Evil in Norway: He is one of us.
As anyone who doesn’t live under a rock knows, a Norwegian man set off a powerful bomb in Norway’s capital, and then shot dozens of people to death at a resort/political camp. It’s Norway’s worst mass death since World War Two, I can’t imagine what friends and families of the victims must be experiencing. Though I imagine it’s pretty similar to what the friends and families of people killed by Norwegian jet bombers in Libya feel. Am I trivializing the deaths in Norway or claiming they were justified somehow? Of course not, violence is almost never justified, as the tragedy unfolding in Norway clearly shows. The killer claims he will be able to justify his actions in open court, I think it’s safe to say his answers will satisfy few, if any, people.
So what’s my point? My point is that this is going to be portrayed as the work of a lone madman, with little or no context. “Of course” Norway is a peaceful country, so “of course” this sort of thing shouldn’t happen there. On the one hand, yes, this was the work of a lone nut, and a single crime shouldn’t be the basis of any sort of national policy, nor be seen as evidence in any sort of general theory. However, nothing happens in a vacuum, this guy was a member of Norwegian society, so at least in some fashion his crime is the product of the influences in his life.
And here’s where we come to a problem. The “peaceful” nature of Noway, surely they are one of the world’s most peaceful nations? Well, on the level that the average Norwegian lives in a healthy peaceful stable society, yes, they are. On the level of the government of Norway, they are as peaceful as Switzerland. Which is to say, they are intertwined like Siamese twins with the arms industry and the oil industry, and have hands so bloody that everyone in Norway should feel shame.
Yeah yeah, the military industrial complex. It’s deeper than that. Western, and by that I mean Christian, civilization is steeped in violent ideology, imagery, and action. What’s the most common religious symbol in the west? A dead guy, a guy who was tortured to death, for political reasons, nailed to a cross. Yeah, the Prince of Peace, right. How about western culture? Well, from Rambo on, it’s been downhill. It would be real hard to argue that Hollywood promotes peaceful solutions and negotiation. The opposite in fact, from World War Two on, if not earlier, Hollywood has carried the torch for the idea that the Americans (and by extension the west) are the good guys, and any violence they mete out is justified.
And then there’s the just plain violence the west ever more routinely engages in. NATO is crusading in Afghanistan and Libya now, just for starters. Since World War Two western countries have constantly engaged in colonial wars. And even when the west wasn’t directly involved, where do all the weapons that flow like wine in the third world and the Middle East come from? The west. And who props up numerous brutal violent dictatorships in the third world and the Middle East? The west. And where did our killer in Norway grow up and get all his violent ideas from? The west.
My point here is that western civilization is steeped in violence, founded on violence, glorifies violence, metes out violence around the globe … and yet when it is the victim of violence, most westerners don’t see or actively deny that the west is playing a huge role in creating a world where people see mass violence as a solution to their problems. The west very much lives by the sword, but when they die by the sword … no connection. Excuse me? I’m sorry, but this no doubt disturbed man got his ideology (and weapons) from the west. By routinely using and enabling violence to further its’ geopolitical goals, the west plays a key role in creating a violent world.
If any good is to come of this tragedy, people in the west have to look at how their own governments have led us into a world of violent retribution. I mean, the Norwegian killer’s actions were crazy, but how fucking nuts is it that Norwegian jets are bombing Libya? The only time violence is justified is when foreign armies invade your homeland, and it’s a pretty safe bet that no Libyan armies have marched into Norway.
My ultimate point is that the Norwegian killer is not some lone nut or aberrant individual, he is what we made him. He is one of us. Deal with it.
(The above image is arguably Public Domain under US copyright law, and it no doubt is an historically important image. Credit and copyright: Ronald L. Haeberle. It’s an image of the aftermath of the My Lai massacre. Under the right circumstances, people will do terrible things. The circumstances must always be examined, nothing happens in a vacuum.)