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Nothing surprises me any more Nothing surprises me any more
by Alexander Mikhaylov
2007-11-11 10:31:44
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Late, or not so late reflections on the November 7th shooting...

It has been said and written on countless occasions that 'Nothing can surprise me any more'. Personally, I cannot agree with that. Cynical as I am, I feel perplexed when, for instance, I hear news about one more shooting in a school or in a mall, for example.


Of course, people will forget or get over it. They always do. But how about this? Picture an ordinary, rainy morning. You are seeing your kid off to school. You are saying something like, ‘See you later, honey’. You close the door. You return to your daily business. You cook, or clean or something. A few hours later you learn that your kid is shot dead. Why? Because ‘humanity is overrated.’ As simple as that. There is something infinitely monstrous in all this. It simply doesn’t make sense. Yet violence and mindless killings seem to become an increasingly common feature of our reality. So what is going on?

We see kids every day. Laughing kids, drunken kids, kids, driving their motorcycles, just kids… None of these kids strikes you as a potential murderer, so why a regular teenager would go ahead and kill? We have been teaching our kids all the right things, have we not taught them to respect human life, to extend kindness, to uphold justice, to care for the environment, to learn correct lessons from history… In other words, are not we repeating to them a thousand times that violence is wrong. Aren’t we? Well, think again.

We love to talk about politics, atrocities of fascism, communism, living hell of totalitarian regimes. Why so many people, especially young people at that, seem to be ready to embrace violence and plunge themselves into this very hell then? Well, why not? Speaking of the lessons from history – was not the very lesson all these ‘engineers of human happiness’ taught us? Stalin, Hitler… They were people of action, were they not? While it seems that all the present democracies can accomplish successfully is to banish cigarettes from restaurants, those odious figures of the past were able to turn the world upside down. They took pains to ‘liberate’ millions from the chains of their oppressors (of course, things like that require liberating millions of people from chains of their earthly existence as well, but so what…)

It was a long time ago but the message is still alive. Just get rid of all redundant elements who do not let us build a happy society (shoot them!) and the happy and just society would come! While we live in an anemic world where the war in the Middle East, for example, can drag indefinitely (even WWII took only five years), an angry young soul might want to take an action. It simply makes sense. Are we indeed living in an Orwellian world of a ‘permanent war’, or as another well-known apostle of justice Leon Trotsky put it, in a world of a ‘permanent revolution’?

Are not we promoting things like military conscription, access to guns for youth and discourses along the lines of ‘look here, boy, be a real man! Stop acting like a sissy! Grow tough! Grow strong! Grab this gun, knife, etc.’ On the other hand, no matter how often we talk about justice, things do not seem to be change anywhere. So why should we be surprised if some dupe would decide to take justice in his hands and blow your brains out?

We can blame young radicals for all kinds of weird beliefs or we may condemn state for a failure to teach them right values, but this hardly answers the question: why these young people choose to hold gun, to wear a swastika or a red star, to collect pictures of Hitler and Stalin, and so on. Why do they prefer all these terrible things to humanitarian ideals? The answer might be quite simple: because they are sick of them. Because they are sick of our lies and our bankrupt beliefs, of our double standards and the suffocating control of ‘wise elders’. Because all of us, armed with sermons about freedom, justice and humanism, fail miserably to accomplish anything real except lapse into an endless demagogy over so called ‘lessons of history’.

Because living in this world, where dullness is an everyday mode of life, where getting drunk twice a week does not seem to be such a miserable option, where survival on a dole is increasingly the only option for the future, where charity is the domain of bureaucrats, it might begin to seem that humanity indeed is a bit overrated. Because it is not cool to be a pacifist any longer. And finally, because so many ‘well wishers’, ‘humanitarians’, Marxist academicians, privileged intellectuals and state bureaucrats would love to take over your life and make all the right choices for you, like it or not. It is no wonder that one can get tired of it, especially if one is young and clinically depressed. Then psychotic accidents would occur.

I am sure many would be inclined to label this tragedy as yet another import from the US, sort of ‘Made in US’ sort of thing. On the other hand, ‘the Great Bolshevik’ revolution was mentioned. Is it an imported issue as well? Shall I remain you of the fact that during this ‘Great Revolution’ Finland was a part of the Russian Empire and it participated in the Russian Civil War?

