I feel rather uncertain about posting anything today, given the events in Norway. I feel a profound sense of shock, I have lost all sense of feeling about what I should be feeling. Is it a deep need to rationalise it away?
Do I want to walk from all news and just let it pass? Just another incident in an evil world, see it as having no real consequence except of course for everyone in Norway who will be in deep pain.
Do I want to get every tiny piece of news? Seize on some small element which puts it all a long way away from me, find some one to blame, find some way of thinking which I can blame.
Do I see it as something that should make me more aware of my own security? Is it a trigger to much deeper shifts in how people can and will behave in the future?
Do I respond as a Psychologist? Do I just throw some thoughts into the pot and hope some may help, me and others?
The word that will not go away for me is madness. But how is this madness made up? Maybe we should explore madness.
Let’s compare it to some pretty decent rules of life:
1. For everything we do and say, we should always understand it is within a context of other people, other people’s feelings, other people’s rights. When we travel the world we naturally understand the need to behave in relation to the norms of where we are, the ‘When in Rome’ principle. No matter how global we become, no matter how universal the issues are, our rights are always limited, by virtue, and I use that word deliberately, of our being fellow citizens with others.
2. Ends do not justify means, this applies to individuals, groups, behaviour at work, our politics and our religion. We should not ‘Trash the place’ for profit, we should not Enslave, we should not demand people listen, whether it is an ad for a mobile phone or an ad for a political viewpoint, we should always, ‘What are the implications for how I am doing this?’ and some other benefit should not matter much.
One of the toughest questions we ever ask ourselves is:
‘Is this right or is it wrong?’
In a world of complexity where one thing is confounded with another, this question sometimes seems too difficult to answer. But I think it has always been a difficult question, and it has always been very important to ask it, even if we struggle with the answer.
What happened in Norway was evil. Not just wrong, it was evil. Evil is when the two rules of decent behaviour above are put aside totally. The original idea was evil, the planning was evil, the execution was evil. There is no moral uncertainty about such acts of evil.
I hope whatever analysis is put on events, and it will be there in abundance, we don’t lose hold of the simple fact that what happened was evil. Whatever might be wrong with society, with politics, with religion, it excuses nothing. The act was evil. Of that I am sure.