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Where to begin. First of all thank you to everyone who have been expressing their concerns towards me, my friends and family after the horrifying events in Norway Friday evening. We are all safe, but finding ourselves in a state of deep shock and sorrow. Also I am so touched to see all the Swedes and Danes who have been putting up Norwegian flags on their FB statuses. We are after all one and the same people, with very similar languages and very similar values.

There are certain events that scar nations for life. Of course, 9/11 in America is the strongest and most obvious example that comes to mind, but also the 7/7 attacks in London 2005 and the train bombings in Madrid in 2004. As far as Norway goes, it had still managed to retain its innocence. Up until yesterday.

7 people killed by a bomb in central Oslo, and over 85 youths massacred at an island while attending a youth camp for the Norwegian Labour Party. I have read several foreign news coverage about yesterday’s incidents, and I have been very upset by certain remarks such as “this would not have happened if Norway had allowed people to procure guns – they could have taken him down in an instant”, or “Why was there no security on an island with 700 people attending a political camp??” or “Serves them right for being so naive”. Such statements enrage me.

I do realize, and understand, that to many outsiders, Norway and its people may come across as naive. We live in an extremely open society, a society where the police carry no guns, where top politicians and royals walk freely around the streets with limited or no security, where few people have secret addresses or phone numbers, and where everyone have unlocked post boxes that enables anyone to steal our bank statements and medical records. And while this seems shocking to the outside world, Norwegians have collectively resisted any measures for greater home security.

People have different definitions of what constitutes freedom, but for Norwegians, this is freedom. An open society where you need not have to be CCTV monitored, where you need not fear guns or weapons. To be frank, the idea of needing armed security at a summer camp for politically engaged children has up until now been a ridiculous insinuation to us, and there have been absolutely no controversy in the Norwegian newspapers about the lack of security at Utøya. Because, what kind of freedom do we have if harmless teenagers cannot even meet for political discussions without the need for armed guards?

Ever since we were children, we realized that Norway was very different from many other countries. I guess most of us stick to the values we grew up with, and we all perhaps retain the idea that our country is the best. And I guess I am no different. To quote someone close, it has been like “picking the winning ticket in life’s lottery”. For me, up until yesterday, Norway was one of the last places on earth that had still retained parts of its innocence. A safe paradise, where there was still a belief and trust in the good of people, however naive it may have come across as to foreigners. A place where we  had peace and security, not because of tight police control, but because we believed in each other so strongly rather than to let ourselves be overcome by paranoia. A place that for my 22 years of knowing it, had never seen a tragedy of these proportions.

Both Norwegian and foreign news media are now asking: Have the events in Oslo and Utøya changed the Norwegian mentality forever? I know certain people believe we should have anticipated this – that this is what we get for being so lax and naive, so stupid and blind. Were they right all along? We wanted to make a statement to the world, but have instead I, and my 5 million countrymen, been stupid enough to think that we could actually still live in an open society in 2011? To think that humans could still be free?

I disagree with all the comments saying that we should be procuring weapons and tightening police control. Despite our openness and lack of security, Norway has one of the lowest crime and homicide rates in the world. I believe our mentality of an open system is much to thank for this.

List of countries by intentional homicide rate per year per 100,000 inhabitants for the years from 2000 onwards.

Contrary to what many foreigners believe we should do, this is not the time to bolster security and become a society of fear and mistrust. We cannot let one incident change the open nation that we have spent so many decades building. There is a reason why we never thought something like this would ever happen in Norway – because since WWII, it never has.

After these incidents the Norwegian PM Jens Stoltenberg is calling for even more openness, more democracy. The mayor of Oslo says he still wants Oslo to be a city of “warmth”, where people can walk the streets together in mutual confidence, and he says that after this, we will build ourselves an even better and more open society. Norwegians have a trusting mentality that is embedded into their minds from childhood. Because we believe in peace, we have gained peace. We have a strong belief that weapons and tight security measures encourage distrust and hatred, and if we turn into a paranoid society over one incident, we will destroy the core values that make us Norwegian.

I know a lot of people have been putting down this poem on the streets of Oslo. It was written by the famous poet Nordahl Grieg who was shot down during WWII. It is called “Til Ungdommen” (“To Youth”), and today we are all dedicating this poem to the young people massacred at Utøya. There is an English translation, but I hardly think it does it any justice. But it says that if we create human dignity, we create peace. Freedom is, after all, greater than fear.

Til Ungdommen

Kringsatt av Fiender,
gå inn i din tid!
Under en blodig storm –
vi deg til strid!

Kanskje du spør i angst,
udekket, åpen:
hva skal jeg kjempe med
hva er mitt våpen?

Her er ditt vern mot vold,
her er ditt sverd:
troen på livet vårt,
menneskets verd.

For all vår fremtids skyld,
søk det og dyrk det,
dø om du må – men:
øk det og styrk det!

Stilt går granatenes
glidende bånd
Stans deres drift mot død
stans dem med ånd!

Krig er forakt for liv.
Fred er å skape.
Kast dine krefter inn:
døden skal tape!

Elsk og berik med drøm
alt stort som var!
Gå mot det ukjente
fravrist det svar.

Ubygde kraftverker,
ukjente stjerner.
Skap dem, med skånet livs
dristige hjerner!

Edelt er mennesket,
jorden er rik!
Finnes her nød og sult
skyldes det svik.

Knus det! I livets navn
skal urett falle.
Solskinn og brød og ånd
eies av alle.

Da synker våpnene
maktesløs ned!
Skaper vi menneskeverd
skaper vi fred.

Den som med høyre arm
bærer en byrde,
dyr og umistelig,
kan ikke myrde.

Dette er løftet vårt
fra bror til bror:
vi vil bli gode mot
menskenes jord.

Vi vil ta vare på
skjønnheten, varmen
som om vi bar et barn
varsomt på armen!

English translation
By Rod Sinclair (2004)

Faced by your enemies
On every hand
Battle is menacing,
Now make your stand

Fearful your question,
Defenceless, open
What shall I fight with?
What is my weapon?

Here is your battle plan,
Here is your shield
Faith in this life of ours,
The common weal

For all our children’s sake,
Save it, defend it,
Pay any price you must,
They shall not end it

Neat stacks of cannon shells,
Row upon row
Death to the life you love,
All that you know

War is contempt for life,
Peace is creation
Death’s march is halted
By determination

We all deserve the world,
Harvest and seed
Hunger and poverty
Are born of greed

Don’t turn your face away
From needs of others
Reach out a helping hand
To all your brothers

Here is our solemn vow,
From land to land
We will protect our world
From tyrants’ hand

Defend the beautiful,
Gentle and innocent
Like any mother would
Care for her infant.

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