Ten years after, still light years apart

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Apologies for the recent bout of radio silence – suffice to say that having my first book published has proved to be more work than I expected.

For me, being a writer and working in communications is the best job imaginable, but like most people in my situation, I have to keep producing in order to survive.

Thankfully, this work takes my to the heart of the things and places and ideas that appeal to me.

Ten days ago, my work brought me back to Oslo for the first time since Anders Behring Breivik shattered the peace with his bomb and his guns.

What I saw surprised and comforted me in equal measure.

No lockdown at the airport.

No armed police on every street corner.

No security guards in the lobby of the hotel by the central station.

No sense of fear and foreboding.

Whereas terrorist attacks in New York and London provoked fear and loathing and a lust for revenge, the Norwegian people have heeded the call of prime minister Jens Stoltenberg.

More democracy.

In short, in the aftermath of Breivik’s attacks, little has changed.

Long after the flowers left in memory of those who died have wilted, those feelings inspired by Stoltenberg’s reaction to the horror remain strong.

More dialogue. More understanding. More compromise.

There is still, of course, opposition to immigration in some quarters. These things don’t disappear overnight.

The difference is that that debate is now stripped of the dangerous provocative rhetoric that is still on the rise in other European countries.

Whereas the rest of Europe engages in megaphone diplomacy, shouting from its entrenched positions on left and right, Norway is in reasoned conversation with itself.

The very fact that a country that had the heart ripped out of it only a few short weeks ago can do so is proof that Behring Breivik and his extremist counterparts have lost the ideological battle he claimed to be waging; they have been shown up for the irrational, illogical, selfish demagogues they are.

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His manifesto, the much-hyped handbook of the hard right, has proved not to be the new European testament; instead, it is the narcissistic ravings of a thankfully small minority.

The silence from the Sweden Democrats is perhaps the greatest symbol of all; for such parties, there is nothing left to say that hasn’t been drowned out by Breivik’s bombs and bullets.

In his fury, Breivik has killed the thing he loved the most; his vision of the re-establishment of an ethnically pure Scandinavia died along with his victims.

The calm that quickly returned to the Oslo streets is in sharp contrast to yesterday’s scenes in New York. Ten years ago, America’s answer to a similar attack was the “war on terror”.

Yesterday, they gathered at Ground Zero to remember- “never forget” was the mantra.

For the hundreds of thousands who have lost their lives since that awful day – British and American servicemen and women among them – “never forgive” may have been more appropriate.

SInce 9/11 the discourse in the US has hardened considerably, and political positions remain as entrenched as ever.

Domestically at least, peace is till a long way off.

What tends to get forgotten is that after 9/11 America started a war on terror, and wound up at a war with itself.

The fear, distrust and loathing aimed at the likes of Mohammed Atta and Bin Laden and selfishly nurtured by both sides are now directed at the other side of the House. Ten years on, democracy is still held hostage by their legacy.

In Oslo, peace has already returned. In the face of a similar unspeakable evil, common sense prevailed.

The reason? More democracy.

Those few short hours in Oslo were enough to convince me that if something as precious as democracy is worth fighting for, fighting for it should be our very last last resort.

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3 thoughts on “Ten years after, still light years apart

  1. There is far too much money to be made from convincing the American people to continually fight “wars” on terror, drugs, and whatever else they can use to incite fear. The American education system isn’t doing anyone any favors either.

  2. Pingback: Ten years after, still light years apart | Journalist.ie