Thursday, September 30, 2004

Three times

This is a post of subjective speculation on Norwegians, foreigners and public transport. Be aware of bias.

I am not only shocked and outraged on behalf of the people who were attacked when a man grabbed and axe and attacked the pilots of a Widerøe Kato Air plane yesterday, I am also quite at loss for what to think about this event.

This is the third attack on people in public transport in the last two years. The first was a hostage situation where the attacker killed a bus-driver in Fagernes. The driver was attacked while the bus was still moving. He managed to stop the bus and so avert a worse accident. The passengers managed to get out of the bus. In the time it took for the police to arrive at the scene the driver died of his wounds.

In July a man killed one person and wounded five in a tram in Oslo. He was originally from Somalia, and had applied for asylum in Norway. The attacker in Fagernes was from Ethiopia and applying for asylum in Norway. Before getting on the bus he had killed another African applying for asylum in Norway, a man from Kongo. The attacker on the Widerøe plane was from Algerie and had his application for asylum in Norway rejected.

The more or less active nationalistic movements in Norway are gloating. Making the searches for this post I found links I never knew existed, of movements with a rhetoric that balances at the edge of illegal. I am not linking back or giving their names, I am not giving them linkcredit by doing that. I shy away from that kind of response to the point that it disgusts me when I find some correlation between this rhetoric and how I react to the recent attacks. "Oh, it is just another asylum applicant going crazy." It is such a disgusting response. At the same time this kind of violent attack on random people just doing their job feels so un-Norwegian. There is something about the collective transport that is almost sanctified - it is a space where all are equal, on the bus, the tram or the widerøe plane we are all the same and we are all together - in the same boat.

Or perhaps that is the explanation. Where Norwegians experience collective transport as a space of equality and solidarity, foreigners experience exclusion and seclusion. Norwegians are always silent on the bus or tram or plane, you only talk to the person next to you if you know him or her, you sit still and pull yourself into your own personal sphere, trying not to intrude. Is this the ultimate symbol of how Norwegians can come oh-so-close to the foreign, and then reject it? Is the public transport violence an attack on the Norwegian reserve, by so many read as aloffness and arrogance?

Or - alternatively - is this just another example of reporting bias, where we see and remember the singular events, and not the everyday violence done by Norwegians? There might be an article there, or a thesis for a student. I would read it with great interest.

(Edited due to corrections through the comments.)


Antti said...

I think it is the act that we remember. A man attacked another man in Helsinki in a metro with an axe a while back, slashing him in the head. Looking at these killings the method is the one that makes it stick to my head. (The guy was Finnish and was mentally ill, but nevertheless it got a lot more attention in Finnish media as well)

Torill said...

Perhaps not just the act - the axe is a very dramatic weapon and the image of the crazy axe killer is one that sticks - but the senselessness. Even appearantly random violence is normally not random, it's family killing each other or it is connected with a crime of some sort, like robbing a bus driver or getting drugs or money for drugs. But in these occasions the people attacked had absolutely nothing to do with the motivation for the act itself. I din't know, really.

Hjorthen said...

About the same time as the events on the tram, a young norwegian killed a taxidriver with a knife over a quarrel about payment for the ride, and only a couple of days ago som young man in Odda shot an innocent bystander with a shotgun. Thankfully she survived, but these cases don't get half the media coverage that the occasional cases where asylum seekers and foreigners with darker skin committs crimes and murders. I am deeply worried at the xenophobia (if that's the word for it) that seems to be increasing in our country.

Anonymous said...

No big deal, but the plane company is Kato Air