Woody Allen’s 2011 film Midnight in Paris entreats us to live in the present. To obsessively, sentimentally or romantically look to times past is fraught with biases in perspection, the film shows. If one considers the 1920s in Paris as the greatest time to have been alive, the people living in that present may have thought it to be the 1890s which were even better…and those of the 1890s may have leaned more toward the French Revolution.
In short, none of us may perceive the present as exhibiting the ‘magic’ they may read into earlier times, prior to their birth.
I think I realized, a few years ago, something similar regarding the Sixties–the most recent ‘magic’ time we are recounted of. Greenwich Village, the poets, the rockers, the thinkers, and the protests. Was it really though, any different then as it is today? Were contemporaneous people AWARE of the ‘magic’? Potentially not. They themselves may have in turn longed for earlier, ‘simpler’, more romantic times.
As I watched this film something occurred to me about the Norway massacre of a few days past. What Anders Behring Breivik was perhaps seeking was a return to his conceptualized ‘romanticized past’–before colonialization, before globalization, before immigration, before the world became so small, and before tribal identities were potentially perceived as ‘endangered’ due to one’s fear of dilution, segmentization and diminishment of what it meant to identify with one’s clansmen.
Although I disagree with tribalism of all forms, and anticipate the day when all human earthlings will unify as one–though it may not, obviously, be in my own lifetime, I do understand from where his angst derives. I would liken it to the outrage one would feel from the violation of one’s grandmother. Whether physical, or political, or otherwise. How would one react to the rape of one’s cherished grandmother?
I portray a ‘grandmother’ here metaphorically as the perceived connection one may feel to their heritage, inheritance, and ancestry. There is the sense of loyalty and legacy–of a pure and sacred sentimentality. These are what, at least in my opinion, cause xenophobic attitudes. Yet they are ‘natural’ for these same reasons.
What Midnight in Paris states however is that this is a fallacious sentiment. Our nostalgic perception is indeed deceptive. The only time we are truly masters of is the present, and we should make the most of that. This is a philosophical observation that we may now, with consideration of the recent ‘Christian Crusade/Jihad’ activity/insanity in Norway, and the Al Qaeda Jihadist quest of a return to the ‘golden age’ of pre-1492 Al-Andalus, pay more attention to.
A truth that many fail to realize however when it comes to tribal identities and divisions, is that an identity is only defined by what it is not. There is irony in this, as for ultra-nationalists are unable to see that they are indeed defined by “the Other”. Prior to interacting with neighbouring tribes, most human groups lacked any self-referential autonym. Most groups referred to themselves as “Humans”, or “The People”. This point in history however is extremely distant, and still fails to consider that no ‘tribe’ is racially, let alone culturally, ‘pure’. This again demonstrates the perversity of nostalgia for a historical epoch which is of the mind.
Was there not a time when Norway was NOT Christian, and Norsemen possessing of their own pantheistic perception of the supernatural? These individuals of history would perhaps lament the then novel introduction of ideas from a distant desert valley named Nazareth. Golden Ages, Woody Allen reminds us, reside but only within our minds.
By Patrick Lannin and Johan Ahlander
OSLO | Sun Jul 24, 2011
The blond killer of at least 93 people in Norway sees himself as a righteous crusader on a mission to save European “Christendom” from a tide of Islam.
Multi-culturalism is one of the dirtiest words in Anders Behring Breivik’s political vocabulary.
Don’t expect remorse from the 32-year-old who massacred leftist youngsters on a summer camp island and bombed central Oslo buildings occupied by Norway’s Labour-led government.
In a rambling, plagiaristic manifesto posted just before his killing spree began, Breivik says the Knights Templar, a medieval order of crusading warriors, lent modern renown by Dan Brown’s best-sellers, had been re-formed in London in 2002.
Two of the founding members were British while one each came fromFrance, Germany, the Netherlands, Greece, Russia, Norway and Serbia, Breivik writes, without naming them.
“The order is to serve as an armed Indigenous Rights Organization and as a Crusader Movement (anti-Jihad movement),” writes Breivik, now in police custody on terrorism charges.
“Once you decide to strike, it is better to kill too many than not enough, or you risk reducing the desired ideological impact of the strike,” he writes, outlining deadly tactics that the late al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden might have endorsed.
“Do not apologize, make excuses or express regret for you are acting in self-defense in a pre-emptive manner,” he adds.
Breivik’s lawyer says his client admits his actions, but feels that “what he has done does not deserve punishment.”
The text may show a mind influenced by the fantasy imagery of computer games, but he also includes an 80-day diary chronicling meticulous preparations for his onslaught.
This involved gathering thousands of e-mail addresses to which he could mail the manifesto.
“I spent thousands of hours doing this over a duration of more than six months (from two Facebook accounts) and I, alone, managed to send the compendium to more than 8,000 dedicated nationalists this way,” he wrote.
Interspersed with accounts of his struggle to make explosives, he tells of watching the Eurovision song contest on TV and episodes of “The Shield,” a violent U.S. crime series.
He also describes visits he got from friends or neighbors from whom he hurriedly had to clear up signs of preparations.
Several times he feared his plot had been discovered by police due to visits by strangers to the farm where he prepared his attacks, according to the text.
EXPLAINING TO GOD
On June 11 he says he prayed for the first time in a long time. “I explained to God that unless he wanted the Marxist-Islamist alliance and the certain Islamic takeover of Europe to completely annihilate European Christendom within the next hundred years, he must ensure that the warriors fighting for the preservation of European Christendom prevail.”
Two days later his entry gleefully describes how he tested a bomb device in a remote area. “I lit the fuse, went out of range and waited. It was probably the longest 10 seconds I have ever endured… BOOM! The detonation was successful!!!:)”
Large chunks of the 1,500-page document are cut and pasted from other far-right, anti-Islam documents on the Internet.
Some are copied from writings by “Unabomber” Ted Kaczynski, notorious in the United States for killing three people and wounding more than 20 with letter bombs sent from 1978 to 1995.
Breivik changed some words to stress what he sees as the dangers of mixing cultures.
Where the Unabomber wrote, “One of the most widespread manifestations of the craziness of our world is leftism,” Breivik’s text puts “multi-culturalism” instead of leftism.
Breivik says he is not against immigrants who integrate and reserves much of his fury for a liberal European political establishment he views as promoting Europe’s destruction.
Though the document shows the killer as a fantasist, his anti-immigration ideas are not so far from mainstream European politics, not least in Norway, where the populist, anti-immigration Populist Party is the second largest.
The manifesto shows that Breivik was an active player of the World of Warcraft computer game and some of the imagery in a video clip accompanying the document seems inspired by such themes. The soundtrack to the video is also the same as the theme music for a popular online role-playing game.
The writings and the video also seem to be a reverse echo of the propaganda of Islamic militant groups — from the very religion that he sees as a threat to Europe.
Breivik writes that the “turning point” in his thinking came due to Norway’s involvement in the NATO operation to bomb Serbia in 1999 in the Kosovo conflict.
“All they (the Serbs) wanted was to drive out Islam by deporting the Albanian Muslims back to Albania.”