One of the principal mysteries about Finland’s school shooting – the death toll now nine, the shooter having died in hospital – is possibly that it hasn’t happened sooner.
The country is famously depressive, even for Scandinavia, it has a huge level not merely of gun ownership, but of handgun ownership, and it has a particular emotional culture that lends itself to suddent outbreaks of violence. That is partly connected to the drinking culture. Though it has developed some Mediterranean-style habits of wine with meals etc, the real deal is still to get slaughtered on koskenkorva, a sort of cross between vodka and lawnmower fuel, on special occasions.
“The French kill their livers, while the Finns kill their lovers” the old saying goes, and it’s kind of a miracle that murders aren’t at American levels. Even so, it’s a fairly sheltered Suomilainen who hasn’t had at least one big evening of their youth end with a light stabbing. However in this case, the gunman appears to have been sober. And premeditated. And had bottled his anger up for a long time.
And that goes to the other part of it. Cold cultures – from the Inuit to Scandinavia – tend to be depressive (and also alternately exuberant). Why? Among other reasons, because before modernity, winter meant six months huddling with your family in a small room lined with hides, and a smoking stove. Internalising anger and avoiding conflict was essential to the survival of the society.
That created a particular culture (Lutheranism helped it along), with a greater premium placed on managing your emotion as a social duty.
The Helsinki Times report is a good measure of how they think about such things here:
The shock that overpowered the entire country on Wednesday… had changed into deep mourning by Thursday… People seemed quieter than usual and strangers were more polite to each other on the streets. Even the sky seemed to feel the sorrow as it remained gloomy grey all day.
What’s happened in the last decades is that this culture has intersected with the post-modern culture of hyper-individualism, where social obligation is seen to be nil, and media the only reality. Thus, the gunman didn’t, as he might have done previously, get drunk, go and chop wood, read philosophy or kill himself – he made a YouTube movie framed from half a dozen different films, for which the actual massacre was really a sort of launch event.
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Given that, it does not seem unlikely that it will happen again, in this part of the world – though less likely in Sweden, where any massacre would be managed collectively by a small group using Volvo best-practice teambuilding, funded by a government arts grant, under the supervision of an interdisciplinary youth work authority.
Still, only six months to Spring.