Understanding the Destruction in Norway: Perspective of a Norwegian Youth
On Saturday, after learning in more detail of the tragic violence that occurred in Norway, I decided to contact my close friend Kate, who is Norwegian, to try and understand how she and her fellow countrymen were coming to terms with that happened in their homeland. Below is the transcribed conversation that we had this weekend.
NL: What was your initial thought when you heard about the incidents? KM: When news of the bomb came in, I think we all initially thought there must be some natural explanation,that it was an accident – a gas explosion, helicopter crash, car fire – the thought of an act of terror didn’t even cross people’s minds. When the news of the shootings at Utoya started coming in, the initial thoughts where simply “what on earth is going on” – we are just not mentally prepared for something like this in Norway. I think people simply didn’t know what to think – some people’s thoughts might have gone to known terrorist groups but as there were no press statements from them claiming the attacks I don’t think anyone really put much weight behind those thoughts at all.
NL: What were you doing? KM: I was work in London – although I didn’t get much work done after about 3pm…
NL: Has anything like this ever caused so much confusion for Norwegians before? KM: Not since WW2. Norway has always been a very safe and calm country. Much of the confusion of Friday’s tragedy came from the utter disbelief that something like this might have happened here.
NL: How do you think schools and other youth organizations in Norway will react to what happened? KM: I think focus will be put on comforting each other, trying to understand the reason behind the horrendous act and reflecting on how to make the Norwegian society feel safe again. I expect there will be a lot of questions and a lot of fear but this will be addressed with solidarity and compassion – it is important that we address these issues in a calm and rational manner and prevent the fear from taking over.
NL: Have you spoken to any young people about this yet? KM: The young people of Norway appear to be handling the situation with typical Norwegian collectedness. People are being very open with each other, sharing their experiences and gathering to show support, to grieve and to eventually let the healing process commence. The general mood is of shock and sorrow but also defiance and pride.
NL: How will the govt. be affected immediately and perhaps over time? KM: The Prime Minister has already issued a very strong message to the perpetrator and others of his kind that this kind of atrocious acts will not change Norwegian society. We will not be bullied into changing the way our society is built – we will fight their acts of evil with more openness, more communication, more democracy. I would expect both the governments and Norwegians in general will be more vigilant in the fight against extremism of any kind, but I don’t think daily life in Norway will be greatly affected – there will always be a scar on the Norwegian soul but we will not let this evil win by changing our lives and our values. The answer is not more rules and regulations, but to increase social trust, and keep the spirit of the Norwegian society alive and stronger than ever.
NL: What did your friends and family initially think? KM: I don’t think anyone knew what to think at all – the shock was too great. Most people wanted information before making a judgement and the general vibe was one of wait and see what comes to light before making any rash judgements. Everyone is upset and hurt and struggling to come to terms with the realisation that things like this can happen even in our small, safe country.
NL: How is the nation as a whole coming together? KM: I have never been more proud of being Norwegian. The whole nation has really come together to support each other through the tough times. People are hurt, shocked and angry, but the level of compassion has been outstanding, if not surprising to Norwegians. We are a very small country, and very close. The Norwegian poet Nordahl Grieg wrote in 1940 when WW2 struck Norway “We are so very few in this country, every fallen is brother or friend”. And this still rings through – everyone knows someone who lost their lives on Friday or knows a friend who does. Just as remarkable though is the support we have received from the rest of Europe and the US – our Nordic neighbours Sweden and Denmark in particular. It means a terrible lot to little Norway to feel that it does not stand alone. Norwegians are a strong, calm and collected people and it is this stoicism that will see us safely through this. We will stand together.
NL: What can everyone learn from the tragedy in the summer camp? KM: That to allow any kind of extremist views to take root and develop is very dangerous. We must fight these views with knowledge and openness. So many of their (extremist) views are founded in fear, usually of the unknown and what they perceive as dangerous to their way of life.
NL: What can be done to remember the young people who passed away? KM: Honour their memory by not letting the evil acts of 22/07 change our way of life. They cannot shock us into silence and they cannot terrorise us into accepting their beliefs. The victims will not be forgotten and their memories and their beliefs will be kept alive every day by all of us carrying on our lives in freedom and sustaining our open society.