Greenlanders would move into the modern apartments which were built to accommodate a family with two or more children. In addition, the welfare state introduced three uncommon beverages to the local people: coffee, tea and alcohol. Alcohol was only available to the Danish people first, and then slowly became available to high-ranking Greenlanders as they began to reintegrate slowly and progressively. The rest of the Greenlanders could brew their own local beer called “immiaq”, and then in 1954 things changed for better or worse. Everyone was able to buy and drink alcohol.

Greenland moved across political bounties and attempted to make sense of all the social and cultural innovations that started as early as 1950s. Urbanization took place with social housing project and the development of social and welfare institutions. Initiation of social housing was the way in which the welfare state started to affect the character of indigenous people. Through the initiation of brightly colored social housing blocks, a wide range of colors including green, blue, purple, pink, and orange appeared in the urban landscape. The colors were practical and indicated the function of the buildings: commercial houses were red; the hospital was yellow; the police station was black; the telephone house was green; and the fish factory was blue...

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