Words cannot express the sadness I feel, the sorrow and horror at the weekend’s horrible events in Oslo. My thoughts and prayers are with the people of Norway, both those who have lost people close to them, and those who have had their peace shattered by this vile and violent act of hate.
Among the people who jumped to the sad conclusion that this had to be the action of Islamic terrorists, in those hours before the news filtered out about the true assailant – was a friend of mine. Someone who has been, I think, dallying more and more with the ideology this man was fueled by. I don’t totally believe that my friend really believes a lot of it at base. I don’t know – but I think it is a symptom of a deeper malaise, which is seeking an outlet for anger and frustration. He has his issues – and when those issues get worse, his racist, or anti-multicultural outbursts become more severe.
I have another friend, with similar issues, whose outlet came at the other end of the spectrum, on the left-wing, anti-fascist side. While he had always held those views, illness made him more paranoid and extreme in his outbursts.
But not every extremist is ill. I don’t think they’re necessarily in their right minds, but they aren’t all ill. Sadly. Illnesses can sometimes be cured.
I’m not sure how you cure this malaise. This deep dissatisfaction with the way of the world, and the conviction that the world must be the way you want it or none at all. It is shared by terrorists of all flavours. Far-right, anti-muslim, anti-marxist, white power thugs, Irish republicans or loyalists, Islamic fundamentalists seeking to impose Sharia law, Christian fundamentalists blowing up abortion clinics in the US. That thing which makes people think they have the right to change a world, (which may not be perfect, but which the vast majority are happy with to some extent,) into something which is just how they want it. No live and let live, no agree to disagree, no compromise, no collaboration or cooperation. My way or the highway. Or the high powered semi-automatic machine gun.
That’s the difference. We all have different opinons, beliefs, values. We may not like eachother, we may not like everything about eachother’s cultures, religions, or lack thereof. But what makes one man bitch and moan, but generally just keep to himself and avoid the things he finds particularly offensive – and another go out and take the lives of others in the most horrible, inhuman way? There are many steps to such outright abandonment of all that is good and decent in us – starting with the murmuring of jokes, the cruel comments, the rallies to “defend the English way of life” – which somehow mean drinking yourself stupid in Wetherspoon’s and then shouting vile racist abuse in city centres, fighting with those you disagree with, destroying property if you can get away with it, costing towns and cities thousands of pounds in policing and clean up costs. I understand the need to counter this which leads the Anti-Fascist contingent to stage counter demonstrations, but I don’t think the anger which is whipped up, and the equally agressive stance shouted back gives a good impression when you are trying to show the others up for the knuckle draggers they are.
Those rallies, the EDL, the BNP – if they are the “acceptable” face of the far-right in this country, we know that there are other, hidden faces. The good old NF, Combat 18, these other murky organisations which use the waters of the world wide web to communicate and organise. This Norwegian nightmare styled himself a new Knight Templar – somehow shooting children in the back and the head is chivalrous perhaps. What is his vision of how the world should be?
I got into a debate some time back with a BNP supporter on my old blog. I argued that if you don’t like something, there’s always the opt out – you don’t like Carnival, or the Mela – don’t go. You don’t like curry, or polish sausage, don’t eat it. You don’t like R’nB or Hip Hop, don’t listen to it. The world is full of options. Why do you need to deny other people the option of taking part if they want to?
Laws are there to protect people of any religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation. If people feel hard done by, and can prove it – let them use those laws like anyone else. If you can live your life the way you want to live it, then why can’t others?
But then I have that thing which makes this easy for me. I see us all as people, as brothers and sisters. Human beings in a common global drama, each responsible for the others, a thread of compassion and empathy joining us all. I don’t want to do better than someone else, if I can only do better by putting another human being down. I don’t want cheap clothes if they have to be made by people earning 10p a week, I don’t want a council house if someone else needs it more than me.
Hundreds of thousands of people in Norway have marched in memory of those lost in this attack. They stand in dignity and pride, not prepared to be bullied into losing what it really means to be Norwegian now. That is how you defend your way of life. Not by fighting like animals in the street, not by shouting abuse. You stand up and say – what on earth do you have to offer us which is better than this – our common strength, our honour, our love. We all need to do this, across the globe. Just as Arab nations are standing up and proving they are better than the dictators and juntas who hold on to power through might and fear alone. We need to show people who would break our communities into a million fragments, that we may be different, diverse, and even entirely incompatible at times – but that when we need to, we can stand together for peace, and human kindness.