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Breivik shows there is no solution to 9/11

By Mark Christensen - posted Wednesday, 7 September 2011

You can't help but feel our response to human atrocity is a profound test of some kind, part of a deeper purpose, albeit one that continues to be misapprehended in an unknown and surely undeserved way.

What is recognized is the importance of honesty and impartiality, even amidst agonising grief and anger.

Prime Minister Stoltenberg told his bewildered kin that the savagery of Anders Breivik would bring "more democracy, more openness, and more humanity." The relaxed, peaceful Norwegian way of life would triumph.


Similar sentiments were voiced after 9/11. Terror would not win out. Our freedom couldn't be taken, which is true, of course. Rather, Western nations have sacrificed it for the vain promise of a risk-free existence, the quintessential must-have accessory.

I get the regulatory precautions, but let's please not fool ourselves into believing they're virtuous or that we had no choice but to impose them. Deplorable violence shouldn't affect how society operates but it does, just as some marry for financial security while professing love, only to then blame others for the wretchedness that comes from yielding to your fears.

Witness the hurried, guilty rage should it be inferred a suicide bomber or mass murderer may have some insight to offer.

I refuse to debate an extremist sympathizer! How could you possibly take their side?

As Stanley Fish courageously pointed out in The New York Times shortly after 9/11, accounting for human behaviour, however appalling, doesn't amount to condoning it.

Breivik's grievances are not unwarranted. We've been at this freedom caper for some time, yet the striving and progress hasn't been liberating. "The maladies of affluence," writes Clive Hamilton in The Freedom Paradox, "such as drug dependence, obesity, loneliness, and psychological disorders ranging from depression, anxiety and compulsive behaviours to a widespread but ill-defined anomie, suggests that the psychological wellbeing of citizens in rich countries is in decline."


Western civilization is on the slide and those at the helm have no clue on how to arrest the momentum. Well-worn economic and social policy levers are increasingly ineffective, if not counter-productive. Mandated multiculturalism in Europe and elsewhere has become a basis for discord, not unity.

And we didn't need ten futile years in the war of terror to confirm there's no foolproof pre-emptive response to carefully planned, wilful aggression.

The only sensible comeback, confides Fish, is to "invoke the particular lived values that unite us." Clichéd mantras – I have seen the face of evil, these are irrational madmen – are inaccurate and unhelpful, as one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter. Cease arguing over the truth, complaining how others fall short of your values, and take responsibility for what is right by acting it out, unconditionally.

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About the Author

Mark is a social and political commentator, with a background in economics. He also has an abiding interest in philosophy and theology, and is trying to write a book on the nature of reality. He blogs here.

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Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons License.

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