23 July 2011

Grieve for the dead, but remember the living

Whenever there is news coverage of a mass shooting such as Hungerford, Dunblane, Beslan, Columbine or, yesterday and today, the Utøya summer camp, I am struck by the way that everything focuses on number of deaths.

For those who were killed, it was dreadful – in the literal sense of that too easily used word. I cannot begin to imagine the terror they experienced. For those close to them it continues to be dreadful and will stay so for the rest of their lives.

But my thoughts go to those who are described as "lucky to be alive" – the survivors.

By what earthly measure does anyone imagine them to be "lucky"? Those who survive will have to live their lives with memory of that same terror which, for their dead peers, ended. And not just the terror either; there is survivor guilt. One survivor of Utøya spoke of being trapped in a toilet cubicle while one a boy was shot outside the door. Another of playing dead and feeling the heat of the barrel close to his face; yet another of watching class mates who had tried the same ploy being shot in the head. And on, and on... They will be traumatised for life. Use of the word "lucky" is disgustingly facile.

And I'm not forgetting that there are plenty of places where this sort of thing is so commonplace that it's never reported. What happens on such occasions is not a change in the world; simply that a brutal reality which is usually elsewhere has come to a venue near me.


Dr. C said...

I have a very good friend in Norway that I visited about 20+ years ago in Bergen. (Apparently Bergen, the second largest city, only has 260,000 people.) I have a memory of a kind and civilized people.

The horror of what happened in Oslo and the Utøya summer camp is very hard to fathom, much harder, for me, than the suicide bombings across the world, which are generic slaughter. It is even in a different class than the Oklahoma City bombing. This killer targeted each and every victim. Each was a personal killing.

What kind of human can do this and what can be his mental justification? He was even killing his peers in cold blood. I doubt that there is an animal out there that would do that.

It should make us all afraid of our dark side. It can't be very deep.

Felix said...

DrC> What kind of human can do this and
DrC> what can be his mental justification?

Sadly, I suspect, almost any human in the right (or, rather, wrong) circumstances. As you say, our dark side is not buried very deep and requires only the trigger to unleash it.

In his case, it would seem, the mental justification is built around that most common and mundane of triggers: xenophobia, fear of the other. His similarity to Timothy McVeigh, in that respect, is striking.

Geoff Powell said...

It seems to me that all living creatures attack that which they fear?

Ask someone ( I have often asked this question of someone who is virulently anti homosexual ) what they would do if a homosexual put a hand on their knee and the reply I most often get is something along the lines of "...kill the effing queer..."

Then suggest that perhaps it is because they fear and feel that they themselves could so easily be "queer" and see the result.