Our Norwegian correspondent The Observer has translated a surprising op-ed about the official state ideology in Norway, which failed so miserably in the wake of the Breivik massacre.
The translator includes this note:
I have translated an op-ed by Ole Gjems Onstad which brilliantly exposes some of the totalitarian traits found within the Labour Party in Norway. It paints a very clear picture of an ideology that demands obedience and detests dissent.
This op-ed also brilliantly exposes the bizarre consensus mentality that is forced upon the people of Norway. In a scary kind of way it has similarities to the obedience culture found in places like North Korea.
One possible explanation for such a refreshing expression of opinion may be that the article below was published on the BI Business School website. BI is an independent institution, and not an arm of the government — a relative rarity in Norway:
Ideologies that have no basis in reality
An op-ed on the terrorist attack at Utøya by Ole Gjems Onstad
We have felt pride in having a penal code that focuses on illnesses and disregards personal responsibility.
Now we are unable to punish Norway’s worst mass murderer in modern times.
It is quite possible that Norwegian prosecutors would be unsuccessful in bringing Hitler and Stalin to justice. Would a Norwegian court accept that these dictators were sane, in a psychiatric sense?
Utøya has exposed Norway as an ideological country. The ideology that AUF [Arbeidernes Ungdomsfylking, the Labour Party’s youth organization] espouse has contributed to a penal code that has made it impossible to punish the man who killed them. That’s not a reward worthy of their efforts; it’s bitter irony.
The Labour Party has often chosen to normalize psychotics and rehabilitate murderers rather than protect the public. Now that the murderer has been sentenced to undergo treatment, it’s unlikely that he will be released soon, but the possibility is still there.
Because of our oil wealth, being Norwegian often means being sanctimonious. Norwegian ideologies rarely meet reality: We are progressive and humane; we treat where others chose to punish.
Psychology teaches us that in time of crisis defence mechanisms are strengthened. Many representatives from the ideological Norway now say that we must stand by the principles in extreme situations.
Norway houses its biggest mass murderer in a comfortable prison where he has three rooms: one for work, one for training and one for recreation and rest. He has two defence attorneys. No one knows what the final bill will be. When murdering so many, publicly paid defence attorneys have a lot of things to cover.
The prison administration keeps stressing that the mass murderer is of course entitled to the exact same treatment as the other prisoners. A well-known Norwegian defence attorney said in a TV talk show that the killer must be treated with respect. Such statements are ideologically correct in Norway, but they may also be regarded as confused, alienated, and blind.
To recognize the inner thunder
Part of the Norwegian ideology that has been exposed through Utøya is the fear of being angry. The fact that so few have demanded retaliation is considered positive. The desire for revenge is primitive and worthy of condemnation.
But it is natural to wish revenge on someone who caused so much pain. If there was ever a day in modern Norwegian history when it was appropriate to recognize this inner thunder, it was on July 22, 2011.
When it happened, the police lacked the masculine aggressive assertiveness that could have changed the outcome. Only afterwards have the police become indignant — of those who criticize their indecisiveness
Not permitted to become angry
In the aftermath of July 22, the Prime Minister and others have said that we should not look for scapegoats. This rhetorical prohibition of becoming angry has ensured that no one has been held accountable. Are we equally hesitant to look for scapegoats when violations of labour and tax laws occur?
When the government fails, Norwegian ideology requires that the indignation be kept in check.
Failed when it really mattered
Part of the Norwegian ideology is that we are a very democratic country. July 22 shows us that we also fail in this regard, when it really matters:
Government employees who were in the building when the bomb went off have been ordered not to talk to the press.
The police categorically refuse to give any information, and act as a non-democratic state within the state.
The Government neglects fundamental parliamentary rules by appointing a commission to investigate itself.
The main opposition party, Høyre (Conservatives), have for five months hardly said a critical word about this terrible historical event.
Shattered the Norwegian ideology
On July 22, reality shattered the Norwegian ideology, but only for a brief moment — it quickly bounced back again — in funeral eulogies and in media reports. Unity was praised, and the courage to apologize for unnecessary death was missing.
A tenet of the new Norwegian ideology is that oil money will save us from everything. The limitless police resources used after the disaster, major victim compensation, and an army of lawyers. Official Norway seems to think that oil money can buy them a free pass from the charges of unnecessary young death.
Ideology instead of thanks
The Government of course refused to give medals to those who didn’t fail: ordinary citizens on Utvika Camping who felt a flame in their inner selves, and dared, and didn’t hesitate
To give medals to ordinary citizens in this situation would break with the Labour Party’s official ideology and expose the failure of the police. The ideology takes precedent over the praise — even when lives were at stake. It’s arrogant, embarrassingly petty, and ungrateful. Instead there will be an official memorial — that celebrates the State — and the ideology that failed.
It’s painful, but true: Utøya was a place where ideologies that caused so much to go wrong were nurtured. It’s understandable that so many in the AUF don’t want the island to disappear.
But if one wishes to show respect for the dead by learning, one has to let go of ideologies that have no basis in reality.