The sanctity of life: Norway and Somalia – a study in contrast

At a time when our capacity for shock might appear to have been exhausted, a sociopathic killer in Oslo, Norway, managed to plumb new depths. People around the world joined Norwegians in stunned disbelief at the calculated murder of 76, mostly young, people attending a youth camp. Shock gave way to grief and then revulsion as the cold, calculated planning behind the carnage was revealed. True to the principles that inform Norwegian society and politics however, politicians, security forces and average citizens all responded by denying the perpetrator the satisfaction of achieving his dark objectives. As one tweet from @pacific expressed it: “I am heartened by the streets of Norway today. He wanted a revolution of hate. We responded with a revolution of love.“ Or Norwegian cartoonist, Oystein Runde, wrestling with a welter of feelings but reaffirming: “WE happen to believe in something called the sanctity of ALL human life, even the life of this guy who is an obvious terrorist fundamentalist. I am endlessly proud of my tiny country that has the guts to appear ‘soft’ and ‘kind’ even when the rest of the world pressures us to be ‘hard’.”

7000 km away, in far less idyllic settings in the horn of Africa, the horror of suffering and death was intensified by the opposite factors; utterly predictable and preventable rather than unprecedented or unforeseeable; lack of shock and solidarity and the acceptance of loss of life in tones of apparent normality. An estimated 11 million men, women and children caught in a vortex of political, economic, religious and ecological fundamentalisms, most of whose misery could have been prevented or alleviated by some measure of the speed, compassion and ideals evoked by events in Norway – victims of collective apathy, cynicism, inertia and cold-blooded calculation of cost and benefit.

Beyond supporting those who are scrambling to provide relief against all odds, one can only wish that those who are charged with global leadership would, even now, demonstrate a miniscule fraction of the solidarity, vision and resolve we have just witnessed from Norway.

Ingrid Srinath

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2 comments on “The sanctity of life: Norway and Somalia – a study in contrast

  1. RP Shahi on said:

    A right sentiment, discussed here. The courage of the tiny country to be calm in such circumstances is exemplary. It shows that people do have faith in love and peace as well as the system elected by them. Its maturity of democratic ways too.
    Its sad that Somalia or many other region are reeling under the death of humanity and whole world is looking side ways.

  2. K.C.C.Thampan on said:

    Luckily many small European countries that are economically developed and wise enough to stand away from temptations to risk rivalry with others on some pretext or other give its people a happy and peaceful life. Such people can have the mental maturity to suffer a crazy, ideologically mad man and continue with their normal life without letting the horrendous incident to affect their mental equilibrium.

    But a country whose name itself has become another word for utter poverty can in no way be compared to one like the neutral European Countries. Why go to Somalia; even in a big but poor country like India (where I belong) or some other Asian or African country this kind of a mature response to incidents cannot be expected. Even when confronted with issues of corruption the governments waver and wander in darkness searching for a way out.

    The rulers and big business every where close ranks, hold hands and loot the resources, basking in the rising profits and watching the Market Indices, unmindful of the hardships of the millions of poor citizens. Work and Hope for a Day of Thorough Change in our life-time!