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For Norway

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I don’t know what to say to things like this. I remember watching the coverage of the Oklahoma city bombing as a child, and how senseless and awful it all was. This is senseless and awful. This is all of the things I hate and fear the most, and wish would never have to happen again. This is why feminism and socialism must persist– if we were not slowly and steadily changing things for the better, anti-feminists and fascists would not be so disturbed by the progress being made.

Even writing that seems hard, and wrong, as if maybe capitulating, shutting up, sitting down, giving up, would be acceptable if they could promise that no one else would die. But then I know that it’s never enough. There is not enough surrender to make people like that stop wanting to hurt anyone who is not like them. They may even believe that there is some theoretical point of absolute debasement that would satisfy them, but history and the unnamed victims of patriarchy and colonization, of unchecked capitalism and imperialism are always there to remind us that there is no satisfaction for men like Anders Behring Breivik, because what they are afraid of, what they hate, is in themselves.

So I know that there is no salvation from this kind of violence in surrender to it.

What I don’t know is how to balance the demands of a civil society, with tolerance and openness and fairness and democracy, against the need to isolate and excoriate these kinds of ideas, which follow a predictable path to terrible violence again and again.

At what point do we start making note of the correlative relationship between misogyny and violence, between misogyny and authoritarianism, between authoritarianism and inequality– at what point do we decide to teach children about these things, to use our social power to shame these ideas into silence, because they are bad ideas, and they corrupt the people who hold them.

How many times? How much time?

It is no great shock to me that a person so severely misogynist, so seriously racist, would target children. I believe that the otherness and weakness people like that see in themselves is projected onto whoever is “othered” by society, but enacted against whoever is most vulnerable. It’s the same logic that causes people to agitate for an end to legal abortion, and an end to social programs benefiting children.

In the end, I believe that the need for a civil society to freely allow a plurality of ideas, even bad ideas, necessitates that the state does not interfere in the expression of such ideas. But society must. Individuals must. This was not a lone gunman, this was a person acting on common rhetoric, acting from within a community. This kind of rhetoric must be socially unacceptable.

We have to topple the structures that enable this kind of thinking from below and laterally, rather than from above. That means more empathy, more compassion, more outreach and care.

That means that people suffering from fear and depression, need resources and widespread community care.

The answer to hatred and violence, is compassion, kindness and solidarity, but never, ever, surrender.





About Pepper

Pepper Lee Hales is a twenty something, married, vicious feminist liberal. She likes dogs, cats, spiders, epistemics and cake.

One response »

  1. How quickly we forget this: “We have to topple the structures that enable this kind of thinking from below and laterally, rather than from above.”

    We do not want our government to infringe on our rights of speech, assembly, etc. But. That is sometimes as far as we get. We shrug our shoulders and decide that we all deserve those rights, and beginning to ask the government to make those kinds of choices is a bad road to start down. But then we offer no solutions. We say these things as if they are the end of the argument, and that tragedy and violence and racism and misogyny and homophobia will just be the price we pay.

    They are not. We can still be human beings, we can still teach and communicate and discuss. Hate and fear do not have to be a *part* of the human condition. There do not *always* have to be people “like that” in our communities. We can AND SHOULD attempt to open their minds and their hearts.

    How is it we end with “that’s not the government’s job” and forget “that is my job”?


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