the process is the artwork

Innocence Lost?

«The horrible thing about the Two Minutes Hate was not that one was obliged to act a part, but, on the contrary, that it was impossible to avoid joining in. Within thirty seconds any pretence was always unnecessary. A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge-hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one’s will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic. And yet the rage that one felt was an abstract, undirected emotion which could be switched from one object to another like the flame of a blowlamp.»

– From George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four Part I, Ch.1.

No more bullying! I woke up this morning to birds still singing, but with emptiness in my gut, sensing the presence of a mare.

«Kanskje du spør i angst,
udekket, åpen:
hva skal jeg kjempe med
hva er mitt våpen?»

(Fearful your question,
Defenceless, open
What shall I fight with?
What is my weapon? )

– Nordahl Grieg «Til Ungdommen» (1936), [English translation by Rod Sinclair (2004)] {ref}

This verse repeats in my head as I recall the memorial service for the «2011 Norway attacks» at the Oslo Cathedral in Norway on sunday. The atmosphere in my home country has been of despair, fear, sorrow, apathy, anger. It seems for now that we are united «more in sorrow than in anger». But let’s not undermine our aggressive feelings either. I’m fearful of a future, after life has normalized, where repressed sentiments might resurge under that seemingly controlled surface, where dialogue and communication is yet again strained, giving nutrition to escalating conflicts. Please! Let’s respond to «hate» with intelligence. Love. Hate. Do we even know what these words mean? Let’s discuss difficult subjects with openness, honesty and self-insight.

Our prime minister Jens Stoltenberg and youth camp leader Eskil Pedersen have encouraged  people  to «meet terror and violence with more democracy and will continue to fight against intolerance» (ref). The crown Prince delivered a speech on monday, encouraging freedom of expression.

«Etter 22.juli kan vi aldri tillate oss å tenke at våre meninger er uten betydning. Vi må møte hver dag rustet til kamp for det frie og åpne samfunnet som vi er så glad i. Kjære unge, dere er (…) vårt håp. Det er dere som skal forme og bestemme hvilket Norge vi skal ha fremover. (…) Vi står overfor et valg. Vi kan ikke gjøre det som skjedde ugjort, men vi kan velge hva dette skal gjøre med oss som samfunn og som enkeltmennesker. Vi kan velge at ingen skal måtte stå alene. Vi kan velge å stå sammen. (…) Sammen har vi en jobb å gjøre. Det er en jobb som må gjøres rundt middagsbordet, i kantina, i organisasjonslivet (…). Vi vil ha et Norge hvor vi lever sammen (…) i frihet til å mene og ytre oss.»

– H.R.H Crown Prince Haakon Magnus of Norway. Speech delivered 25.July 2011, after the bombings of the Government Quarters and shootings at Utøya. {Ref}

I mourn with those who have lost their loved ones. I mourn for my city of birth and for a country in turmoil. It depresses me to read, for example, facebook-groups wanting to change the death penalty laws (Norway does not have Death Penalty) or articles saying that «there is nothing to study in the mind of Norway’s mass killer».And yet I also understand the frustration of the vindictive.

Although I don’t believe in dogmas or absolute truths, I can nonetheless find guidance in religious texts of all sorts. These two verses from the Bible offer me hope, in this vindictive world we live in, hardened by fear and ignorance, of which we are all guilty.

You have heard that it was said, “Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.”
But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:43-44).

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Romans 12:17-21).

Am I really awake? Then why do I fear the mare’s presence growing stronger? Breathe, don’t panic. Breathe, don’t resign. I need to understand the mind of Breivik.

«It is said that if you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles; if you do not know your enemies but do know yourself, you will win one and lose one; if you do not know your enemies nor yourself, you will be imperiled in every single battle.» Sun Tzu – The Art of War {Ref}

My intuition tells me that the problem lies much deeper than in the symptomatic violent actions of this single individal. The «Face of Evil», now personified by Anders Behring Breivik, might not be the exception to the rule in this supposedly idyllic society. In my opinion, the waters have been treacherous for quite some time, but we have turned a blind eye to it. Breivik writes in his manifesto that resorting to violence was his last option. Why does he feel this way? Labelling him a madman doesn’t help me understand, to the contrary.

«To use the word “monster” of Breivik is only an attempt to distance ourselves from the worst aspects of our own human nature. Those who are honest with themselves know what crimes they could commit behind the lace curtains» {Ref}

We cannot escape nightmares by hiding under the bed or by sweeping difficult subjects under the carpet. I write these words not to provoke, not to support, not to comdemn. I need to understand. To me, life is meaningless without honesty, without self-insight, without reflection. My bleak hope is that the ideology of dialogue and genuine openness will prevail. We must not bully or exclude those with controversial ideas, but meet them with counter-arguments, otherwise the bullied at some point will become the bullier.

