A horrendous massacre committed by Anders Behring Breivik in which close to hundred people lost their lives has left Norway in a state of shock. Bervik’s motives are still unclear although he had actively participated in online debates where he expressed anti-Muslim views.
The reality of the actual life in Scandinavia so differs from the virtual reality which can be found online, in public forums where angry young men express their venomous views while sitting alone in their rooms hiding behind pseudonyms.
Nordic countries are generally harmonious societies where a culture of consensus rules the public discourse. These countries are not known for individuals who vent and discuss their innermost fears, desires and political beliefs even with their loved ones. In Scandinavian tradition silent men are revered.
Silence is often understood as a sign wisdom and humility, but sometimes it provides a cover for lurking evil. One lesson from the Oslo bomb attack and the consequent massacre in Utøya is that parents should see their children for what they are, not what they wish them to be. Silence is not always a virtue and quiet men should not always be allowed to wallow in their silence.
Even if it seems impossible to exclude the act from the thoughts expressed by Breivik preceding the murders, one should be able to separate between the act and the thoughts and views that were expressed in public forums. The ideas that Breivik expressed are part of the ongoing European debate about immigration, Islam in Europe, financial crisis and the place of religion in society.
This is indicative of one thing: Behrvik’s hatred stemmed from arguably rational views, not necessarily from a mental illness.
People kill because they want to kill; tightening gun laws is not an answer and will not prevent future murders. If anything, it will make killing easier if people are unable to defend themselves. What if one of the camp counselors had carried a gun at all times? For example, in Israel reality dictates that large groups are always accompanied by an armed security guard.
One should avoid drawing broad conclusions from such a heinous and pre-meditated massacre, but isn’t that what history is for? Never again should be the guiding principle in everyone’s mind after times of unrestrained evil. The question is, how should this principle be enforced?
Instead of the state, perhaps the responsibility for recognizing evil should lie with individuals, parents, friends and relatives. However, there is no need for rigid collective self-flagellation as free societies produce conditions where bad people can do bad things. This is the necessary condition of a free society.
One sobering notion that can be drawn from this Norwegian tragedy is the often rejected view that people kill because they harbor unexplainable hatred towards their fellow men or political opponents. Evil exists and the only tangible way to counter it is to create a culture where people are encouraged to express their views in order for others to celebrate these views publicly, or conversely – as in the case of Breivik – to recognize the evil before the evil finds a way to destroy the good.