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I couldn’t make myself write about it: my reactions or my thoughts. From the beginning I have been struck by what a non-entity he is, and delving into analysis only gave disappointing results. Each time I tried to add my two-pennies’ worth I came up with – nothing. And that was awful because that nothing-person, that uneducated nobody, killed 77 people in cold blood. Had he only had the tinsiest bit of charisma, had his arguments been even a little bit good, made some sort of sense, then – well, I’m not sure exactly what then, but as I followed the first two weeks of the trial online via Norwegian media, I was left with this awful feeling of emptiness. 77 people were killed by Nobody.

Then, today, some of my intelligent and wonderful friends on Facebook posted a link to this, and this woman, Professor Janne Haaland Matlary, said exactly what I’ve been quietly thinking. I’m actually going to take the liberty of translating Klassekampen‘s article:

Couldn’t care less about Breivik’s ideology

Warning: Professor of Political Science, Janne Haaland Matlary, thinks that Anders Behring Breivik is historically and politically uninteresting. She warns her colleagues against wasting their time analysing the mass murderer.

“His political influence is zero, the person behind the actions is a zero, why spend so much time and media attention on him?”

This is what the well-known professor of political science, Janne Haaland Matlary, says to Klassekampen. Now she advices her colleagues not to appear as so-called “expert witnesses” in the media.

“It’s poor use of one’s working hours to provide serious analysis of something so primitive. If we take him seriously, we just contribute to give him more attention – which is his real motivation.

It is clear that he believes in his own vision, but this serves more as an alibi for mass murder than political motivation. His ideas are banal while his actions are evil and terrible – why dwell on this?”

Not interesting

Matlary’s view is that Breivik is politically and historically uninteresting, and that political scientists and historians neither can nor should contribute with analysis.

“Compared with other terrorist attacks outside Norway this is without political interest. His political understanding and reasoning is primitive and uninteresting: there is no one who really believes there is a Muslim invasion of Europe. So this is not something worth examining for a political scientist.

The terror is also without political persuasion in Norway as such. It is not ideologically interesting, for either the political Right or Left, simply because he has such crazy ideas that completely lack realism. He lives in a fantasy world and is as such without public interest.”

– But can’t experts contribute with the knowledge that there are others that share his political understanding and views?

“There is no empirical evidence to support any of his views. His world is Manichean – he juxtaposes Muslims and Christians and creates bizarre dividing lines partly based on race theory. His analysis is so stupid and primitive and completely lacks a realistic reference frame, and he has no movement behind him.”

Careful experts

The University of Oslo has set up a list of people who can comment on the court case for the media. At the Department of Political Science there is no wish to add people to the list.

“We were contacted by the information department and asked if we wanted to contribute to the list of experts with names and contact details. At that point I contacted 3-4 of the people already on the list and said it was not a good idea to join as we are not general experts on this entire case,” says institute leader Øystein Østerud.

He is of the opinion that the case has been coloured by the use of quasi-experts and does not want political scientists from the university to contribute to this.

“The goal must be that those best suited contribute, rather than that we create a list of experts that are to make statements on this and that”, he says. He points to the intern Anders Ravik Jupskås as a positive example of how this can be done.

Not political terror

Matlary emphasises that her criticism first and foremost is directed at the media, and not at colleagues who chip in as experts. She still feels that political science has little to contribute with.

“In this case it is the psychiatrists that have the most insight to give and there is not as much to be gained from political science. To us, Islamic terror, or the IRA-terrorist who is motivated by political goals, is of far greater interest. Breivik’s goal is himself,” she states.

“The case is influenced by journalists who constantly have to come up with something new. Foreign press covered the first week and pretty much wrapped it up after that. Ten weeks of daily news coverage only contributes to the fame of the killer.”

– Is it not a little too easy to claim that Breivik is a primitive loser?

“I think this is the reality. He never even completed school, has no real job, stayed at home in the boys room – in short: he is not a successful 33-year-old. So he compensated by creating his virtual world. He is without doubt mentally ill and evil, an extreme narcissist who enjoys all the media attention.”