On the morning of November 8th as I walked down the street past Turku Museum of Art and accidentally, the stone relief I had seen many times before: a medium size plate screwed to the wall of an old building, made in the memory of Vladimir Iliych Lenin (or shall I say – Grandpa Lenin? Our beloved Vladimir Iliych? Hey! I was born in the Soviet Union, so forgive me this 'tude'. ) Of course, I noticed the great many flags, waving at half-mast. I had no idea what it was all about. Now I know.

    
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Emanuel Paparella2007-11-11 10:53:45
Mr. Mikhailov, the beginning of an answer to your anguished existential questions can be gathered by reading Dostoyevsky's "The Possessed" which must be even more powerful in its original Russian.

Dostoyevsky was a prophet, but not the way a shallow caricaturist of religion would understand that word (the telling of the future via a crystal ball) but in the biblical tradition of warning the people to change their way or terrible consequences would follow. In that novel Dostoyevky predicted where nihilism would lead us one hundred years hence. There was another prophet contemporary to Dostoyevsky, Nietzsche. He too diagnosed nihilism and had a madman declare that "God is dead" but alas he had no effective prognosis. Of the two, Dostoyevsky is the greater prophet by far and needs to be listened to.


Eero Nevalainen2007-11-12 02:35:22
You're sounding dangerously close to a bunch of American right-wing bloggers I've been reading who have been openly having a field day celebrating the supposed failure of a "Socialist" public school system by this tragedy.

I do realize that if you're ideologically biased enough, Finland probably does almost demand you just sit on your ass and whine until it all goes away and it's good old healthy survival-of-the-fittest again Some kids simply have it so easy in life that they are not happy until they have it all and don't have to care about anyone else around.

There is, however, an option. Go out, try smiling for once despite this being this godawful place ideologically speaking, make friends, get a job so you won't be on the dole -- really easy these days if you've got skills; if you don't, why the hell are you not in school already? -- and have a life. Don't get drunk twice a week, it's bad for you.

Some kids choose otherwise. To borrow a page from the political right's playbook for once, individuals make choices and you can't help them all by nannying at every point. You can only support so far.

But anyway, believe it or not, whatever a lot of Ovi's commentators make it sound like, it is POSSIBLE to make it in Finland and most Finns actually live happy lives, although, some may say, as brainless sheep who don't just like to fight enough.

Oh, the horror! They're actually happy! It's impossible or at least unacceptable! At least they are not happy for the right reasons!

No matter straight-thinking, evolved individuals like Pekka-Eric Auvinen flip. Poor guy, he had to go to a public school and sit next to these unfit individuals in class while he was preoccupied with his high grand synthesis of Nietzsche, Mein Kampf, Social Darwinism and Counter Strike.

After all, SOMEONE has to deliver a healthy dose of natural selection every now and then to a society that is becoming all too degenerate from all this inclusion and other crap, and die a martyr, so indeed, from his point of view his future must have looked bleak indeed. Can he imagine how oppressed by the system he must have felt after having learned very well how he must feel about the "system" from the Internet's (Libertarian?) websites?

Certainly there was no other option for him. Fight the system! Revolution now! All students of Finland, cap your schoolmates!

Please stop making excuses for the shooter. He had his ideology set. He's the nutcase here. There is no reason for the rest of society to adapt to his needs.


Emanuel Paparella2007-11-12 11:32:04
Mr. Nevallainen, your last point about individual responsibility is right on target. In America we have Charles Manson, who sports a swastika on his forehead, who remains uncomprehending as to why he is in jail. They say he is psychotic, then why then is he not in an insane asylum? Practically every year a journalist interviews him and his answers, although misguided, are quite lucid and logic. Among the voices he hears in his head is that of Rousseau with his romantic premise that he was born innocent and he is still innocent. It is society that corrupted him and should take responsibility for it. You begin with the wrong premise and then build on it a powerful undeniable syllogism. It is the pride and joy of rationalists. We even have one in this very magazine. That is why the antidote to that mind-set cannot be Nietzsche’s Zarathustra with his notion of “will to power” but Dostoyevsky’s The Possessed with his notion of nihilism and predicting the social horrors and monstrosities of Bolshevism and Communism. So ideas matter and Mr. Butcher is also on target when he says that the young man is also a victim of his own twisted weltanschauung. Psychologizing the event too much may let us off the hook but it leaves the existential causes unexamined. We shall all be victims unless we muster the courage and honesty to search and eliminate those toxic ideas who pollute our cultural milieu. Their poison is in the air we breath but it is invisible like radiation. Where in Western civilization are the prophets and the philosophers who point them out?


