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HAERVERK- s/t 7″EP (Torpedo Plater, Norway, 1979)

What would you expect me to write about yesterday’s bombing and massacre in Norway? Of course you will make an immediate connection between these events and the norwegian Punk record posted here. But what could I say? That I’m posting this because it’s from Norway? That would be a rather bizarre explanation, wouldn’t it. What does this record have to do with the massacre, other than a geographical coincidence?

There’s a fairly new german word, called “Betroffenheits – Kitsch”. “Betroffenheit” means concernment. It’s a rather obscene phenomenon, one that is channeled through and executed by the mass media mainly. But it’s not limited to the media, of course. It has a massive and widespread social component that goes beyond the media world. In fact, it’s a social code and a form of social practice that itself goes way beyond the actual event. In shock and horror, there seems to be great potential for comfort. Just look at those typical album covers with war victims, mutilated bodies and such. “War is evil”, is one of the most astonishing and yet frequently used declarations the Punk movement has to offer. Now if that ain’t quite a revelation ….
In the case of the unprecedented killing spree in Norway, experts, politicians and the so called common people too – they all try to find explanations, motives for such an act. As understandable and necessary it is to try to understand what led to this, as bizarre it is, to actually rationalize the events. I mean: What could be a sufficient explanation for such a massacre? But one thing these rationalizations sure do: They create that cosy feeling of “understanding” and thus putting things back to order. The same cosy feeling I felt when upon the first news reports, everybody believed it was an Al-Qaeda attack. I immediately felt the urge to defend what I believe in: Secularism, parliamentary democracy, individual rights and free speech. Nothing wrong with that, but at the same moment, the actual event seemed to dissolve in that sweet cloud of the almighty “us versus them” (remember that Antisect song?). Scary.

Some believe the murderer’s political views can explain why he took a hundred lifes. Obviously, he flirted with rightwing extremism, xenophobia, anti-islamic ressentments and christian fundamentalism. A reporter on a swiss TV channel mentioned that he also was an obsessed computer game player. Sounds just like what you heard about the “Trenchcoat Mafia”, doesn’t it?
I have friends whose voices I hear in my head when I think, that this guy simply is a monster. “Don’t dehumanize him”, these voices say, “because that’s to easy. He is a human, that’s what makes it so horrifying!” Oh, I understand this argumentation and I would never say that this guy is not “human”. There are these other people I know (and they’re by far the majority, I would guess) who would simply say that somebody who kills so many innocent people, among them more than 80 kids, is a beast. The act sure seems beastly.

Personally, I don’t have any consistent explanation for the whys of such a tragedy. What role plays ideology in our seemingly post-ideological societies? What is ideology in today’s fragmented societies? How do political or religious phantasies gain such momentum? One thing I’m fairly convinced of: All these murderous beliefs and practices need the construction of the “enemy”. A phantasmogorical creation of large groups of people. And these quasi-real groups get charged with dreams of violence. A whole culture of violence is necessary for this: Just take, a totally random example, the role the radio stations in Ruanda played in preparing the “Hutu” for the genocide on the “Tutsi” (over months, government controlled radio stations spread hatred against the Tutsi minority, calling them “cockroaches” and targeting them publicly).
But Ruanda is a bad comparison. Let’s go back to the Norway massacre. German intellectual (and also victim of violence) Jan Phillip Reemtsma wrote somewhere in his extraordinary book “Mord am Strand” (don’t know if it’s been translated) that in the end, when all the reconstructions and expertises are done, they still cannot explain the monstrosity of the killing of another human being. As historian, I’m used to turn back the focus to be able to see the (illusionary but very productive) “big picture”. I often think that this is why I constantly fail in understanding recent events, events that are still in process. The micro level on which the Norway killings took place, is terra incognita to me. I don’t “believe” in the objectivity of psychology, sociology, anthropology, crime studies and such. In such killings, there’s no truth to be found. Not about a human condition, not about the times we live in or a certain religious or political system. Yet I want to know more about it and try to find, chaotic as it may be, some sort of a grid of perception and analysis that would allow me to get a better grasp of what has happened.
When you’re staring long enough into the abyss, the abyss stares back into you: That’s one of the most common Nietzsche quotes. Maybe, in all its vagueness, it says something about such incomprehensible acts. Francisco di Goya’s famous “The sleep of reason gives birth to monsters” drawings springs to mind too and from there, it’s not far to Adorno’s quote that those who think are never full of anger. Well, if only things would be so simple.

And now, posting this rare old Punk record from a band from Norway (with one truly outstanding track, the melancholic “Produkt av 70-ara”), trying to force my sleepy head to find some words for what has troubled me in the past 24 hours – isn’t this some sort of “Betroffenheits – Kitsch”? What could this or any other Punk record have to do with the killing of a hundred people? Nothing. This is just a music blog.

Produkt av 70-ara.mp3
Loven slär.mp3
Ingen visjoner.mp3


PS: Just when I finished this posting, I heard that Amy Winehouse was found dead in her apartment. The Norway massacre leave me disturbed. Amy Winehouse’s death leaves me in tears. See, that’s what I meant with all this rambling above. Fucking Betroffenheits – Kitsch.

PS 2: I’m really sorry when this seems like I’m only using HAERVERK instead of writing something about them. I love this 7″ and I don’t want to make it seem like the music’s totally irrelevant here. It’s all a bit hectic here and I might re-do this completely when I’m back home.