***

What Matlary says here pretty much sums up my thoughts. Not many thoughts I must admit. Thoughts that can be summed up as – “He’s a complete non-entity, a nobody, and this court case should have been held behind closed doors.” And then the strange feeling that those killed on the 22 July 2011 had deserved to be killed by somebody with at least something going for him – and that’s a nutty thought because they should never have been killed in the first place, but – do you get this strange sentiment?

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This was first posted on openDemocracy this morning. Big thank you to Tony Curzon Price and his team for letting me blurt my grief so publicly (even more publicly than usual).

The poverty of words is striking right now. As I sit here I stream news from the Norwegian broadcasting corporation NRK over the internet while trying to come to terms with the enormity of the crimes committed by Anders Behring Breivik on Friday 22 July 2011. 93 people are now confirmed dead. Several more are badly injured in hospitals. He actually managed to kill nearly a sixth of the kids at the Labour Party’s youth camp on Utøya. He killed them with a coldness I am unable to fathom.

There are people killed in terrorist actions every day in other countries. And millions have been starved and killed through other bestial methods throughout our bloody European history. I lived in London for a few years and got used to the many posters encouraging vigilance and asking people to report any unattended luggage anywhere in case it were a bomb. I’ve been one of those alerting the bus driver to an unattended bag, causing a traffic jam in London’s busy streets. In London you get used to being a small piece of the total randomness of bomb threats. When 7/7 happened, I was on Liverpool Street Station 20 minutes before the blasts went off. The Internet and mobile network broke down with people’s attempts to get hold of each other and my own mum panicked when she was unable to get hold of me. Millions in London can make similar statements. It’s almost no big deal. It doesn’t make it right or good.

But this? This is unprecedented. Since WWII, there have been no major mass deaths in Norway. It is known as one of the world’s most peaceful nations. Norwegian negotiators were behind the Oslo Deal. This is the country where King Olav could join the rest of the population using public transport during the oil crisis in 1973. My father was asked by foreign guests: “What about security? Where are his body guards?”, to which he answered with a smile “He has 4 million of those.”

Since then, the population has increased — partly thanks to our immigrants — the exposure to the outside world has grown, xenophobia has grown, the royals have more and clearly visible body guards. Still we managed to keep conflict on a discussion level. If you had an opinion you were free to express it as long as you did so in words. So though security in Norway too has grown over the years, we never really felt threatened by — anything, really. As for me, whenever I visited, it was my childhood paradise I visited. My country of birth and upbringing became my holiday resort, the place I went to rest my soul and get a break from the somewhat busier and pressurized life I usually lead.

Now one of “ours” has turned it all upside down. The threat didn’t come from without, it came from within. A good looking man in his early thirties, still very young, turned himself into the worst mass murderer Norway has ever seen, and now he sits in police interrogations and calmly justifies his actions. And I don’t think there is a single Norwegian who in some small way would mind seeing him hung, quartered and drawn in the most medieval fashion after the horrors he inflicted on hundreds of kids assembled on an island, and randomly in Oslo. At the same time we all know how futile that would be. It wouldn’t bring back a single one of the lives he destroyed.

Since Friday 22 July, I have watched the news and listened to hour-long programmes analysing Mr Behring Breivik’s actions and personality, none of which have brought me any closer to understanding how such a normal person could turn so completely evil and without even the slightest empathy. I don’t think there is a single book on personality disorders that can make me understand or accept his complete liberation from a conscience. I am not used to people with no conscience. I don’t think I have ever met one. Forgive me: I am naïve. But then again, I am Norwegian.