Sand2007-11-12 14:54:41
Evidently not here.


Eero Nevalainen2007-11-12 19:55:40
E.P., I'm not sure you got the sarcasm as you're reading me as way too much of a supporter of your ideas :)

I am a rationalist who read Nietzsche's Zarathustra at Auvinen's age, am very much a supporter of the Nordic model and the theory of evolution and I still didn't interpret the Will to Power as a permit for me to commit mass murder. As a matter of fact, I very strongly believe that as the experience of humanity is the same for all of us, respecting other people's lives as they are is important... not out of fear of some divine punishment.

There is a chance to just simply *choose* differently, which is of course rejected by extreme rightists for two general reasons... first, there is the bunch who believe that kind of "choice" is not "human" and must come from God, and then there are those who think it is "impossible and unnatural" because of economics, biology or simply their own ideological decision that because of freedom, it simply has to be.

For both groups, the human choice is called "Socialism" or even "Communism", and is worth resisting at all costs.

The contortions some commentators have had to go to to try to prove that the Nordic system -- and the school system in particular -- somehow taught Auvinen his mindset and frustrated him so much that he just blew and thus must be understood, are ludicrous.

It is obvious he bore a political grudge, but does this mean everyone else has to adapt, just because he -- and some other people who hold similar positions -- just can't take it but must endlessly complain about the "horrors" of our country? Does the USA have to convert to Islam because of 9/11?

Auvinen is just the most shining example of a problem, but the problem is not in our secular humanist culture. The problem is completely inside the heads of the people who imagine the problem and then rant on the Internet and inspire acts like these as "justified" reactions...


Emanuel Paparella2007-11-12 22:39:43
Mr. Nevelainen, it appear that my ideas too might have been slightly misunderstood. Be that as it may, I for one see nothing wrong either with secularism (in Europe often called “laicitè”) which insists on a clear separation between religion and the State but respects freedom of religion, nor with socialism which you seem to call the Nordic model. I see socialism as an aspiration of the human heart that goes all the way back to the first Christians in Palestine and even beyond. If you read The Acts of the Apostles what you clearly have in place there is a socialist society wherein each works according to one’s talents and for the common good and each receives according to one’s fundamental human needs and it is the community which owns property (distributed equitably), not individuals. Religious orders function on the same socialist principle. Most of those who join them take vows of poverty and non-ownership. (continued below)


Emanuel Paparella2007-11-12 22:43:44
I also see nothing wrong with secular humanism properly understood. That goes back to Plato, Cicero and Virgil and has nothing to do with atheism per se as some would like to declare. The Renaissance was a wonderful synthesis of Antiquity with Christianity. Communism is a different beast altogether albeit it claims to be founded on socialism. What it is founded upon is a social ideology whose architect is Lenin, one of the virtuous men of the Russian revolution who like Robespierre and Marat was determined to impose virtue on his people and believed in Machiavellian terror as an instrument of policy. Ultimately his god was power, absolute power parading as the common good. Democracy, which goes together with genuine socialism since socialism believes that power comes from the people, was not only disrespected but trampled underfoot. The emperor was naked all along. He was soon followed by the greater Frankestein: Stalin. I trust this clarifies my position which at times has been misrepresented in this forum by those who confuse religion with cults and superstition. Thank you for the inelligent exhance of ideas and corteuous conversation.


Ann Smith2007-11-13 00:00:46
You can call it Nordic model, you can say – get back to school- the bottom line it is not working, here, or any place else. Nietzsche did not write his books while sponging of the state, and Cicero had a day job as well. Socialism failed in the Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, it is not working in China any more (if it ever did, which is unlikely) and Cuba can hardly hold its own. I think that the author’s point is a very clear one – a society cannot expect kids or adults for that matter, not to get drunk twice a week if they can. Why get a job if you pay 40% in taxes? Are you stupid or what? Get drunk, and get money for free. And yes, the boy was not well adjusted, but he paid the price of being in the middle of the social experiment, trying to make a welfare society work. Unfortunately, so did several others.


