I'm as shocked as most other people are at the fact that there are people in our
midst who could be so socially alienated that they could justify the killing of
scores of young people on the basis that they are politically progressive.
Equally shocking is the scale of this slaughter.
The nature of this event reminds me both of Oklahoma City and Columbine, which
have their similarities in nature and their differences.
Every time a Columbine-style massacre takes place in the US, almost always
carried out by a young white man who resents females and other targets, whose
targets are always primarily young, I wonder if we are somehow going to come to
terms with the extent to which our society is flawed, how much social alienation
is becoming increasingly rampant, how so many people feel left out, bullied,
side-tracked -- while at the same time feeling like they deserve better. These
damaged people -- who usually made unobtrusive, normal-seeming neighbors until
they went to school with a machine gun one day -- then seek out a way to put
their feelings of alienation into some kind of context.
Too often they find it in the form of rightwing, Christian ideologies that
systematically dehumanize whole ethnic groups and anybody who believes in an
inclusive, multicultural, egalitarian society. And while everybody and their
mother is, of course, denouncing the actions of this Norwegian sociopath just as
they denounced Timothy McVeigh and Dylan Klebold before him, "mainstream"
conservatives as well as ostensibly more progressive parties throughout Europe,
North America and elsewhere talk openly about the "failure of multiculturalism"
and of Europe's grand Christian traditions.
The rise of the Right on both sides of the Atlantic has been fuelled by
duplicitous politicians and corporate interests who have been appealing to the
progressive nature of most people with talk of one big European family, while
they implement policies which result in the further impoverishment of much of
eastern Europe, continuing de-industrialization Europe east and west (and North
America), combined with a flood of immigrants coming from places where job
prospects are even more grim (such as eastern Europe, North Africa, Mexico,
etc.) or from places that have been destroyed by European and North American
foreign policy, such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
Then the political elite blames the socioeconomic situation they have created on
their victims, talking about the failure of multiculturalism, urban crime,
welfare cheats, lazy workers, corrupt unions, etc. And they find lots of ways
of saying we were all better off when society was whiter and more moral.
Of course, the big news is that society was never more moral, only more divided
and stratified, before unions and multiculturalism. And Europe has never been
white nor Christian. Jews got there way before Christ did, and the pagans long
predated the Jews. Muslims have been there since the days of Mohammed.
On the one hand I think it's important to emphasize that this guy is an extreme
sociopath, at least according to my definition of the word. But equally, I
think it's important to note that xenophobes who make all sorts of wild and
inaccurate generalizations about Muslims and progressives are very easy to find
throughout Europe, throughout society, from the streets to the halls of power in
Berlin, Paris, and London as well as Stockholm, Copenhagen and Oslo, and this is
not at all helpful in preventing the next massacre.
It is not just the extreme right that needs to understand that, far from
representing more advanced civilizations than the societies from which many of
the immigrants are coming, Europe is, and has long been, a troubled place. The
right rejects multiculturalism and always has. Many progressive people in
Europe and North America talk about "tolerance" and inclusiveness as if these
are traditional European values. Of course, for many Europeans, they are.
But the history of Europeans actively rejecting an inclusive, open society is
long and terrible in a way that is still unparalleled on our troubled planet.
While a multiplicity of ethnic, linguistic and religious groups were living
together comparatively peaceably for centuries of Ottoman rule, in Europe the
inquisitors and crusaders were slaughtering their fellow Europeans for not
ascribing to the right set of beliefs. While Jews were fleeing the pogroms in
Europe, their counterparts throughout the Muslim world were prospering. And
then decades later came the Nazi Holocaust, when a man very much like Anders
Breivik was running an empire, with lots of little Anders Breiviks doing his
bidding, using gas chambers along with their machine guns.