I have long felt that certain subjects cannot be openly discussed in the Norwegian democratic society without being publicly ridiculed. To withdraw from a discussion is both the fault of a powerful bullier as well as the cowardice of the bullied. Let’s be brave enough to discuss these questions honestly, openly, and in a serious manner, without fear or self-censorship, so we don’t end up the totalitarian, paranoic and dystopian world that George Orwell’s warns us about in his book 1984. Without honesty, there is no hope.

“To the future or to the past, to a time when thought is free, when men are different from one another and do not live alone — to a time when truth exists and what is done cannot be undone: From the age of uniformity, from the age of solitude, from the age of Big Brother, from the age of doublethink — greetings”

– From the protagonist of “Nineteen eighty-Four” by George Orwell.


Breivik, Anders Behring. 2083: A European Declaration of Independence. Available from ULR [Downloaded 2011-07-23].

Daily Mail. 2011-07-26. Face of Evil: Killer Gunman Tells Judge his Terror Network has Two more Cells and Says he Acted to Save Europe from Islam. Available from URL [Downloaded 2011-07-26]. 2011. Support Group: Ja til Dødsstraff for Anders Behring Breivik. Available from URL Downloaded 2011-07-27]

Grieg, Nordahl. 1936. Til Ungdommen. Available from on URL Translation to english by Rod Sinclair (2004). [Downloaded 2011-07-24].

Johnson, Boris. 2011-07-25. There is Nothing to Study in the Mind of Norway’s Mass Killer.Available from URL [Downloaded 2011-07-26]. 

Orwell, George. 1948. Nineteed Eighty-Four. Available from URL [Downloaded 2011-07-28]. 

Phillips, Francis. 2011-07-27. To Call Anders Breivik a Monster is to Distance Ourselves from the Worst Aspects of Human Nature. Catholic Available from URL [Downloaded 2011-07-27].

NRK. 2011. Kongen og Dronningen Gråt av Sang i Domkirken. Available from URL [Downloaded 2011-07-28]. 

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. In Act I, Scene 2. Available from URL [Downloaded 2011-07-25].

Stoltenberg, Jens. Sjokkerende og Feigt. Speach by Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg of Norway, 2011-07-22. Available from URL [Downloaded 2011-07-24]

Sun Tzu. Art of War. Quoted in Available from URL[Downloaded 2011-07-28].

Townsend, Mark and Tracy Mcveigh. 2011-07-23. Utøya, the Island Paradise Turned Into Hell by Anders Behring Breivik. Available from URL [Downloaded 2011-07-24] 2011 Norway Attacks. Available from URL [Downloaded 2011-07-28].

10 responses


    “There is no road back to the scent of the Julys when I was young and leapt from a boulder into the ice-cold meltwater of a Norwegian fjord. No road back to when I stood, 17 years old with 10 francs in my pocket, by the harbor in Cannes, France, and watched two grown men in idiotic white uniforms row a woman and her poodle ashore from a yacht. I realized then for the first time that the egalitarian society I came from was the exception and not the rule. No road back to the first time I looked, wide-eyed, at the guards with automatic weapons surrounding another country’s parliament building — a sight that made me shake my head with a mixture of resignation and self-satisfaction, thinking, we don’t need that sort of thing where I come from”

    writes Jo Nesbø in the New York Times,

    July 28, 2011 at 12:27 pm

  2. Several have already asked for a translation of H.R.H Crown Prince Haakon’s Speech from Norwegian to English, and I will give an attempt later. I hope to find it on the internet in an official forum; english is not my native tongue and I have respect for such a historical testament. Newspapers and other media, hungry for news, have done a poor job in their translating efforts so far when it comes to this incident, which seems like normal irresponsible media behaviour.

    The speech can be found on the Royal Family’s website, but only in norwegian for the time being. Normally the english translations are to be found here.

    July 28, 2011 at 2:27 pm

  3. Francis Phillips

    Thank you, Ellen for your post following my blog about Breivik for the Catholic Herald webasite.

    Best wishes – (Mrs) Francis Phillips

    July 28, 2011 at 5:50 pm

  4. “Å bli skjelt ut er en beskjeden pris å betale for det privilegiet det er å kunne skrive kommentarer i en stor avis”

    “Terroren var rettet mot vår samfunnsform, ingen tvil om det. Fred, frihet og demokrati er store ord, men ikke enkle å holde levende etter hvert som annen verdenskrig har kommet på historisk distanse. Det har vært farlig lett å ta dem som en selvfølge.”

    “[utøya-generasjonen] har erfart hva slags krefter et fredelig samfunn kan skjule, som vil vite hvor stor skade én person kan gjøre når fanatismen og gjennomføringskraften er sterk nok, og som vil klare å utvikle den ytringskultur som må til for at faren for at noe lignende skjer igjen, blir så liten som overhodet mulig”

    – Per Anders Madsen, “Krevende Ytringer”, Aftenposten 30.07.11,

    July 29, 2011 at 11:13 pm

  5. “Både nordmenn og innvandrere er lettet over at det ikke var islamsk terror nasjonen ble angrepet av. Da ville vi alle fryktet at voldelige høyreekstreme kunne komme frem overalt. Breiviks enmannskrig har ført til det motsatte, forbrødring mellom innvandrere og nordmenn. Det var det siste han ønsket.

