Monday, July 25, 2011

Oslo, Utoya, and Assumptions: Norwegian Tragedy as a Rorschach Test

The Oslo bombing and shootings on Utoya island, near Oslo, have been called a terrorist attack. I think that's accurate: although the point could be debated.

I've read that Anders Behring Breivik's decision to kill a great many of his fellow-Norwegians is an example of a dire threat. Depending on who's writing, it's an example of the threat of:
  • The West
  • Globalism
  • Multiculturalism
  • Neo-Nazis
Also depending on who's writing, the (perceived) threat is either spelled out in detail; or implied.

If I dug around, I'd probably discover folks who believe that Muslims are 'really' behind the killings - somehow. Or that perennial favorite, the CIA.

A Strange Way to Save Norway

Breivik apparently thought he was saving Norway - by killing Norwegians. I've got few words to say about that.1

Ellis Island and 'American' Names

Maybe you've read about the infamous 'Ellis Island' renamings, where someone decided that Mirek Svoboda, for example, should be Mark Smith: an "American" name.

Which is an example of what multiculturalism is not.And I'm not getting off-topic so much as ahead of myself.

Names, Ethnicity, and the News

What I've seen in the news doesn't say much at all about the ethnicity of the victims. My guess is that most of them are the (usually) blue eyed, melanin-deficient folks I descended from.

We're not all tall and blond, by the way - which is another topic.

Judging from some online search strings I've run into, there's a story going around that the teens and young adults killed on Utoya island were Asian. Or African. Not 'ethnic Norwegian,' anyway. An official list of victims hasn't been released, as far as I know: but names that are in the news of people killed or missing and feared dead include:
  • Trond Berntsen
  • Johannes Buø
  • Tore Eikeland
  • Syvert Knudsen
  • Hanne Kristine
  • Tarald Mjelde
Those are not exactly Asian-sounding names. But maybe folks who emigrated to Norway gave their kids Norwegian names - in an effort to fit in?

Maybe.

Norway Massacre as a Rorschach Test

I think the appalling killings in Norway are a sort of Rorschach test, where what folks say they see tells more about what's happening in their minds than what happened in and near Oslo.

And no: I do not think that an international cabal of psychologists arranged for the killings, as part of some depraved experiment.

The three posts I wrote on Saturday reflect - strongly - my assumption that killing all those folks was wrong. And, as news of who had done the killing - and why - my view that the mass murder/terrorist attack was an appalling example of chauvinism:
I still think that I'm right about that, but: I would, wouldn't I?

Let's take a look at some of the 'real meaning' that folks see in the Norwegian tragedy.

The Threat of the West?

A fellow who saw the attack - and news coverage - as an example of 'the threat of The West' was convinced that descriptions of the "conservative Christian Nationalist" as a "madman" was "airbrushing" the incident. (July 23, 2011)

I'm sure he is quite sincere.

The Threat of Globalization?

"Globalization" is something that a fair number of folks are interested in, concerned about, or scared silly of.

So: What's "globalization?" Depending on who you read, globalization is:
  1. "Growth to a global or worldwide scale"
    (Princeton's WordNet)
  2. "...the increasing unification of the world's economic order through reduction of such barriers to international trade as tariffs, export fees, and import quotas"
    (Wikipedia)
  3. "A global movement to increase the flow of goods, services, people, real capital, and money across national borders in order to create a more integrated and interdependent world economy" (Glossary, International Education, Faculty of Education, York University)
My take on "globalization," at least in the second and third meanings in that list, is that - it's happening. And has been, for hundreds of years. Thousands.

Not steadily, of course - but as centuries pile up, folks have tended to trade with each other faster, over longer distances. And governments have gone from clans and families to nations and the occasional empire. Now we've got leagues and coalitions, and more terms that mean 'a bunch of nations cooperating.'

We've come along way since the days when Jericho got started.

