Norway and the Right

What happened last week in Norway is horrific. The deeds, the immediate aftermath and the lasting impact on those affected are nothing but negative. There’s a murky cloud of commentary surrounding the terrorist attack, though, and finger-pointing is going on. Some of the most interesting is the link between the extreme conservatism in both the West and in Islamic countries:

Two main anti-Muslim talking points are now taken for granted in this country: First, all terrorists in the West are Muslims; second, we are in the midst of a global civilisational war. These are the dual planks upon which Uncle Sam squats in his Afghani outhouse.

Objective sources have done an excellent job of discrediting the first of the two claims that inform the 21st century American experience. The second point however – that we are engaged in a war of civilisations – is one that I agree with. But the combatants are not Islam and the West. Instead, the war is between the normal, sane people of the world and the right-wing zealots who see doom, destruction, hellfire and God’s Will at every turn.

Anders Behring Breivik, Mohammed Atta and Baruch Goldstein are all cut from the same rotten cloth. Anwar Al-Awlaki and Glenn Beck – the peddlers of the faith – all share the same core afflictions.

These men are insecure, violently inclined, and illiberal. The outside world scares them. They hate homosexuals and strong women. For them, difference is a source of insecurity. Their values are militarism, conformism, chauvinism and jingoism. Worst of all they seek to pressure us into compliance while they work frantically to destroy themselves – and the rest of us with them.

This article’s a hard-hitting one, but it raises a point I respect: that the response to the attack, from the Norwegian Prime Minister, was that the country would seek to expand its openness, not shrink from it. It seems natural to call for greater security and the like, but no society can protect itself sufficiently from such attacks. There is always a risk to living with other people, and if an unhinged terrorist with a strong dogma has the intelligence and time to plan an attack, it will cause destruction. But a society built from the gradually earned good-will of millions of people must not be fragmented and shattered by the actions of one or few, because that represents victory for the extremists.

Different? Yes. Bad? No.

We don’t have to look far in our own societies to find those who have bought into the bile. The ongoing vitriol and suspicion of ‘boat people’ arriving on Australian shores is one example, and one that contributed heavily to an election result. The Daily Mail in the UK practically froths at the mouth over immigrants. And the words ‘Islam’ and ‘terrorist’ are paired too frequently.

We shouldn’t be scared of other people. We need to fight those who say we must be. It’s not a fight that can be won with violence, and it will never be decisive, for group instincts run deep. We need to direct our suspicion and anger towards the ideas, organisations and individuals promoting segregation, generalisation, stereotyping and fear of ‘them’.

Today, here in Norway, many politicians and people state that “today we are all AUF” (the name of the youth party). And we are. Just as we all were Japanese when the earthquake struck, or as we all are Somalis when we read about famine. This feeling of community is a part of being human. And this communality, the shared experience of humanity, is essential to hold onto. In the face of inhumanity, we have to be more human. Because there is only this one world, brutal and beautiful, and we only have one fragile life to make our difference in the world we all share as home.

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Categories: Politics, Problems, Thoughts | Tags: , , , , , , | 12 Comments

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12 thoughts on “Norway and the Right

  1. I am a Muslim. And I am against all kinds of violence from any groups of people. But what saddens me is that the few religious fanatics, the few right wings fanatics, the few racist, the few ideologue extremist are shaping the public dialogues and discourses. Their actions, their words have created a polarised world. They have created a barrier of fear for reasonable, sane people to reach out and understand each other better. In response to these extreme, unknowingly, we have created a mental prison where we are afraid of the “Others”. Those who are different than us, whether it’s the colour of their skin, the language they speaks, the god that they believe in, the gender that they prefer.

  2. Pingback: Norway and the Right (via David Robertson) « Superflotic

  3. So true Amryl. There were a series of braindead riots in Sydney a few years back by Australian nationalists, largely targeted at anyone from the middle east or India, and they carried the banner of the Australian flag. Since then (before then too, but especially since then) the flag has carried the stain of what they did and people shy away from it in case they’re associated with the rioters and bigots. Public dialogue is tainted in similar ways, where reasonable people don’t speak out on issues in case people think they’re the same as the outspoken bigots monopolising the airwaves.

    Very frustrating, and the only way to fight it is to be open, accepting and obviously so.

  4. Good article Dave, would recommend checking out Charlie Brooker’s take on it from the guardian too http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/jul/24/charlie-brooker-norway-mass-killings

    • Cheers Ben, I saw that this morning. It makes me feel a bit bad to use such a terrible attack to make a point, but I guess that’s the whole point – if we don’t speak up for openness and an accepting society, the coverage of these tragedies will be dominated by close-minded or otherwise poorly motivated pundits.

  5. Mary Beth

    Thank you for this great article! For sharing your wisdom and knowledge. As an American, I so agree about Glenn Beck! He’s a true mental case that needs professional help! He supports everything Sarah Palin. Need I say more?

  6. Mary Beth

    The Afghanis hung an 8 years child yesterday….a little boy! This cannot be “white washed”!

    • Yes, I’m not saying we should accept all behaviour and be open to all practice – there are many practices in countries identified as ‘Islamic’ that I find horrendous, but religious extremism is bad no matter where it is manifested.

  7. As an American, I am more afraid of our right winged conservative Christians than I will ever be of Muslim extremists. I think even our own media makes Americans out to be different as a whole than we are in actuality. I am so sad for Norway. Oddly, a fellow American co-worker of mine was a block from the bomb that exploded in Norway, and when she returned to work today, her story surprised me. Apparently, Norway is a peaceful enough place even the average policeman does not need to carry a gun. I hope that they can remain this gentle despite the terrorist attack. My thoughts go out to the Norwegian people during this time.

    Also, I must say, I really enjoy seeing perspectives from around the globe. Please, David, give me the low down on your medical system someday. Ours seems to be failing….

    • The strange thing about having a medicare system that mostly, well, works, is that you don’t notice it. There’s a form or two to fill out at the GP and then you walk away. Sometimes you have to pay a small gap fee, often you can claim it back later. Scary that you knew someone so close to the terrorist attack – though I have to say, not all police in Australia and (I think) the UK carry guns either!

  8. Peter

    a post at pure poison uses a quote from jon stewart commenting on the arizona gunman that i really like and think is relevant to the norway massacre and the so-called “manifesto” left behind by the perpetrator, which cites a number of conservative australian politicians and a catholic church leader. the article at pp is also worth a read.

    “You know, you cannot outsmart crazy. You don’t know what a troubled mind will get caught on. Crazy always seems to find a way, it always has…

    I do think it’s important for us to watch our rhetoric. I do think it’s a worthwhile goal not to conflate our political opponents with enemies – if for no other reason than to draw a better distinction between the manifestos of paranoid madmen, and what passes for acceptable political and pundit speak. You know, it would be really nice if the ramblings of crazy people didn’t in any way resemble how we actually talk to each other on TV. Let’s at least make troubled individuals easier to spot.”

  9. Your indeed correct with this one

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