I feel closer and yet farther away from Norway than ever. I know no other Norwegians here in Vienna. Not because there are none here, our paths just don’t cross. And so I suffer ever so slightly from “absent survivor’s grief”, if there is such a thing. I spent Saturday bursting into tears the more I read and heard about the killing spree on Utøya. I read Parbleen Kaur’s first-hand account and cried more. I translated it to English [previous post], and cried. My two dogs were deeply upset and very clingy all day. The skinny dog refused to eat, the fat one is a comfort eater so he stole the skinny one’s food before he went back to whimpering again. My fiancé declared his support on Facebook and gave me lots of hugs, and as friends and family reported in as safe I cried some more.

I and mine are safe. But like all others from Oslo, I know people who either heard the bombs in Oslo or know victims of the shooting. I have several friends who work close to the government district as well as in the government offices themselves. This is the bomb-randomness I knew from London. Also when there, and during the IRA time before I moved there, I got used to contacting my nearest and dearest to make sure they were ok whenever a bomb went off. I never thought I would have to do that with my Norwegian friends and family. I am relieved that they are well. I am deeply grieved that others are not. I am extremely angry that the madman targeted children, young people who would probably have had active political lives ahead of them, our future politicians and leaders.

And the more I read of his “manifesto”, the angrier I get. Because these are not really the writings of a madman. I can’t even write him off as a lunatic! His self-aggrandising writings are not actually ramblings, they are considered, based in history — albeit his own interpretation of it — and he has given himself a ridiculously grand place in contemporary history. He seems to think that he will hold a position as some sort of heroic soldier. A martyr of Christianity and Norwegian nationalism. It bears a frightening resemblance to militant Islamism. Does he expect a load of virgins when he dies too?

Speaking of dying: I am proud to be Norwegian when I see my friends’ reaction to a Facebook survey asking if Norwegian law should be changed to once more allow the death penalty. They have replied with a resounding NO! Then he would in some twisted way have won his one-man battle against humanity. Norwegian law has 21 years as maximum penalty for murder. If that is all he gets, he would still have a fair amount of life left in him on his release. Do I think 21 years for Mr Behring Breivik is enough? Not by a mile! But I shall not take the law into my own hands. Norwegian justice is as it is for a reason and I shall follow the process against him closely. I have the right to express my agreement or disagreement with his sentence when it comes, but until then I trust with confidence in my fellow countrymen, our justice system, police, and the vast majority of Norwegians who are equipped with a healthy conscience and lots of common sense.

Today I really wish I could hug a Norwegian. As Bishop Ole Christian Kvarme said in his memorial service in Oslo: “We are a people in mourning.” So we are. Wherever we are.

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I know, not exactly the most cheerful of posts but I heard this interview on BBC Radio 4 Today and wanted to share it with someone. Can’t think of a better someone than YOU, the Internet. And it helps get the right perspective on my left foot.

Escaping North Korea’s prison camps

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I just had the nicest surprise. At the moment we’re presenting Semih Poroy in the Eurozine gallery. We’re not generally strong when it comes to the image side of things, but are doing our best to improve within the limitations of the Internet. So three to four times per year we try to present a new artist in what we call the gallery in cooperation with one of our partner journals. Details of the images are then for a while used as mastheads on the majority of our other pages.

As I do most of the coding and work with each artist directly to present his or her work as well as possible, I had the pleasure of corresponding with Mr Poroy during the creation of the presentation. When he sent me a selection of his political cartoons I expected us to limit ourselves to eight or nine images — as originally instructed. But I found that absolutely impossible and did my best to squeeze in all of them. Of course, that was also impossible but at the end of the day we nearly doubled the output originally intended.

We finished setting up the pages in early December 2010 and have had plenty of nice feedback. But today I had the nicest feedback anyone can have. I received a book of Mr Poroy’s cartoons, Ohne Worte, with a personal dedication from him. And now I’m simply sitting here smiling and thinking that even though none of us here at Eurozine are well paid, this job is so totally worth all the hard work. I love my job, and I love all the nice and interesting people I meet because of my job. May the European Union continue to take pity on us and approve all our funding applications in the foreseeable future! Amen.