People, Globalization, and Problems

I think that "globalization" could be a problem. So could capitalism, democracy, or monarchy. If done the wrong way. I've posted about that sort of thing before:
The Catholic Church has been looking at globalization. Here's what I found, after a quick look through the Holy See's website:
  1. "Globalization - Ethical and Institutional Concerns" (pdf)
    The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (2001)
  2. "Intervention by the Holy See Delegation at the 90th Session of the International Labour Conference"
    (June 17, 2002)
  3. "Final Declaration of the Symposium on: The economic and social development of Africa in the age of globalization"
    Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace (2004)
Here are samples from the second and third items:
"...Globalization must not be allowed to become an ideology, neither a pro-Globalization ideology nor an anti-Globalization ideology. We must rather attempt to verify objectively where globalization has worked for the benefit of broad sectors of society, and where it has not. We must identify why and how Globalization has worked well or worked badly. We must identify what is the optimum mix of elements that leads to a socially favourable integration into the globalization process, and which are the elements that foster marginalation...."
("Intervention by the Holy See Delegation at the 90th Session of the International Labour Conference")

"...Those taking part in the Symposium are unanimous in believing that the African peoples should be the subjects and protagonists of their own future and their own cultural, civil, social and economic development. The right of the African Peoples to development should be pursued as a new path for their development. It is a matter of a fundamental perspective, widely emphasized for its considerable moral, cultural and political importance which must influence every approach to the question of African development.

"Africa as an object of assistance must indeed become the subject of a convinced and crucial partnership..."
("Final Declaration of the Symposium on: The economic and social development of Africa
in the age of globalization
")
I'm pretty sure that some folks won't like that. Particularly those who cherish a "pro-Globalization ideology" or "anti-Globalization ideology."

What do I think of "globalization" - in the economic, political, and cultural sense?

I'm a practicing Catholic, so I can't support a globalization ideology: pro- or anti-.

I think trying to stop globalization makes about as much sense as trying to stop language from changing. It can be done - but I think we all have more to gain from continuing to deal with each other. I also think that - know that - there are ethical concerns with globalization. And just about everything else people do.

Do I think globalization is all good or all bad? No.

I don't think globalization is good or bad. I think it's got parts that work, and parts that don't work. Which is pretty much what the Holy See delegation to the 90th International Labor Conference said: "...We must identify why and how Globalization has worked well or worked badly...."

The Threat of Multiculturalism?

Definition time again. "Multiculturalism" is a term that seems to have had its meaning changed in the last few decades. Today, the term apparently means:
  • "the doctrine that several different cultures (rather than one national culture) can coexist peacefully and equitably in a single country" (Princeton's WordNet)
I can see how that sort of multiculturalism could look like a dire threat to someone who is part of a nation's majority - or dominant - culture. Accepting multiculturalism would mean that 'those people over there' couldn't be forced to wear the 'right' clothes, or go to the 'right' church, or watch the 'right' television programs.

Multiculturalism and Me

Although more that 1,000,000,000 Catholics are alive today - here in America, we're a minority. As someone in a relatively small (in this nation) counterculture - I don't necessarily see multiculturalism as a threat.

Which is just as well, considering what the Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People said in January of 2003:
"...Nation-states would consider them [immigrants] a threat to cultural homogeneity. Thus, historically, they very often tried to control the formation of ethnic communities either through assimilation or segregation. Sometimes they were pressured to give up their original culture and acquire the culture of the host country...."2
Maybe that sounds 'un-American.' I don't think so: but then I've long since noticed that this country is much more like a crazy quilt than a melting pot. Culturally, that is. I think that one of America's great strengths is that we often let folks bring new ideas, and improve old ones. Even if "we've never done it that way before." And that's yet another topic.

The Threat of Neo-Nazis?

I acknowledge that there are folks who pattern their beliefs on those of the national socialist party of Germany - the one that made Dachau possible - and that they can legitimately be called "neo-Nazis."

On the other hand, I'm dubious about calling every national chauvinist with pale skin a "neo-Nazi." Do I think such a person is parochial? Probably. Dangerous? Possibly. A Nazi, neo- or otherwise? Unless the person claims allegiance to the German national socialists of the '30s and '40s - unlikely, in my opinion.

Photos of Breivik hint that he's as prone to sunburn as I am. His actions - which he makes no secret of - are deplorable. But - "neo-Nazi?" That sounds like an emotionally-charged slogan, calculated to increase newspaper sales: not necessarily a verifiable fact.

