Like many people, I was completely shocked by the domestic terror attacks in Norway. My prevailing thoughts of Norway involve a lot of snow and not much else. Norway, like many European countries is dealing with a rise in right wing, Christian fundamentalist, anti-immigration political movements. In fact, Anders Behring Breivik, the man arrested for the attacks had published a 1500-page manifesto, which he posted to the Internet in the days before the attack. Thankfully courts in Norway decided to keep him in custody citing the likelihood that he would ‘tamper’ with evidence. Personally, I would want him kept in custody so he didn’t shoot or blow anything else up.
It is interesting how history threatens to repeat itself. It is predictable that when the economy begins to wane, xenophobic rhetoric waxes. Europe has seen its fair share of economic woes. Many European countries, with generous cradle to grave benefits for little work vanished. Retirement ages have been increased and youth have seen university tuition rises. For many Europeans these ‘reforms’ have come on the heels of poor economic performance and vanishing wealth. Government imposed austerity measures have only added insult to injury.
The last time right-wing extremism took over parts of Europe was in the 1930s. The Great Depression crippled Europe’s economies. Germany was in even more dire circumstances due to hefty reparations it was paying to other countries as a result of WWI. Crippled by the Treaty of Versailles, Germany was in a position that allowed fascism to rise. Similar to today, right-wing, anti-government, xenophobic movements had begun. Anyone who was deemed different (Jews, ‘Gypsies’, homosexuals, people with mental illness, people with learning disabilities etc.) all became targets for blame. We all know the history of the Holocaust yet, for some reason, there are people who just don’t understand how these movements can spin out of control very easily. If people like Breivik have their way the only difference would be that Muslims would be added to the list.
As a society we must stand against these movements. We must not give in to the rhetoric of hate and oppression. When we see or hear hate and racism in ourselves, our peers, our coworkers and our families we must take a stand and challenge the views. Any student of history knows that anti-immigration policies made the Great Depression much worse than it needed to be. We must guard against these ideas taking root here.