Eero Nevalainen2007-11-13 01:31:41
The bottom line really is that it IS working quite well, and those that have a strong need to try to prove otherwise are grasping at straws now and trying to milk this tragedy for all it's worth, trying to portray it as a general product of society, which is pretty disgusting.

For the one school shooter we may have once in a century, we have all the rest who aren't such ideological fanatics that they see no other option to make their statement except going on a rampage.

As I said, there is no need to change anything because some deranged individual chooses to resort to political terrorism because of him being a right-wing ideological fanatic.

There is really no need to wonder what is "wrong with society" in the case of people who either openly or tacitly approve of Auvinen's manifesto. They make a choice of values, I don't share them, and if someone chooses to come gun me down because of them, so be it. If you lose your will to live because you're offended by a general goal of everyone's well-being... tough luck.


Eero Nevalainen2007-11-13 01:44:18
And oh yes, should you choose to "exit" this oppressive world, please don't take anyone with you on your way out. Thank you. :)


Ann Smith2007-11-13 02:06:52
Although murder rates are higher in neighboring Russia and the former Soviet Baltic states, Finland has the highest murder rate in Western Europe at around 28 per 100,000 people.
About 56 of every 100 Finns own a gun .
Auvinen, calling himself Sturmgeist89, says: "I am prepared to … die for my cause.’
(The age.com.au)

Mr. Nevalainen says: someone chooses to come gun me down … so be it.
If you lose your will to live because you're offended by a general goal of everyone's well-being... tough luck
Nietzsche said: If life failed you, you will be successful in death (or something to this effect)
Do I need to say more?


Emanuel Paparella2007-11-13 02:30:57
Ms. Smith, the idea that socialism and fair distribution of wealth (distributive justice) is an aspiration of the human heart for justice is much older than Marxian and Communist ideology. Human greed too which allows a CEO to earn 500 times or more than a worker in the same Company while 2 children a minute die of starvation in our brave new world is perhaps even older. Henry David Thoreau, who was no Finn, taught us that much. That is the other side of the coin. So before we get sucked into shallow and futile ideological and cultural wars, which exist in reality on both sides of the Atlantic pond, why don’t we ponder those two phenomena and dialogue about them without falling in the trap of the rationalist (who begins with a false premise a builds a powerful unassailable syllogism) or the obsessive religion basher. I suggest that the problem at the root of this terrible tragedy is a common malaise of Western Civilization as a whole and its analysis pre-dates Marx, Locke and Nietzsche. It really begins with Cartesian rationalism. What we may be doing in this forum here is merely rearranging the chairs on the Titanic. As already mentioned, Dostoyevsky’s The Possessed may be a better compass for finding our way, given that its diagnosis of the youth of the times and where nihilism would lead us is so prophetic.


Eero Nevalainen2007-11-14 00:21:07
Ann, you're just posturing as if you had an argument, like so many Conservatives who try to prove that Auvinen was justified in his actions against the "system".

I honestly don't even understand what your objection to that quote of me actually is. I fully stand behind my assertion that I will not give in to violent attacks by someone who has been taught what to think by some Internet nihilists, Libertarians and Mein Kampf.

You also misuse statistics in exactly the same fashion other US Conservatives have done -- did you copy your argument off some blog? Most of those weapons are hunting guns that only get fired at elks in the woods. Gun *homicides* are actually rare, and violent crime tends to consist of drunken guys fighting and occasionally stabbing each other.

Our alcohol culture is a deep-rooted issue on its own and has been for centuries (just like in Russia), and to try to synthesize something politically convenient of it is just a wee bit too obvious.


Ann Smith2007-11-14 18:02:00
Just because you've asked, Mr. Nevalainen - my entire post is made of quotations (except the last question) - all the conclusions are yours :)
B/w if you can kill an elk with it, I assume you can a human with it? Sorry, I am not a hunter, not a murder, have never killed anybody (or anything) - please, pardon my ignorance.


Ann Smith2007-11-14 20:31:51
Oops, a missed word - I assume you can KILLL a human with it?


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