It now seems that the atrocities in Oslo and Utøya were commited by a single person. I think we can rule out completely any kind of organization. Apparently, the killer – a tall, blond native Norwegian, age 32, who speaks the local dialect – was taken to the island on the organizers’ own boat. Now, if there were more than one person involved, surely someone in the organization would have had a speedboat ready for him on the mainland?
Besides: Utøya? A summer camp for politically engaged youths?!
Granted, if terrorism is all about creating fear and terror, there might be some logic to it: strike where the shock will be greatest.
But still, I can’t in my wildest imagination come up with a scenario where a bunch of Mossad agents or al-Qaida sympathizers have sat around and discussed their next step and that idea has materialized – it’s just too weird.
Norway Cup (an over-sized symbol of Norwegian greatness), or some Confirmation Sunday (“all those pork-munching, cartoon-printing infidels celebrating their successful indoctrination of yet another generation”) — that I can imagine.
But a summer camp on an isolated island? No way.
So my hope is that the Norwegians are able to put aside all the national rhetorics, all the talk about threats to democracy and being a small country in a difficult world. And stay away from using words like “terror” and “terrorism”, at least for as long as these words are near- synonymous with “islamism”.
And this is where my headline comes in:
If this is the deed of a single madman, which seems to be the case, it is a sign of what a thin, thin, fragile varnish civilization is. It’s not that difficult to set an entire society on ends. All it takes is a van filled with explosives (which, I suppose, any construction worker can get hold of) and a convincing policeman’s shirt.
When we can still lead perfectly normal lives most of the time, and have so for hundreds of years (except for brief interludes of socio-economic and military madness), it is for the single reason that most of us, very nearly all of us, don’t do such things.
We’re civilized. We behave. I frankly don’t care if that’s because we’re all indoctrinated or something like that: we behave because that’s what we want to do anyway — that’s how we feel most alright. If it wasn’t for this collective “We behave”, there isn’t a terror plan or a millennium act in the world that could uphold civilization as we know it.
It’s a tragic day, of course, and nothing to celebrate. That something like this happens is — seen in isolation — a sign of failure.
But seen in a larger perspective — and here I mean: over hundreds of years, generations way beyond our own memory and the memory of those we remember — it’s a sign of success: that the glue that binds us together is so strong that something like this has never happened before.
That it is so easy to tarnish civilized life — and yet: nobody has done it.
Until now, that is. In Norway, that is. Now, where to go from here?