Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Beastly conduct

The title of this post is really not very descriptive as the act I will feebly be discussing could only have been carried out by a human, not a beast. No other animal on the planet attacks its own kind in the manner that Anders Breivik did this past Friday, taking the life of many by bombing and then brutally killing one young person after another, face to face with a shotgun at close range. I guess the word monster is more appropriate.

I am assuming most that read this will already have heard about the incident, it was of the magnitude to have obtained the attention of the world media. In the case that this is not so, what I am referring to is the attacks in Norway last week where one man single handedly bombed an office building in downtown Oslo and went on to kill dozens of people, mostly youths, on Útey, a small island not far from the capital. The exact death count has not been very clear, figures range anywhere from 75 to 90 people, in addition to the 20 or so that are still missing. Incomprehensible.

Norway lies down the western part of Scandinavian Peninsula, and is the country from which the Icelandic settlers originally emigrated. Here, the people of Norway are usually referred to as „our cousins the Norwegians“. They number 5 million and although I have not come across every one of them, I have yet to meet a Norwegian I did not like. It hardly needs mentioning that I have never met Anders Breivik. I would probably not be typing now if I had this past Friday at least.

Norway is a beautiful place, set with majestic mountains and trimmed with countless serene fjords. It is a kingdom, like Denmark and Sweden, and a very well off one at that. Aside from ample fishing grounds and lots of hydropower, Norway has oil and natural gas reserves surpassed only by the Middle East. The oil money, i.e. taxes, dividends, sales revenues and licensing fees from the oil industry, goes into a national fund that has a very fancy name but is always called “the oil fund”. It is to operate a some sort of a pension for the country, I believe to ensure the nation’s wellbeing in the case that the oil and gas run dry. Very smart and it is probably due to this foresight that the people of Norway have not become decadent and lost from the otherwise excessive influx of money into the economy.

So what happened? A perfect society if there ever was one acting as a breeding ground for human weed. I am not going to pretend to know or understand. I am not even sure I want to know or understand. Aside from the feeling of grief for the people that lost a loved one in the massacre I am mostly struck by the worry that such a seriously disturbed man could go unnoticed. He had a manifesto for god’s sake. Has anyone remotely normal ever had a manifesto?

But what’s been done cannot be undone. Anders Breivik will be sentenced to prison for 21 or 30 years, depending on what he will be charged with. Seems a bit insignificant considering how many people’s lives he either took or marred. But this is how the Nordic justice system works and you can’t turn it off and on depending on the case at hand. And if you think about it, executing him won't bring anyone back or lift the grief from the shoulders of the heartbroken. Keeping him alive might open the opportunity for studying him and trying to understand what makes such people tick, something that could hopefully be used to prevent future occurences of similar cruelty.

But I doubt it. No questionnaire or clinical study can encompass the malevolent working of such a diseased mind. No checklist exists for pinpointing evil and never will. Anyway, I think years upon years of being confined to a cell is a whole lot harder to chew than being put to death. At least I hope so.

Yrsa - Wednesday


  1. An incomprehensible act!

  2. He was motivated by hate. It wasn't love of the Norwegian culture or a desire to protect the land from "outsiders".

    Among all the questions that come from such horror, one of the most often asked was why, if he hates the Muslims coming into Norway, did he kill Norwegian children? Apparently, buried in the hate of his manifesto, he stated that the Norwegian people had to be punished for encouraging multiculturalism. There can be no greater punishment for a parent than to lose a child but to lose one in this way is beyond imagining.

    This is one of those times when I think that the death penalty might not be such a bad idea. Twenty years in prison is as nothing compared to the lifetime of agony the parents of the dead children have to face. To punish him in kind, he needs to be taken to an island and left there, knowing that some day, without any warning, people with guns are going to come and hunt him down.

    No one needs to remember his name. My generation and that of my adult children will always know to whom someone is referring when they say "that murderous b.....d in Norway."

    On the news tonight there was an interview with the mother of one of the girls who survived. I don't know how the mother did it, but she and her daughter were exchanging texts while the daughter was hiding. At the end of the interview, she said that when her daughter sent the message that it was over and she was safe, she felt as if she had given birth to her again.

    There isn't a mother in the world who doesn't understand exactly what she meant.

  3. Here in the States the media were quick to blame the Muslims before reality ruined their rants. How did other countries cover this story? Did they rush to judgment or wait for facts?

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  5. Everyone's thoughts (yes, that's a generalization) went to Islamic fundamentalists first, and I have to say that's something for which Islamic fundamentalism is partly to blame.

    What always baffles me is the energy of evil. Here's a guy who was running on jet fuel for months and perhaps years: buying tons of fertilzer and mixing up explosives; stocking up on guns and ammo; writing a 1500-word manifesto; even designing uniforms. And then carrying out the bombing, driving as fast as he could to the island and firing until he was either caught or out of ammo. If it didn't raise a different explanation of evil, I'd call it demonic.

    As for his punishment, he blew up innocent people on a city street, he fired dum-dums into the bodies of children. He should be hung on an iron hook until he rots.

  6. Yes, Virginia, there is evil in the world-and it always seems to find a cause to hang its insane logic on. Bad sentence I know, but this man is very disturbed, and found a place to put his demons. My heart goes out to all the Norwegians, especially the parents.

  7. Hi Beth - I saw a very interesting interview with a young man in Norway, unlucky enough to be named Anders Breivik. He said that the feeling was much the same as waking up one day and your name would be Adolf Hitler. There are 12 men in Norway carrying that same name (i.e. Anders Breivik - not Adolf Hitler)

    Hi Michael - it was very strange to see the original reaction of the Norwegian officials. When asked if it was a attack by muslim terrorists they said things like "lets not rush to judgement". This is really very impressive, considering everyone was thinking the same (me included) and placing blame while it was still ongoing. I have a sneaking suspicion that they knew more than most from the beginning - remember that just prior to the attack the guy had sent his manifesto thing to hundreds of people, quite possibly to the police. He never intended to escape apparently.

    Hi Tim - he is evil if there ever was evil. I have been listening to the biography of a woman that was living in Europe during WWII on the radio and some of the things she describes are also truly horrific. I don't know if very many have the capacity for evil but listening to her story it sure seems that way. Finding and stopping the triggers that set such actions off would be a great step forward but like I said (or tried to) the human brain and way of thinking is so complex that it will probably never be achieved. I also think it appropriate that the metal hook be rusty, yet another part of me is a bit relieved that the Nordic society is not really calling out for blood, more discussing how to proceed. I realise this sounds really stupid.


  8. Michael, here in them UK they were incredibly quick to blame Islamic fundamentalists. Experts turned up on TV within seconds to explain why they had chosen Norway. When it turned out to be some internal nutter, some more experts came along to tell us all about the far right. It was a total failure of punditry and showed the flaws of knee-jerk responses so beloved of rolling news.

    In a dark piece of irony, some of the most vocal media pundits on Islam, who were wheeled out to go on about hateful and nihilistic it is as the news broke, ended up being quoted admiringly in this guy's turgid and self-serving manifesto.

  9. I have had a hard time coming to grips with this. It is reminiscent of far too many similar experiences in my own country.

    Evil must be confronted. I know that is very easy to say, but there is no alternative. All we can do is prepare as best we can for when it recurs. And pray.

  10. I actually watched the movie first, then read the book. It's definitely a book written for the younger crowd. I actually preferred the movie over the book and liked the modern twist to the classic love story. I liked that they made him disfigured in the movie as opposed to a "beast." However, I did miss the entire magic mirror bit (not referenced in the movie whatsoever), which adds to the fantasy of the story.