23 Jul

Anders Behring Breivik

The alleged terrorist has the fresh-faced look of a young David Duchovney. He’s been described by Norwegian police as an ethnic Norwegian right-wing Christian fundamentalist. He’s posted anti Muslim rhetoric on the Internet, and has links to right wing extremist organisations.

So far police estimate that 91 people died at his hands, the majority on the wooded island of Utøya, and the majority of them young.

Norway is a peaceful humanitarian country that lifts more than its weight in the world when it comes to international aid and support. Probably the best-known Norwegian of recent years, in Australia at least, is the retired captain of the Tampa, Arne Rinnan, who got into a face-off with John Howard’s government over the fate of the refugees his ship rescued at sea. Captain Rinnan’s decency, his determination to honour the mariner’s responsibility to those in trouble on the world’s oceans played out in stark contrast to our then government’s brutality. In his way Rinnan exemplifies the Norwegian national spirit that makes the country one of the most socially responsible in the world, both to its own people and to foreigners.

Now that country is in deep shock. The terror and loss is unimaginable, on a personal level and on a national level. The country of the Nobel Peace Prize is changed forever by the magnitude of the events of the last 24 hours. Events orchestrated and executed, it appears, by one of their own.

No doubt we will hear plenty more about Breivik in the coming days as authorities attempt to unravel the forces that motivated him, and drove him to these atrocities. Is it possible he could have done all this alone? Is it possible he was so isolated that no one had any idea of his plans? Will right-wing Christian fundamentalists think twice about their rhetoric? Is this an outcome they intend?

I’m not a praying woman, but tonight I’ll do it anyway, for the families, and for the people of Norway. I don’t know what they’ll need to get through this, but I pray they can help each other, and cling fast to one another through what lies ahead.

As W.H.Auden puts it:

Faces along the bar
Cling to their average day:
The lights must never go out,
The music must always play,
All the conventions conspire
To make this fort assume
The furniture of home;
Lest we should see where we are, 
Lost in a haunted wood,
Children afraid of the night
Who have never been happy or good.

We must love one another, or die.

Today it is Norway: tomorrow it could be any of us hurled out of our comfortable and complacent daily existence into the unthinkable. Is it possible to protect ourselves and one another from such things? Increasingly it appears not. The terrorist, home grown or foreign, is the most devout and devious of humans, with a will to power and devotion to cause that transcends ordinary comprehension.

We’re all at the terrorist’s mercy, as we already know in Australia, and we have known them both home grown and foreign. Today, with horror, and outrage and fear, Norway joins the other nations of the world shaken to the core by the actions of  terrorists, a growing community of those who’ve survived the shock, horror, and loss of an entirely unexpected and deadly attack. Lost in a haunted wood.


8 Responses to “Norway”

  1. paul walter July 24, 2011 at 12:13 am #

    You must be feeling prescient, thinking of the Levinas quote concerning nationalism and “humanness” recently. Nearly a hundred people?
    Is the young fellow merely an atypical “unbalanced” fixture, after Martin Bryant, or part of a fascist movement?
    My impression is that Western Europe has been on the retreat from its previous position as a focus of social progress for the last twenty years, globalism in its recent form seems to have robbed them of their sense of identity and self respect.
    The influxes of migrants and refugees during times when neoliberalism has begun to impact on social programs and employment seems to have enabled the right to grab attention in unsettled times, so as to present their quack notions and create the atmosphere that would encourage a young nutter to move to this stage. Auden’s poem is what shows up in the wake- a deadly summary, as a bit more innocence evaporates.
    “Paradise Lost”- the world seems adrift in this era, with no one to take back the till.


    • Jennifer Wilson July 24, 2011 at 7:11 am #

      We don’t know yet, whether he acted alone or is part of a group.

      I think you’re right, certainly about Scandinavia becoming less socially progressive and the Scandinavians were always leaders in that respect.
      I remember being in Stockholm a few years ago and riding the trains with many North African refugees who spoke excellent Swedish and looked very cold, it was the middle of winter, ice and snow everywhere. My hosts were fair and sophisticated people who supported the refugees and feared the concurrent rise of neo nazis. Sweden has a murky history with nazism.
      It’s something of a perfect storm, perhaps, the impacts of immigration and the reduction of social programs, the latter usually unjustly blamed on immigrants, creating the required scapegoats and giving nationalists and right wingers a focus for their discontent. Much like happens in Australia with asylum seekers.


  2. Marilyn July 24, 2011 at 5:06 pm #

    And yet Jones and co. are allowed to spew out this far right crap without being admonished.

    This guy was in with the far right in England and was clearly a well organised racist murderer.

    The astonishing thing is that Andrew Bolt, the US so-called terror experts and that whining old prat Clive Williams all leapt to the jihad conclusion in a racist heart beat.


  3. Steve at the Pub July 24, 2011 at 7:40 pm #

    Leaping to the “jihad” conclusion need not be racist (religion & race ARE separate things you know).

    Of latter years Norway hasn’t exactly been free of violent incidents committed by “foreign born” males.

    If one is going to leap to any conclusion, the “jihad” one is a rather safe bet, being as 99.9% (recurring) of murderous public attacks are committed in the name of Islam.

    It would be astonishing if someone jumping to a conclusion about such an incident did NOT leap to the “jihad” conclusion.


    • Jennifer Wilson July 24, 2011 at 8:32 pm #

      Yet I immediately thought “homegrown right wing extremist” as soon as I heard the news –


  4. paul walter July 24, 2011 at 10:52 pm #

    I think the system seems to encourage the sort of close quarters conflict Steve is talking about. The lack of planning (deliberate or through laziness and lack of imagination), for the future has ordinary people locked in conflict with strangers at close quarters, ecouraged by barking mullahs on one side and their carbon copies on the hard right. I suppose, in the light of this, its easier for the wealthier and more powerful to pull up stumps and retreat to the green and leafies, while the hot heads from Europe’s apartment-blocks and grey cold hard working class suburbs on both sides do their Cronulla-ing.
    But I dont the migrants, the mistakes were made a long time ago by people exponentially further up the food chain.


  5. paul walter July 24, 2011 at 11:03 pm #

    Sorry,somehow left “blame” out of last sentence, last.
    Marilyn’s comment reminded me of the Murdoch press revelations and the Media Watch takes over decades on the pathology of mass media.
    If focus is not directed toward the muddy antics of white and ethnic working class populations as a sort of bogans versus ethnics conflict, for example, people start to look beyond the situation for underlying causes, as has happened with the Murdoch press in Britain and what it shows about the establishment, control of resources and divide and conquer as to the rest of us.


  6. gerard oosterman July 25, 2011 at 2:32 pm #

    Talk about rabid anti muslim nonsense. Did anyone read Monsieur (5 appler) Piers Akerman in yesterday’s Sunday Telegraph? Talk about fanning and encouraging the unstable in grabbing a gun and acting out what the Murdoch Press has been (subliminally) advocating for years.


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