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Chilling blast from the past

So there we were, Mischa and I. Out on that long walk I had promised him for ever so long. And we’d reached that field by Margareten Gürtel between the Burger King and the U4 station. Mischa was having fun biting holes in his latest toy, greeting other dogs and wrestling with me. Along the path running next to the field a group of rather loud teenage boys made their rowdy way towards the Burger King.

Nothing unusual there.

But suddenly the rowdiness broke into a loud chant. A chant I have only heard in films, TV news, read about in history books.

“SIEG HEIL! SIEG HEIL! SIEG HEIL! SIEG HEIL! SIEG HEIL! SIEG HEIL!”

And without hesitating, in total agreement, the group changed the chant to

“HEIL HITLER — DEUTSCHLAND — DEUTSCHLAND — DEUTSCHLAND!”

Back and forth, back and forth until they disappeared into the Burger King.

I doubt they knew the full implications of the chant. But by their age — by the time a boy’s voice breaks — he should know the history of WWII, be thoroughly informed of the horrors of Hitler and his Dritte Reich and the Final Solution, whatever country he is from.

Someone has neglected their duty in teaching those kids history. I don’t know who — I don’t know why. I only know that today, I seriously doubted my choice of new homecountry.

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I had great plans to write this post AGES ago. Just about the time I came back from our board meeting in Romania. Which now seems a lifetime away. September. Last month. When it was still summer. Sigh.

Anyway: our board meeting took place in Cetate in Romania, on the farm of Mircea Dinescu. He’s nuts. And I say that with not a small amount of admiration. It was amazing and wonderful and I want to live there! If it wasn’t for one thing.

Farm staff with puppies. The puppies were thrown the odd tidbit which they then fought over.

Farm staff with puppies. The puppies were thrown the odd tidbit which they then fought over.

The dogs.

Romania is drowning in stray dogs. Belonging to the farm itself were around fifteen dogs (it was hard to count them to be honest), and in addition there were several strays that roamed the area in search of food.

I am fairly convinced there are more dogs in Romania than people. Neutering is an exception, and I can guarantee there is not a dog anywhere in Romania as spoilt as your average working dog in Austria.

My personal little favourite with a sore eye

My personal little favourite with a sore eye

I fell in love with several of the farm dogs. My favourite among the adult dogs was a quiet male Border Collie cross with an eye infection. The Dr. Doolittle/Florence Nightingale in me burst forth and I spent my entire time there trying to nurse its eye better using Chamomile tea to gently wash it several times a day. He was understandably sceptical, not being used to that sort of attention, but it didn’t take him long to accept it.

The other love was for seven puppies, especially the runt of the litter who may well be dead by now… I know, that’s not a cheerful outlook. But it is very, very likely. She simply could not compete with the others for food and was already too weak to fight for it if the other puppies decided they wanted what she had. Yes, I fought valiantly on her behalf while there (i.e. hand feeding her while keeping the others at bay). I am fairly sure I only managed to put her death by starvation off with a day or two.

The little brown one at the back was much smaller than the rest

The little brown one at the back was much smaller than the rest

I still couldn’t be angry with the other puppies. They merely did what’s natural, and they were all incredibly sweet. If poorly fed, full of vermin of all sorts and mucky as hell. I couldn’t stop cuddling them and playing with them and… if it had been at all possible I would have put them all in my suitcase and taken them home with me. I would have loved to see Louise’s face. 🙂

As it were, I took to my senses. It takes about 5-6 months to clear one dog for the trip, with all the papers, inoculation, blahblah. A weekend is just not enough. Funnily enough. But at least now I know why there are so many Romanians in Austria who sell puppies out of the back of cars — totally illegally; no paperwork, ill, traumatised and sad. At least the dogs on Dinescu’s farm received food and a minimum of care. And to his credit — when the Danube one year flooded the farm and Dinescu and his wife had to evacuate, he returned with a boat to rescue the dogs. Widely broadcast in the country’s media as eccentric and unheard of behaviour.

