Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Norway - I din mørkeste time skinne deg den lyseste

I’m still reeling from the atrocities this weekend in Norway, it is a country that I am very familiar with and which has a strong place in my heart. It is a country that has made me incredibly welcome and opened my eyes to the possibilities of an intelligent and inclusive society. This is what makes the events of the weekend so hard to comprehend at first glance.

I have been with my Norwegian wife for 13 years and visited Norway multiple times, I consider it my second home, so by default I feel the national sorrow side by side, I know how deeply this atrocity will affect a country that is so collective socially and so family focussed. I know that the children on Utoya will have been representatives from every small community across Norway. Every single community will have lost a bright burning star of hope and the future. This is what makes this tragedy so profound for me. Looking at the local paper from our Norwegian community and seeing the faces of young people who have both survived and died at Utoya makes me realise that there are few degrees of separation to this tragedy for any Norwegians.

When the reports first rolled out across the news about the Oslo bombing it was hard for myself and my wife to reconcile why anyone would bomb Oslo, whilst people speculated about Al Qaeda and all manner of international terrorism, it didn’t ring true to us. Whilst there was the long history of unease with refugee Mullah Krekar, it seemed unlikely to be connected and with Norway’s pro Palestinian stance it just didn’t feel right that this was in retribution for anything in particular. Also coupled with happening on a Friday afternoon and during the national holiday period – this did not fit correctly with the usual media orchestration of a major terrorist attack. I held back from commenting about this on Twitter, I prefer not to speculate in absence of any facts (unlike most of the mainstream media) as explained by Charlie Brooker in his Guardian article.

I hoped that it had no connection to Islamist terror due to how precarious Scandinavia is right now with anti multi-culturalism and Islamophobia, I feared such an event could tip Norway closer to how Sweden and Denmark are dealing with multi culturalism, something they have resisted well. As I watched the news from Utoya gradually emerge I felt that this was more likely to be a character more in the vein of Varg Vikernes than international terrorism, a deranged individual seeking to justify their actions through some disjointed ideology attributable to a right wing point of view.

Before speculating too much about the deranged killer, I wanted to reflect on how strikingly different the socio cultural response from Norway was in this tragedy, something many have commented upon, summed up best by a German newspaper:

"Even in their deepest sorrow, the Norwegians don't get hysterical. They resist the hate. It is amazing to see how politicians and the whole country reacts. They are sad to the deepest thread of their souls. They cry in dignity. But nobody swears to take revenge. Instead they want even more humanity and democracy. That is one of the most remarkable strengths of that little country."

I have always been in awe of Norwegian culture, it’s honesty, it’s integrity and its sheer intelligent maturity on so many things. It is an approach I wish I could see in our culture more, I feel more at home in Norway than I do in Britain right now. Could you imagine our politicians responding with integrity like these statements: Prime Minister Stoltenberg Initial Statement and at Oslo Cathedral.
The key statements echo and resonate for me:

“the answer to violence is even more democracy. Even more humanity.”
“If one man can create that much hate, you can only imagine how much love we as a togetherness can create.”

That one man was just that, one man. A man who does not deserve to be named, written about or debated – it feeds him. As Dr Park Dietz points out here:

We should not fuel the media saturation for good reason. Much will be said about links and causal attributes in a bid to understand this, I would hazard a guess he is a classic narcissist and his ranting about conspiracy and the right wing drove him to it are about the same as David Berkowitz blaming his neighbour’s dog for his killing spree. The words of Fabian Stang, Oslo’s mayor ring very true:

“We are going to punish him with democracy and love.”

It will take a long time for the wounds to heal, but Norway is in a healthy state to do this, they have the emotional maturity and dignity to grow from this, the fallen at Utoya and those in the Oslo blast will not be forgotten, their memory will not be wasted.

In closing, the words of Norwegian poet Nordahl Grieg seem fitting in memoriam.

Our Youth

Enemies near and by,
threatening your right!
Under a storm of blood -
You have to fight!

Might you then ask in fear,
unarmed and open:
how shall I combat them,
what is my weapon?

Here is your shelter strong,
here is your sword:
faith in mankind,
and in everyone's worth.

For all the future holds,
seek this and tend it.
Die, if you have to, but:
deepen, extend it!

Silent the bullets glide
all through the night.
Use all your strength and love,
stop deadly flight!

War is contempt for life.
Peace is creating.
Add forces to the strife:
death shall be beaten!

Love - and enrich with dreams -
greatness of old!
Challenge unknown terrain -
truth will be told.

Works not yet being built,
stars never seen -
reveal them through rescued lives,
able and keen!

Noble is everyone,
earth, rich and sweet!
Hunger and suffering,
caused by deceit.

Crush it! In life's own name
injustice shall fall.
Light, bread and love and hope,
birth right of all.

Forcing all weapons down,
warfare shall cease!
Shielding man's dignity
creating true peace.

Who by his right hand's side
carries a burden,
precious and dear to him,
can never murder.

This is our promise,
from kin to kin:
cherish our fragile Earth,
it's ours to win.

We will protect and keep
beauty and grace -
as if we held a child
in tender embrace!

This is the playlist of music that helped me write this post:


  1. Beautifully written and beautifully observed.

  2. Thanks to all whom I have had kind comments from here, on Twitter, Facebook etc. This is the playlist of music I listened to whilst writing this to get me in the right frame of mind: