Sunday, 24 July 2011

Compassion hurts

The massacre of young people in Norway has shocked and distressed me. I know I am not alone in feeling these emotions. My heart goes out to all those youngsters who survived as they now process the loss of their friends and the feelings of guilt that comes with surviving such unfathomable horror when others didn't. I have been reading all the reports and stories, quite compulsively I realised. I was surprised by my compulsion and became aware that I'm trying to get some sense of where that cold, calculating killer was coming from; what enabled him to mercilessly and methodically shoot scores of young people. 

I read that this killer lived with his mother. As a midwife, my life has been dedicated to helping women, their partners and babies connect, knowing that our primary relationship(s) set the stage for our future health and well-being in every aspect of life.  I wondered how his mother was feeling. There was no mention of his father or any other family member in the news items. 

My information about the horrible events in Norway have come from individuals and links posted on Twitter. I have read the various newspaper reports that were linked on twitter. As the information trickled through the net, painting the picture of the events unfolding in Norway, I couldn't get my head around the way that the killer set off the bomb in Oslo, then travelled to a small island where teenagers were on a summer camp and slaughtered so many of them.  Why????

A link on twitter provided a clue "Who kills 80 Teenagers, one by one?" .

We now know there have been at least 94 teenagers murdered, but there are still some young people unaccounted for and still to find. I can only hope they are alive, but the prospects are grim. 
The car bomb was placed near the offices of the socialist government and the teenagers were worker's party members. Rick Falkvinge, the blogger, suggested that the bomb in Oslo itself was a diversionary tactic to keep the police busy while the killer "executed (the teenage party members) in cold blood, as a political strategy to cripple a political party decades in the future." 

The killer's murderous rampage drew the following comment on Falkvinge's blogpost. 

Let Norway show him mercy, not because he deserves it, but because their vision of civilization is more complete than his.
A steady stream of information was tweeted by Ketil B Stensrud, who described  himself as a 'football-fantatic journalist, who worked for The Independent, Daily Mirror, AP, TV2 and VG, turned general manager at Radio NRJ Kristiansand.  One of his tweets contained the following:
BREAKING: Here you can download the Oslo/Ut√łya gunman's manifesto, in which he gives detailed account of planned attack. 
The manifesto is enlightening, if depressing. 

There are pages and pages of anti-Muslim, anti-multiculturalism rhetoric. There is anti feminist rhetoric. The manifesto is worth looking at as it shows how a mind seeks the evidence it needs to support its biases and bigotry. We are all capable of that self affirming and self referencing behaviour. As you read it, you can see how delusions can become very powerful and how the brain can become closed to any other way of thinking. 

In the document, the killer's reasoning is carefully laid out. His plan to decimate the pro-multicultural element in his country has been brewing for 9 years according to the information in this document. The level of lies and deceit he employed are breathtaking. 

The New York Times article this morning "Scouring the Web for Clues to a Suspected Attacker's Motives" contains sources and links to information about the murderer and his motives by both the journalist and the readers.  A psychologist has, in response to the massacre, written that mass murderers see themselves as victims. That somewhat fits this killer's positioning, however, he seems himself more like an avenging angel or knight. 

He saw himself as a Justiciar Knight fighting multiculturalism. You can read in his manifesto what that means. He surrendered easily to the police when they arrived on the island and under interrogation, confessed to the crimes. This newspaper heading indicates what is to come.    Norway massacre suspect calls his deeds atrocious, but necessary

There have been examples of extraordinary heroism throughout this horrific event by individuals and immense courage and resiliency of the young people.  The leader of the party Jens Stoltenberg has been an inspirational and compassionate leader, saying: 
Today,we have been hit by two savage and cowardly attacks. Tonight, we all stand together, taking care of each other"affirming that "The answer to violence, is even more democracy. Even more humanity"
The massacre in Norway illustrates the profound problems inherent in fundamentalism of all stripes. The killer espouses a vile fundamentalism that strips away people's dignity and worth. His fundamentalism seeks to validate violence for the 'right' reasons of his own making. Norway and her people and their response to this ghastly event remind us that respect for different viewpoints and valuing diversity is the only way humanity can evolve and even survive.  

I feel sad. I feel a bit despairing that a native of a country with such great values and social justice practices as Norway could commit such a crime, but people are people. 

I take comfort in the knowledge that for every person like this dangerously misguided and deluded individual there are thousands who are trying to live life in the best, most socially responsible, inclusive, generous hearted way.  

Elizabeth of @mymilkspilt fame posted this earlier today. The comment summed it all up for me:
 "Compassion hurts. When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. And you cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound with the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors."
Andrew Boy (Source: myspiltmilk via changingmyperspective, via guerrillamamamedicine)

I don't know who Andrew Boy is, but I sure admire his sentiment.