Ready for play

Ready for play

On our return journey via Bucharest I saw a badly injured dog outside the offices of our host. She had been hit by a car, survived, but now lived with two broken, incorrectly healed legs on one side, limping painfully and slowly between the shade and a bowl of water the parking attendants had given her. The number one road-kill in the country is, of course, dogs. I lost count of the carcasses on the side of the road, and no one brought them to my attention knowing just how sentimental I am about dogs.

On the morning we left the farm I was a little late coming down to the waiting bus. The others were already seated in the silence of the misty pre-sunrise morning, but the moment I arrived so did two of the dogs. My sore-eyed Border Collie friend whose eye had finally cleared up, and one of the puppies flipping herself over on her back in enthusiastic submission.

You have no idea how close I came to scooping them both up in my arms to take them with me. Damned close.

Romanian wiring

Romanian wiring. Apropos of nothing.

[you can click on the images to see a bigger version]

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I take pictures all the time, but mostly totally harmless, somewhat uninteresting and, well, it stays on my computer. Mostly.

Lately, however, the need to use the power of the image, the power of photography, has reared its ugly head. And I mean ugly. Because I want to use it against some people I am unable to respect or empathise with in any way.

A bunch of Viennese “pro-lifers”.

The only good thing one can say about them is that they are not violent, at least not physically violent. But they hang around outside an abortion clinic near my house, rock back and forth and pray (that rocking… like watching someone brain-damaged banging his head against the wall in frustration). They each display a large colour picture of a featus at eleven weeks. And they all have that shut-off look, the look that tells you that they have had the thoughts they are going to have in this life and nothing, NOTHING is going to change that. Their world is purely black and white.

Oh, if only. If only life was that simple. One right and one wrong and nothing in between.

I’d love to be more open minded than them. I would love to say that I’d be willing to walk that mile in their shoes, that mile they are unwilling to walk in the shoes of the women forced to make that termination decision. But I don’t understand them at all. I don’t understand that need to force their beliefs on someone in an extremely vulnerable position.

If only one could sentence them to work for the people who are already here. For orphans. For homeless people. For battered women. For organisations trying to help those traumatised from sexual and other forms of violence from childhood.

Adding further misery to the life of someone whose already in a miserable situation is nothing short of evil.

Forgive them for they know not what they do. Or do they?

Forgive them for they know not what they do. Or do they?

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I Twittered this two days ago:

President Sarkozy — my new hero.

And on being asked what I meant posted this link.

I then got this reply from a friend who has been teaching English in Riyadh for a while:

“He’s pathetically uninformed, as he has been on issues such as these since he took office. Forcing someone NOT to wear something is just as bad as forcing them to wear it. Many Muslim women prefer to wear it, for religious reasons or otherwise. Would you honestly rather see these women locked in their homes, Ina?”

At that point I was wondering if I had to wear a burqa for him to have enough respect for me to get my name right. Anyway, this was my not overly eloquent reply:

“I think you’re totally barking up the wrong tree. I would like men of those cultures to have enough respect for those women not to call them whores for NOT wearing big, black sacks. I would like them to be evolved enough to take responsibility for their own sexuality NOT to blame women when men rape.
There is a lot more to the burqa than meets the eye.
In Europe we used to burn witches. We got over it. Is it not time for the Arab nations to get over their hatred of women too?”

In return I got this considered answer:

“I respect that, Ine, but you assume, like most westerners (as I did) that the burqa is a “symbol” of subjugation to women for all Muslims. It is only a symbol in OUR eyes. If they believed the Christian cross symbolized imprisonment, would we? I’m not denying that men rape and beat their wives, but this occurs among all societies and religions, is Read more a product of education and opportunities, and not what we friggin’ wear. Believe it or not, I’ve met plenty of muslim men who don’t beat their wives, who are more “evolved” than any European will ever be, and whose wives feel happy to wear the burqa because they are free to. FREE to, Ine. I’m not barking up the wrong tree, I’m saying this is complicated and Sarkozy is simplifying the issue for political purposes and nothing else.”

Hey! I didn’t have to wear a burqa for him to, eventually, get my name right after all! Progress! But that’s hardly the point here. But look carefully at his two main arguments. He asks me if I would want to see those women locked in their homes and then tells me they are FREE to wear the burqa. Um. That’s where he lost me. Because that doesn’t sound like any sort of freedom to me. Only if you are free not to wear one can you also be free to wear one. At least to my mind. So in this respect, I am the one who is free to wear one, whereas they will have to remain in their homes if they choose not to. Which is not a real choice.

I would love to hear what others have to say, but preferably not white Canadian men who teach in Riyadh… Or white Western men in general. Best of all: I would like to hear what burqa-wearing women have to say on the topic. That would be far more interesting than anything J or I — and especially Sarkozy — might have to say on the topic. Suffice it to say, I choose not to wear a burqa, I choose not to wear a hijab, but my stance on the former is 100% negative, whereas the hijab I have no problem with. After all, it is a lot more appealing than the Christian symbol of a tortured, bleeding and dying man nailed to a cross. I even think I would resort to the hijab if I were to loose my hair instead of a wig. Or I’d just have my scalp tattooed.

Sorry. Rambling. Over and out.

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This picture, taken by Bruno Stevens in Gaza in January this year, has been haunting me for days. Is this injured toddler what Israel is “defending” itself from? How can anyone in their right mind say that what the Israeli government is doing to the trapped Gaza population is right and just? How can it be anything other than a war crime?

(You see, I can think about more than hair.)

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Iraq

I normally stay as far away from commenting on what goes on in the world as I can. But sometimes the news gets to me. Last week I was shaken by the news that Terry Pratchett, my favourite author, has been diagnosed with a rare form of Alzheimer. Alzheimer runs in my family as well, and I know my mum dreads getting it, as do I. Mum: you don’t have it! You’re just a little dotty, that’s all.

Burma and the hopeful uprising last year, with the subsequent disappointing suppression, was another thing that broke my heart. When will the world (and especially Burma, of course) get rid of that idiotic military junta? And then there is China’s occupation of Tibet. A lot of Chinese seem to be of the opinion that the Tibetan people should be more grateful to them for all the roads and their other contributions to the infrastructure. I was in China for 3 weeks in 1993, and that was the sentiment expressed by our guide when I asked. Indoctrination? Sure, we’re all subjected to that in one form or another. But they seem to lack the realization that nobody likes an occupying force. They can build as many roads as they like, it’s not going to make an iota of difference. How would China like to go back under Japanese rule? Japan can offer loads of great stuff. And excellent quality. Just picture it: Japanese quality combined with Chinese production output… It’s a winner!

Go back to WWII. Norway went through a 5 year occupation. By an on the whole well-behaved German occupying force. But would you really expect Norwegians to be grateful? Would you expect any of the countries occupied by Germany during that war to be GRATEFUL??

So why do big nations continue to throw their weight around like that? I’m sure large factions of the US forces had the best of intentions when they entered Iraq. But the moment they put on the mantle of the occupier, they lost the right to receive gratitude. In spite of the good contributions. What will be remembered are the insults. The killings. The mistakes. And today I read the most heartfelt, angry, sad and hurt blogpost I have read in a long time.

Nothing is, of course, as simple as this. It is not always possible to sit idly by and watch genocides, torture and murder of Buddhist monks (Burma), shooting and killing of demonstrators (China/Tibet), tying up and humiliation of inmates (Iraq by US soldiers), genital mutilation of children (oh, that’s right — it is still not a human right that one gets to keep one’s genitals to oneself — hmmm, I’ll not in a lifetime of political correctness understand that) … anyway, the list goes on. And this is exactly why I don’t comment on things in the news. It’s too depressing. Not because I don’t have an opinion. I probably have more opinions on more things than most. But there are already a lot of very well expressed political blogs out there and I’d rather leave it to them.

But I’ll watch. And I’ll cry.

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