    Vi er lettet fordi han var norsk. Den lettelsen burde uroe oss mye mer enn det den gjør. Det er her vår egentlige sårbarhet ligger. Under overflaten, under appellene, under det fargerike fellesskapet må vi ikke slutte å stille oss kritisk til alt det som skaper utrygghet – uansett hvilken side det kommer fra

    Også venstresiden har skjønt at jihadistene er like farlige for muslimer som for samfunnet generelt. Fordi de er de første som hisser opp høyreekstreme, de snakker jo samme språk. Som Kåre Willoch sa: Like lite som Breivik er en representant for nordmenn, like lite er enhver terrorist en representant for sitt folk”

    – Shabana Rehman Gaarder. “Fra potet til uhyre”. Aftenposten, 2011-07-29.

    July 29, 2011 at 11:17 pm

  6. “Nasjonalistenes, ekstremistenes problem, er at deres identitet som nordmenn, svensker, palestinere, jøder, serbere eller bosniere ikke gir dem noen ro. Så de påberoper seg sitt lands historie, sine myter, sagn, dikt, tradisjoner, sanger og andre tidligere grupperinger som definerer seg mot «de andre». I en sånn forestillingsverden går hukommelsestap foran fakta, og religionen, læren eller kulturarven merkes som et evig monument, i stedet for en evig foranderlig prosess”

    – Mustafa Can. 2011-07-30. “Med eller uten ekstremistens velsignelse”.

    July 31, 2011 at 1:03 pm

  7. “Kunne dette skjedd min bror, spurte den norske terrorforskeren Laila Bokhari da hun reiste til sitt andre hjemland for å studere hjemmeavlet terrorisme i Pakistan. Hun ville møte jihadistene, høre deres historier og lese deres manifester i filler. Svaret på spørsmålet ble ja. Det kunne skjedd hennes bror, under de gale omstendigheter, med den rette propagandaen. Nå må nordmenn stille seg det samme spørsmålet.”

    – Shabana Rehman Gaarder. “Fra potet til uhyre”. Aftenposten, 2011-07-29.

    July 31, 2011 at 1:05 pm

  8. “Vi er «vi som er for høgare bensinprisar» og «vi som er mot nedlegging av lokalsjukehus». Vi er mot strandsonelova og for rovdyr – eller mot. Mange vil ha Jens Stoltenberg som statsminister, mange vil ha Erna Solberg – og nokre vil ikkje ha nokon av dei. Om noko kjenneteiknar dette store vi-et i Noreg, er det ikkje sikkert det er kjærleiken til medmenneska rundt oss, kanskje er det like gjerne irritasjonen.

    I det retoriske vi-et som er skapt siste veka, presser det seg no også fram tvilande røyster av folk som til dømes ikkje er sikre på om politiet gjorde ein god jobb på Utøya eller meiner Knut Storberget bør vurdere stillinga sin. På utsida av samhaldet er gjerne også dei som no er fulle av raseri mot mannen som har tatt så mange liv, som kjenner seg fredlause i eit hat det offisielt ikkje er lov til å ha.

    Andre sit i augneblinken heilt stille i båten og seier ikkje kva dei tenkjer om det politiske landskapet i Noreg.

    Det hargjerne vore fint at det har vore slik – ei stund. Etter vantru, sjokk og sorg, treng ein tid til å summe seg. Men ein bør ikkje summe seg for lenge. Fellesskapskjensla, som i ein augneblink kan vere fin, kan fort kjennast både klam og lummer – og ho kan skape mange nye utanforskap.”

    – Hilde Sandvik, 02.08.2011. Vi som slår sprekker.

    August 2, 2011 at 1:02 pm

  9. “Dersom landet etter 22.07 syner seg å bli meir einsretta og mindre mangfaldig i synspunkt og ytringar, er det ikkje demokratiet som har vunne. Det er terroren.”

    – Hilde Sandvik, 02.08.2011. Vi som slår sprekker.

    August 2, 2011 at 1:04 pm

  10. “Med fare for å bli oppfattet som kald og kynisk, melder jeg meg herved ut av de store kjærlighetsprosjektene. (…) I et moderne, heterogent og mangfoldig samfunn er det ikke snakk om å praktisere kjærlighet mellom borgere og organisasjoner. Klarer vi å forsvare den pressede ytringsfriheten, selv når den tillater ytringer som er fulle av hat og fordommer, har vi vunnet enda et slag for demokratiet. Det er i den saklige, rasjonelle og opplyste debatten at hatideologier og -tendenser kan bli avkledd og bekjempet.”

    Sara Azmeh Rasmussen. Politisert Nestekjærlighet. Aftenposten 31.08.11. Tilgjengelig fra

    August 31, 2011 at 2:15 pm

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