The following are the last two tweets from the man who provided much of the information I've shared in this blog post. 
 Ketil B. Stensrud

The brutal, calculated home-grown terrorist has confessed. Rest is now left to our judicial system. I'm exhausted. Time for bed.
 Ketil B. Stensrud 

One last thought: It's a beautiful world we live in, with warm, inspiring, loving, courageous people all over. Let's keep it that way. Out.
I love his parting comment. It truly exemplifies the spirit of the Norwegian people. I hope he managed to get some sleep.  Thinking of all the people in Norway as they recover and heal from this terrible ordeal and come to terms with the loss of so many beautiful young people. I know that Norway will continue to provide the inspiration, ideals and values that we all love and admire so much; the leadership and people have demonstrated that commitment in the worst of times. 


Kate said...

Wonderful blog post Carolyn. Such a horrific waste of young life :(

Carolyn Hastie said...

Thanks Kate. I appreciate your comment. This event and the tragic loss of life is haunting me. My impression is from what the various Norwegians have said, is that their commitment to an open, diverse, accepting society will be strengthened by this horrible event. Closed minds and vicious righteousness has no place in a humanity of peace and lovingness. I also feel for the killer's family. Reading his manifesto demonstrates that they will think they knew him and they didn't.

JudyC said...

As you said Carolyn, I feel for the families. For those of the dead as they are hurting just so much as they try to make sense of it. For the family of the murderer as they wonder why, did they miss something that could have pointed to what happened, what could they have done to stop something like that, etc. For both groups, they probably will never really know. I pray that the country will continue to pull together and become stronger.

Carolyn Hastie said...

I've just read that the father hasn't seen his son since 1995 and learned about the massacre from the news. His mother had no idea either. In terms of the people, they have an excellent leader and a vibrant ethos which will stand them in good stead in the painful times ahead. There are many physically hurt who have to get well and hopefully they can. I'm sure it will be a day by day thing for some of them. What a hard time for them all. Here's a link to ABC's piece on the service this evening the police just released 6 people they had taken in for questionning as there was no link to the attacks. Reading his manifesto, I would be very surprised if anyone else was involved. I think it was him and him alone that did this unspeakable horror. He has become what he hated in others. What a powerful warning for everyone. How amazing is the president who focuses on strength, humanity, peace and calm at this terrible time.

political munky said...

Excellent post... thanks you. It is an event that none of us must ever forget, not only for the victims, but to try to prevent it from happening again. We have a duty as part of the human race to confront hatred and bigotry. Every time we see/hear a remark, be it in cyber space or in our own community and we do not stand up for what is right we are as guilty as the people who have committed it.
We see different groups trying to keep their group "pure" in some very subtle ways...have we not all seen advertisements for meet "Jewish/Muslim/Catholic/insert your group here/ Singles?
The fact is the world is ushering in a new paradigm, and it is the first Universal Truth...all is one. For some that will always represent a threat, any change is a threat.
As each new soul enters into this world it is our responsibility to try to make it a safer place, and that means we must take risks to confront hatred. We cannot ignore it, we cannot wish it away. Turning a blind eye, thinking it is just one person,or it is just a few people does not absolve us. We have all witnessed what just one person can do.
I would like to think that these innocent souls that lost in Norway..and across this planet in the name of fundamentalism are not lost in vain. They speak to our souls, they remind us we carry the burden of confronting hatred and intolerance.

Carolyn Hastie said...

Political Munky I love what you have written. You encapsulate the truth of our responsibilities.
You said:
"The fact is the world is ushering in a new paradigm, and it is the first Universal Truth...all is one"
and I agree wholeheartedly. The consequence of that is that what is done to one is done to all of us.
Yes, we do have a responsibility to speak up whenever we see intolerance, bigotry, hatred or anything that diminishes another's sense of safety. That responsibility to co-create a safe, loving and supportive society belongs to and is to embraced by each and every one of us

Itsmotherswork said...

I love the way this blog has drawn together, so unsensationally, various thoughts and threads about this horrific and tragic incident. Every lost life matters, of course, but i feel particularly upset that so many young and positively motivated people have lost their lives at the will of someone whose philosophy is so negative. I have been amazed by the lack of hysteria, the courage and emotional honesty of the Norwegian people at this time. Other nations facing such inhumanity from any source could learn from this example.

Carolyn Hastie said...

I have found that loss of young, positively oriented people's lives very difficult to comprehend and accept too. Like you, I find the leadership in Norway inspirational and comforting and agree that they provide a humane and compassionate model for all of us in dealing with difficult and challenging circumstances. Thank you for commenting and adding your voice to this discussion

Carolyn Hastie said...

So now the psychiatrists have declared Anders Breivik insane, a paranoid schizophrenic
In the flurry of tweets, newspaper articles announcing this finding, I saw one report which said there was a suggestion that he had been sexually abused when he was 3 or 4 years old.

A twitter post said:

thesatbirSatbir Singh
Ummm. “@NabihaMeher: Noted. Insanity is declared for violent white racist people. Violent people of colour are violent by nature.”

It will be interesting to see what decision the court comes to; if he is insane, he won't be tried and will be in a psychiatric institution, most likely for ever. If he is tried, and found guilty, the maximum sentence in Norway is 21 years.

Meanwhile, the people of Norway are healing; hard to know what the outcome will mean for those who struggle with the loss and maiming of their loved ones. I only hope they find solace in the fact that he is safely behind bars and will stay there, whatever label they use to make that so.