After almost a week digesting the news about the terrorist shootings in Norway, I found information that gave me some comprehension. I went to a Norwegian-American college, toured with their concert band in Norway, and am half Norwegian. I played in a flute choir prior to a dinner that Prince Harald was attending.
At first, the thing that made sense was that Norway doesn’t have a military where men are actively in combat right now. Though they are an open society, there is a subject that would need to be suppressed or hidden in their culture, I’m sure. That subject is violence. I don’t think they have the outlets for the violent that a larger country would have.
I enjoyed reading An Everyday Story, an anthology of Norwegian Women’s Fiction. It contained one of the most powerful short stories I’ve ever read, “Achtung, Gnadiges Fraulein” by Torborg Nedreaas, about a young woman whose boyfriend reveals the Nazi uniform in his closet.
People like to make jokes about Vikings but Norway has shown how a country can progress and become something else completely.
The terrorist Breivik had posted his interests and favorites on Facebook but his Facebook page was taken off the internet soon after the shootings. Some media people saw it before it was removed. I read a posting on that from an English news source, looking for history about him. The next day I couldn’t find it, looked and looked, and then found his Facebook lists in a blog entitled "The Born Again Redneck’s Daily." The Huffington Post and the Christian Post both confirmed some of this but they left out his favorite TV shows, movies, and video games, what the English source had published.
Though Breivik had an impressive list of books, his taste for viewing was almost completely of American origin. His favorite TV program was “Dexter”, a show about a serial killer who killed bad guys and whose father was a policeman. Others were "True Blood", a vampire series; "Caprica", about robots destroying humans; and "The Shield", about corrupt policemen.
His tastes in movies were similarly violent: The Gladiator and 300, a movie with much battle track. Dogville was about a girl who tried to blend in with small town people but was driven back into the arms of criminals. Only one of his favorites didn’t seem violent, a science fiction series.
I have never seen any of these and I doubt that many young Norwegians would share his viewing tastes. I wouldn’t know.
One of my first papers in college was about television violence. There wasn’t a lot of research then but the increase in child crimes seems to have supported my thesis.
Violence wasn’t bad to me if it was real and well-done. I didn’t object to “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” which made a sensation in my high school years. More recently, I’ve loved to watch Hitchcock videos and reruns. Hitchcock focuses on the victims of crime too and shows how unaware people are of an approaching horror.
In Austin, Minnesota, where I grew up, girls exchanged fears after the movie “Psycho.” Many men in town, working for the Hormel Company, used knives in their work. My family had all moved from there when the Hormel strike happened. But it was what us girls feared. Among us was an individual who might crack. In that town of 30,000, one man cracked during the strike, using a knife insanely. It was a matter of statistics in a town where there used to be a murder about once in 30 years.
In Minneapolis, I lived where the murder rate was worse per capita than New York City, according to a Harvard researcher. This was the crime wave of the 1980s and early 1990s. I rarely watched crime shows on TV, not even “Mystery” then. I could go watch a cocaine bust on a weekend and hear about the nearby burglaries. In college, I liked Mrs. Dalloway. Virginia Woolf is a rare author in that she didn’t rely on violence or passionate sex to hold onto her reader. Those years in Minneapolis, I read most of her novels and some of her diaries. Ironically, she had bombs dropping around her during two periods of her writing.
I had to wonder about people safe and sound in the suburb eating up violence on TV.
I think the most compelling novel I ever read was Crime and Punishment. I couldn’t wait to get home from work to read more. Dostoevsky’s brilliant portrayal of the politically motivated ax murderer, his deteriorating mind as he planned and fled from the murder, almost seemed to be a harbinger of the Russian revolution.
I’ve always wanted to write about violence but I don’t read or view a lot of it except for masterpieces that cover the victims as well as the violence.
Violence is agony. I feel for a culture that has lost young people to the pitiful psychopath, the horror that can’t be revealed before that person commits his crimes.
As I wrote this at first, my PBS channel went on to a presentation in the arctic. I was so involved with this, I don’t know where. But I heard commentary about the many fishermen lost at sea. Somehow that comforted me.