Note: This is not an explanation of what Halat hisar was. If you need to understand the context, you can read an explanation written by the organizers.
Right as I am leaving home I read that there would be a “patriotic” day for children and families held in a park near where I live. I feel an unease that someone would do that in my town, right next to where I live. Indoctrinating children to fear foreign things seems terrible to me. More often than not, patriotism, flags and nationalism are symbols of xenophobia, racism and even violence. The nationalism I know and recognise is something that is used to quiet and control, an excuse to hate and fear.
When I hear the Finlandia Hymn on Sunday morning, I feel tears in my eyes. Part of it is relief, but part of me is moved by the song – the hymn is one of the most important symbols of Finnish nationalism. The nationalism I learnt to feel during the weekend is not the nationalism I knew. It is fragile, yet powerful.
Before the larp properly starts, we practice demonstrating. It’s good that we do, because I have no idea what to do in a demonstration against armed soldiers. During that demonstration and the one that follows later, I yell things that I would not voice outside that context: “Finland for the Finns!” and “Get the fuck out of Finland!” In the Finland I know and grew up in, these words are used to silence. Now, they are used to empower.
We practice singing the national anthem and other nationalistic songs. I’m vaguely familiar with them, but they have never been meaningful to me. The first time I get a sense of meaning is when were sitting in the middle of the main building, hands locked so we form a large human knot, so no one person can be taken away. The soldiers circle us, looking for their target. We hold hands and hum the songs, an act of defiance against an enemy you can’t fight directly. The soldiers might have the upper hand, but that doesn’t mean that we accept the situation. Of course, in the end, it doesn’t make a difference. I hold onto the person next to me while they drag her away, until the soldiers spray tear gas on my face. The songs symbolise something that is still our own, something we can hold onto even when we are dragged away by force.
We try to make sure that the international journalists know what is going on. Soldiers keep taking people and we keep listing them to the journalists. It doesn’t really help, but at least others will know what is going on. They don’t really seem to understand what is happening, or they don’t believe it, but at least they listen. Next day, the largest international human rights NGO decides to fire all the local employees. They don’t want to deal with the situation, and instead pull out. We talk about how you can’t trust outsiders – only Finns understand what it is like in Finland. Yet, we are dependent on foreign help, because without it we are even more powerless.
The nationalism I learnt during the larp is the nationalism of the powerless. A symbol of resistance against oppression. It may be used to shut out, but it can also give hope in a situation where hope is nowhere to be seen. Instead of silencing, it gives a voice.
When I come home, I read that the nationalistic event held in the park was a failure; almost no-one showed up. Instead, people formed a peaceful protest against it, walking through the streets with colourful umbrellas. It seems like the Finland I know again.