World-changing events are truly upon us: Homs burns; Tehran rattles sabres; Kim Jong-il dies; Scandinavian society teeters on the brink of anarchy over unrelated food-based crises. For, when our friendly Nordic neighbours do crises, they do crises in comically small, can’t-have-Merlot-well-I’ll-have-Chianti ways.
You might have missed the great Butter Crisis that hit Norway over Christmas. The country (truly) ran out of butter! Here is one of those memetic Taiwanese animation videos that explain the news, but the gist of it is that the combination of a poor summer for dairy farmers (not enough rain and thus not enough grass for cows to eat) and a low-carb diet that swept the nation caused a butter shortage so severe that Norwegians had to buy packets smuggled over the border from Sweden, or bid for them online on the Norwegian version of eBay, where 100g butter was retailing for $13! Even for Norway, that seems high.
Oh, the horrors.
And now a reader writes in to tell us that Finland and Sweden are going to verbal war over little salty black liquorice sweets, called Lakritsi, that no one but they and the Danes like anyway. Fazer, the Finnish company that make Lakritsi, were labouring under the charming yet racist illusion that a golliwog was the preferred emblem under which to sell black liquorice. Dark liquorice… darkies. Exemplary thinking.
Surprisingly, the rest of the world thought otherwise, and last year they were finally persuaded to change the Lakritsi wrapping – and only after a member of the EU parliament (Claude Moraes — go Asian-origin British MEPs!) threatened to take the issue to the commission. The Finns, clearheaded and not drunk as always,* responded with petitions to this clear perversion of the path towards racial tolerance.
Now, Frazer is back in the spotlight again, poor antiquated company, for its Kina range, another classic design from the 1960s that features a friendly Chinaman. Ming wong! Ching chong! Kina!**
For fans of Iitala, Marimekko, and other highlights of 1960s Finnish design, this is a real decline from the progressivism that era stood for. Bringing that point home is a friendly mock-up in the Swedish newspaper Dagens Svenksbladet (article in Swedish; image below), in which the Swedes twist the racist knife in the back of the neighbours, turning the episode into – quite bizarrely – one of anti-Semitism. Because all racisms are the same. Ah, lovely Nordics! Always with their Killings and their woolly jumpers and butter and sweets and immigration problems.
Fazer will be re-releasing Kina, hopefully sans Chinese stereotype, sometime this year. Stay tuned! If there’s one crisis you should pay attention to, this is probably not it.
*Footnote: referring to the propensity of the Finns to drink their entire bodyweight in vodka is not racist. It’s merely national stereotyping, which is one step below racism on the unacceptability scale, and just above ‘putting on a funny accent like Swedish chef from the Muppets when in Scandinavia’. And anyway, have you met a Finn? Those guys can DRINK!
** Footnote 2: The DLR’s use of the term Chinaman and mockingly racist appropriations of the Chinese language are politically correct because we’re mocking the drunk Finns.