Related posts:
Sort-of-related posts:
News and views:

1 Saving Norway - By Killing Norwegians? I am not making this up.
Anders Behring Breivik apparently thought that Norway, and Norwegian culture, were threatened by Muslims, and multiculturalism, and globalism and foreigners, and stuff like that. There's probably an element of truth to that.

Do I think it makes sense to
  • Save Norway by killing Norwegians?
    • No: I do not
    • Even if it's in the allegedly-noble cause of starting a race war in Europe?
      • Emphatically no
  • Kill anybody in order to start a war against people who don't look like Anders Behring Breivik?
    • No: I do not.
Do I think war is the ultimate evil? No: I do not. And I've posted about that before:
What Breivik seems to have wanted is the sort of thing that folks are allowed to meet with armed force. (Catechism of the Catholic Church, 2309)

Which, for some folks, might 'prove' that the Catholic Church is a warmonger oppressor. Which isn't quite another topic.

2 Excerpt from "Renewal Movements and the Evangelization of Families in the Diaspora*"
Archbishop Stephen Fumio HAMAO President Pontifical Council, Pontifical Council for the Pastoral Care of Migrants and Itinerant People (January 2003):
"In today's world characterized also by human mobility, families who leave their homeland, due to severe economic conditions, environmental pressure, natural calamities, wars or persecutions for reasons of race, ideology, culture or creed, may find themselves in a context of geographic and/or social diaspora.[1] Migrant and refugee families may therefore be forced to live in a country which is quite far from their own, different in language, culture and even religion. Suddenly they are among people who find them strange and they may feel, in varying degrees, unwelcome.

In reality, they need much more understanding than we realize because, at least initially, families in general move only when it is their very survival that is at stake. According to Patrick Taran, an ILO migration expert, 'it is less the absolute differences between countries that motivate most migration; rather, people tend to move only when their situation and that of their families falls below a critical threshold of tolerance, below which they no longer perceive possibilities of survival according to local norms of safety, dignity and well-being.'[2]


"Under these conditions, the starting point for these families, at departure, is already a traumatic experience. Their hope for a better future may grow even dimmer in the destination country where they are met with enormous difficulties. A document produced by Caritas Internationalis identified the following problems:

"The cultural differences which the family is forced to confront without any preparation, the difficulties of learning other languages, the intergenerational problems often tied to the difficult mix of traditions and customs of the countries of origin and those of the new places, psychological trauma, the sense of insecurity and uncertainty about the future: these are some of the problems which must be confronted by a family forced to migrate. These problems which often develop in conditions of extreme poverty can be exacerbated with migration, whether it be through internal displacement, in refugee camps or on the periphery of large cities. Such migration often is undertaken in an atmosphere of a total lack of privacy and in an absence of support services of any type. Thus migration often results in the accentuation of such negative phenomena as begging, the sale of minors, and usury, all of which end up causing greater vulnerability among those who are already weak.[3]

"There is still another reason why migrant and refugee families and ethnic minorities, in general, have been relegated to the diaspora. Nation-states would consider them a threat to cultural homogeneity. Thus, historically, they very often tried to control the formation of ethnic communities either through assimilation or segregation. Sometimes they were pressured to give up their original culture and acquire the culture of the host country. Fortunately, assimilationist practices were later on dropped in favor of multiculturalism. This means that immigrants are now encouraged to integrate into the host society while retaining their cultural distinctiveness. [4]...."
("Renewal Movements and the Evangelization of Families in the Diaspora)

2 comments:

Brigid said...

The section headings get kinda big from here down: "Norway Massacre as a Rorschach Test"

The Jericho what? "We've come along way since the Jericho got started."

Word missing... maybe: "to someone who in a nation's majority"

The Friendly Neighborhood Proofreader

Brian Gill said...

Brigid,

That super-size heading idea didn't quite work, did it? I've restored those to the usual format.

The others: found, fixed and thanks!

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I block a few of the more obvious dubious advertisers.

For example: psychic anything, numerology, mediums, and related practices are on the no-no list for Catholics. It has to do with the Church's stand on divination. I try to block those ads.

Sometime regrettable advertisements get through, anyway.

Bottom line? What that service displays reflects the local culture's norms, - not Catholic teaching.