Provoking the Unprovocative: Reactions to Norway

As Italy goes into total shutdown for August, I have so much work at the day job that it’s literally made me sick for the past three weeks, but spending more than four hours on the phone with lawyers every day should do that to anyone. Ironically, I have been working on a series of pieces about Scandinavia. I feel like I would be remiss if I didn’t comment on the tragedy in Norway last week.

One of the reasons I started this blog was to write about the growing wave of intolerance in Europe, which was inspired by my stay in a charmingly little intolerant town in the north of Italy in 2008 where I got to wake up to posters like this outside my apartment during election season.

I am surprised, to say the least, at what happened in Norway, and that it happened there. I didn’t think there would be a such a violent outburst — I assumed it would happen more insidiously, more politically — or maybe that’s just how it’s happening in Italy, France and Germany. And certainly, that insidious creep is what bears monitoring, because that’s how intolerance insinuates itself into policy, not through terroristic violence. I can’t say “I told you so” because, actually, I didn’t. But dropping birthrates, stagnating economies, political incompetence (especially in Italy for those of you following the usual three-ring circus; if you’re not, look up Spider Truman) and mainly just rabid fear of difference.

Terrorism’s raison d’être is to provoke a response. So far Norway’s leaders are showing an incredible amount of restraint, calling for more democracy instead of making unfulfillable promises for ramped-up (and usually cosmetic) security that we would see in bigger, more-tech-happy countries. The Nordic countries have led in redistributive social welfare and tech-driven exports in recent history. All eyes will now be on them to see how they deal with the savagery of domestic terrorism. One thing that is certain is that it won’t be with the savagery of the death penalty (which I’m sure leaves many Americans aghast at such an emotional moment), as we dealt with Timothy McVeigh. Probably they will start arming their police, but the further political repercussions will bear close watching. They could even set a good example.

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