Tuesday, July 26, 2011

On Norway's tragedy

 Turid Parmann, who lives in Bergen, Norway.

I received this note from my cousin, Turid Parmann, who I visited in May 2011 in Bergen:

Friday was a terrible day in Norway. I have just taken part in a torchlight and flower procession in our little town of Os. More people took part than normally would on May 17th. Processions have been arranged all over Norway today, and also in Bergen probably more people took part than on May 17th.

Norway has changed - and will change - for the better, I think. It's so silent everywhere. People talk with low voices and move kind of slowly. I have been waiting for my own rage towards this terrorist, and it has not come. I see no rage out there and nobody talks about HIM. They talk about the terror, all the killed and wounded people and the people close to them. It's like a not-communicated mutual agreement that he is neither worth our rage nor our interest. It's very strange.

We are very few people in this country and at times like this, we are very close to each other. Nobody seems to be afraid, either. I'm impressed by the prime minister and the other ministers, by the Royal family, and by the politicians of all parties. The young leader of the Workers Youth League, the AUF, has shown a strength and wisdom that is more than impressive. Interviews with many of the youngsters who survived the massacre at Utøya have been heartbreaking and have left me with enormous respect for their strength and attitude.

I think that what will change is that we will be more aware of what we say, mean, and write about other people and groups that we are not familiar with - and perhaps fear. In the past, I myself have failed to comment on statements about people that are obviously not based on correct information. Like many others, I have become sort of lazy over the years. My tolerance of those statements has disappeared during these last three days. I also think that politicians will be more aware of what they say. Particularly one of the bigger political parties in Norway has been flirting with racism and Christian fundamentalists. I don't think that will pay off in the future.

The values of democracy, openness, tolerance, and justice have become very clear to all of us during the last few days, and no one will take that away from us. 

The procession this evening in Oslo - of about 150 000 people –  started spontaneously on FB. Lots of artists turned up to hold a concert. When the gathering began, one man started to sing our national hymn, "Ja vi elsker," and an enormous chorus followed it. (“Ja vi elsker dette landet” means “Yes, we love this country.) Crown Prince Haakon commented that, "Today the streets of Oslo are filled with love!"  And lots and lots of people agreed to that.  It's almost as unbelievable as the terror on Friday.    

From tomorrow, the intention of all of us is to turn back to "normal" as best as we can. That's probably the best medicine. I almost wish you were here to experience this extraordinary atmosphere that is not filled with anger and fear. Sorrow, tears, love, and hope are more the describing words. 


Turid Parmann lives in Bergen, Norway and is a partner in Galerie Oz in Os.