The car bomb that killed eight people and destroyed central government buildings was unexpected and terrifying. But this kind of event was at least known from Kabul, Nairobi and Madrid. The killings at Utøya Island are beyond comprehension.
Saturday evening I drove from one small community north of Oslo (Jessheim) to another small community (Ask), where I live. On the plaza before the town hall at Jessheim there was a red heart surrounded by candles and flowers.
At Kløfta, midway between Jessheim and Ask, there is a small roundabout. Nobody was standing there, in the middle of a cross-road, but the raised circle in the centre had also been decorated with flowers and candles. When I went home from work yesterday, people walked towards the centre of Oslo, each with a flower. One hundred and fifty thousand people gathered in front of the City Hall, at a big plaza facing the Oslo Fiord. To me, that was a meaningful answer.
It feels like the cliches about Norway disintegrate, while the truth remains. It is the world that manifests its presence. Even though Norwegian soldiers are fighting in Afghanistan and Libya, the reality of these wars has not really been faced inside the country. The battles occur far, far away. The terror attack came from inside. Al Qaida and the white extremists react with terror and fear to the same historical process: a world of separate states that struggles to become a global community.
The new world order will be as complicated and conflicted as today’s Europe, I am sure. But Germany will not attack France once again. It is the transition from distance to community that is hard. Cultures that have grown in (relative) isolation are pushed together by forces beyond the control of politicians or alliances. The conflicts that result erupt in the middle of our own society and in what we experience as Norwegian culture.
Answering with flowers expresses the best side of our culture. People share their pain. But the country will not be the same. Our former prime minister (Gro Harlem Brundtland) is famous for her saying “Norway is a country in the world”. This expresses the traditional internationalism of a small and open (but rather peripheral) country. This week something different happened. The world became an island inside Norway.
I’d also like to thank for all messages of sympathy.
… today, to be a Norwegian is to agree that, although we may at times be naive, sanctimoneous and politically correct, there is also an innocent beauty to these ideals. To be a Norwegian today is to acknowledge our flaws as a nation, but forgive them, because we have seen what can happen when one doesn’t. To be a Norwegian today is to shake in frightened humility in the face of pure evil.
Bjørn Staerk. On Bruce Bawer and Islam criticism after 22/7