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.
- Norway attacks: at least 91 killed in Oslo and Utøya island (guardian.co.uk)
- The Norway terror attacks? Nationalist motives may be root cause. (csmonitor.com)
- Death toll rises to 84 in Norway camp shootings (cbsnews.com)
- Norway Attacks: Reports ID Suspect (abcnews.go.com)