søndag 24. juli 2011

Sanity is international and interreligious

I have received messages from my friends outside Norway having heard about the tragedy happening on Friday 22nd of July, when a Norwegian nationalist extremist killed at least 76 people. The people sending me messages of concern are people who care, and people who have not dehumanised me because of having different passports, mother tongues or religion. These people are doing the opposite of Anders Breivik, the assassin behind the massacre at Utøya and the bomb attack in Oslo centre. My friends see me, other citizens of Oslo, the victims and their families, relatives and friends as individuals worthy of respect. The assasin did not. His ideology - extreme nationalism - cherish lines in the sand and mythological history, not extending far enough back in time, as the most important in life. This ideology, along with certain other political ideologies, threatens with wiping out what healthy religious practice and good ethical philosophy have tried to develop: compassion for all human beings and equality, maybe not of material possessions, but of personal worth.

Extreme nationalism manifests itself in violence everywhere in the world. However, as all educated people know, nationalism is a quite new ideology, which has its origins in the 19th century. Its dire concequences could be seen in the politics of Nazi Germany, and the nazi protectorates, and other right-wing authoritarian regimes. It could also be seen in the hidden Russian chauvinism of the Soviet Union, where national minorities were in a higher risk of repression than ethnic Russians. It can be seen in the actions of Hindu nationalist groupings in India, like Shiv Sena. It has been seen in tribal strife in Africa. It has been seen in the violent actions of IRA, or Palestinian activists and Israeli reactions. Less violent manifestations have been seen in the immoral treatment of certain asylum seekers in Norway, like the Ethiopian group having worked in Norway for years, paid taxes, learnt Norwegian and had children in Norway, whom the politicans have punished by taking their jobs and threatening with throwing them out of the country. These are the very people having paid parts of the politicians´ wages. In this case we have seen apathy from most of the Norwegian titulars. It shows us one thing: citizenship, modernity and political ideology have let people accept different moral treatment of certain groups than others. In certain discussions regarding this topic I have been met with the answer "... but it is OUR country". Differences in my criteria and these people´s criteria have their roots in the following: whereas I emphasize action, the fact that the Ethiopian group has contributed and done something for the rest and also has the same value because they are human beings and actually present, the others emphasize some imagined implisit quality or trait lying in people. This is manifest in their passport. 

Nationalism has been growing in Europe recently, and while most of the people are either apathic or against it, those who are not have been let do what they want. They have been posting their hatred on internet communities, online newspapers and the likes of it, without a proper response. The reason why is that lots of us are disgusted by the extreme nationalists´ dehumanisation of people, and lots of people feel that it is impossible to talk with these people. However - this situation has been there before. This was also the reactions of lots of Europeans when they saw the rise of Nazism. Apathy and passsivity don´t solve anything.

On the other hand - violent nationalism thrives in a climate of dualism. Where it is common and considered natural to draw lines in the sand between you and me, whether in terms of nationality, political view, religion, sexual orientation or anything similar, and considering these absolute - this mentality will more seldom be questioned. Computer games where the good guy has to shoot the evil zombies might not be so innocent as we think. For me - morality has to do with actions and not with qualities. 

Because speaking deeply - there are no inherent qualities. We are all human. This means we have a potential for change. This might be in a good direction or a bad direction. However, forgetting this - that the actions are what counts, might lead to dehumanisation. For the assassin killing so many people, these people were no people. They were manifestations of his enemy ideology, and just like a computer hero he went around shooting them. This mentality is utterly dangerous. 

Although we need to protest against wicked opinions, ideology and mentality, what we need most strongly to condemn is bad actions. Some actions are illegal. If the law is fair, it condemns certain actions, not imagined qualities. This means murder and violence are horrible actions. Furthermore, this means there should be no death penalty for any crime. This only carries on the mental dualism. No person is static. There is always a potential for change. Even the hardest stone is softened by the sea. 

One of my most cherished Buddhist tales is about the murderer Angulimala who collected fingers, but later in life he became a Buddhist and a pacifist. There is always hope for change in a positive direction. Seeing a person as lost in something you don´t like, and judging that person as undeserving of life, already contains the seed of dehumanisation - the start point of all totalitarian ideologies and mindsets. 

Ingen kommentarer: