July 28, 2011

Broken peace

I have only been to Norway twice -- the first time in 2001 when peace negotiations between the GRP (now GPH) and the NDFP were resumed after they were terminated in 1999. The second time was last February, again when formal peace talks were resumed after the Arroyo regime had suspended these for six long years.

In both instances, the Royal Norwegian Government hosted the talks, indicating that they have been patiently accompanying the GPH-NDFP peace negotiations for the past ten years, officially serving for the most part as Third Party Facilitator.

Anyone who has been to Norway in the last decade or two, appreciated the peace and tranquility of the surroundings, met the pleasant, quietly hospitable people, and marveled at the prosperity of the country, could never imagine that such a generally pacific people would be the target of horrific terrorist attacks such as the one that took place last Friday.

The mass murder of scores of Norwegians at a youth camp of the Labor Party, preceded by a powerful bomb blast at the executive government quarter of Oslo that killed eight people and wounded several others, calls for a serious examination so that right-thinking and peace-loving peoples everywhere may come to terms with such a tragic event.

Norway may be described, in the community of nations, as "nouveau riche", having only recently risen, after the discovery of oil and natural gas in the North Sea in the late 60s, to having the largest capital reserve per capita in the world, being the second wealthiest nation in terms of monetary value, and having the highest Human Development Index from 2001-2006 and from 2009-2010.

Nonetheless one doesn't find a trace of the arrogance or pretentiousness usually associated with the nouveau riche in the Norwegians, not even government officials or their royalty. Perhaps it is this simple demeanor despite their wealthy status that has helped in no small way in gaining for them acceptability as a third party in peace negotiations, mostly in internal conflict in less developed countries.

In turn, their exposure to and experience in these internal and social conflicts has surely provided them with broader perspectives and deeper insights that could be quite useful in grasping the complexity of the issues behind the bombing and youth camp killings.

The extreme, right-wing views of the Norwegian bomber and mass murderer, stands in stark contrast to the political tradition and culture of Norway.

Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg describes Norway as an “open society” with high regard for democratic principles and practice, including openness to migrants, an acceptance of cultural diversity alongside integration, tolerance for different ideologies, politics and religions (even though Norway has a state religion). It also has the distinction of having a Norwegian Committee award the coveted Nobel Peace Prize.

The arrest of the main suspect, a 32-year-old blond, blue-eyed Norwegian, Anders Behring Brevik, and the discovery of his online 1,518-page manifesto 2083 – A European Declaration of Independence, posted under a pseudonym, has shed light on what motivated these attacks.

Breivik was a zealot for a Christianized Europe that would exclude – through expulsion or some form of extermination, if need be -- immigrants, particularly Muslims, because he believed they were on the road to dominating Europe -- and in the process destroying its civilization -- through their continued immigration and high birth rates.

But contrary to how police described him as a fundamentalist Christian, he is not religious as such but merely extolled Christianity as part and parcel of the supposedly unsullied European culture he imagined he was fighting for.

Without a doubt, Breivik is virulently anti-Muslim to the point of being xenophobic, but it is incorrect to say that he is the mirror image of Osama Bin Laden who was depicted by Western governments and mass media as the ultimate radical Islamist terrorist.

Breivik’s second major obsession was that the European elite had sold out to “cultural Marxists” who he believed controlled the universities, the mainstream media, and almost all the political parties and were thus instrumental in the destruction of western civilization, not least of which through the policy of multiculturalism. (In a photo released before the attacks, Breivik had on a compression suit with an insignia that said "Marxist Hunter - Norway - Multiculti traitor hunting permit".)

To this extreme rightist, the ruling Labor government of Norway that would more aptly be described as left-of-center is “Marxist” and, together with the upcoming generation of Labor Party leaders he slaughtered, are legitimate targets of a violent hate campaign that incorporates deadly terrorist attacks on civilians.

There is a need to expose the sources of such distorted views that combined lethally with Breivik’s militarism to bring about the Norway attacks. The whipping up of xenophobia, racism, false and narrow nationalism, anti-communism, Islamophobia, and anti-terrorism hysteria by right-wing movements and parties has certainly provided the climate that breeds such monsters as Breivik.

From the 1990s the rise of right-wing populist parties through their entry into the legislatures of such countries as Canada, Norway, France, Israel, Russia, Romania and Chile and their partnership with other mainstream parties in coalition governments in Switzerland, Austria, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Italy have provided the ultra rightists with a veneer of legitimacy and a new platform for espousing their views.

In the US, the growth of the political influence and electoral clout of the right-wing Tea Party Movement over the Republican Party is part of the same phenomenon.

Mainstream political parties on the traditional right-“left” spectrum have tolerated, if not encouraged, such right-wing extremism because it has its use in pinning the blame for the current global crisis of capitalism on fall guys – Muslims, immigrant and other minority communities, trade unionists, social activists and reformers and other vulnerable groups.

Not surprisingly, the killings have elicited a chorus of calls for more stringent security and counter-terrorist measures such as greater police visibility, heightened and wider surveillance of suspected or potential terrorist organizations and individuals, interrogations, and more restrictions on if not outright suspension of civil and political rights as well as stricter immigration laws.

I am confident that with Norway's track record as third party in peace negotiations, the RNG and the Norwegian people in general will not settle for dismissing this tragedy as an isolated case and merely resorting to security and counterterrorist measures to prevent its repetition in the future. #

Published in Business World
29-30 July 2011


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