Sources

Ten Years After Utøya, How A Democracy Faces Evil

Exactly a decade after Anders Breivik’s calculated massacre of terror shocked the world, we still struggle to make sense of the evil that cut short 77 lives.

The island of Utøya, where a mass shooting took place on July 22, 2011
The island of Utøya, where a mass shooting took place on July 22, 2011
Carl-Johan Karlsson

"If I could've killed him with impunity, I would have."


Those words were followed by a carbonated silence around the dinner table. This was late 2011, and the statement was by my friend's dad, Nils, an Oslo police officer who'd spent two days guarding Anders Behring Breivik during his arrest immediately after the Utøya shootings of July 22 that year.


It was not easy to imagine Nils, always so placid and unassuming (so much, in fact, that his gun always looked to me like an awkward prop on his hip), performing some backroom execution. And I'd like to believe he never would have; what my friend and I heard that night was rather the rage and sadness of someone incapable of making sense of seeing the lives of 77 mostly young people cut short with such cold-bloodedness.

All around Europe, the inherent virtues of democracy are increasingly called into question.

Ten years later, we still struggle to make sense of it. Was it mental illness? Islamophobia? Christian extremism? Some evil cocktail of all?

When approaching something like the extremities of evil, it might be impossible to draw any such lines. Religions of the non-fanatical bent have long struggled, mostly in vain, to identify the source of destructive acts of both man and nature.

This all leaves us largely without guidance in how to solve the problems of our time: In Norway, as well as in my home country, Sweden, and indeed all around Europe, political extremism and violence is on the rise and the inherent virtues of democracy are increasingly called into question.

Prime Minister Erna Solberg during the memorial service, exactly 10 years after the attack — Photo: Geir Olsen/NTB Scanpix/ZUMA Press

Returning to that evening at my friend's place, I'll never know for sure the level of sincerity in Nils' statement. But I knew then, as I do now, that I'm grateful we both live in countries where murder is never carried out with impunity — neither by the sick and hateful, nor a father grieving for his nation.

Evil, they say, never goes away — it can only be contained. A democracy aims to do that with neither vengeance nor prayers, but justice.

You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Geopolitics

Ingrid Betancourt, A Hostage Heroine Reinvented As Feminist For President

Although Betancourt is best known for surviving six years as a hostage of the Colombian terror group FARC, and is considered a centrist politician, her unlikely new campaign for president will be centered on gender issues.

Betancourt in Bogota announcing her candidacy Tuesday

Chepa Beltran/LongVisual via ZUMA
Felipe García Altamar

-Analysis-

BOGOTA — Exactly 20 years after she was kidnapped by the FARC terror group in the middle of her campaign for Colombian president, Íngrid Betancourt is launching a new campaign to lead her nation. She will do so on behalf of her party, Verde Oxígeno, becoming the only female candidate from the Centro Esperanza Coalition (CCE), which for months received a barrage of criticism for grouping only male candidacies and traditional politicians.

Keep reading... Show less
Keep up with the world. Break out of the bubble.
Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS
MOST READ