There is Nothing Right About Extremism

I am sure I was not alone in the bitter sweet memories of the past weekend. I was left in awe of the performance of Australia’s Cadel Evans and his team in winning the Tour de France. The result, while attributed to an individual, is the result of one of the greatest examples of teamwork in professional sport.

While Evans is an extraordinary individual cyclist, no man wins such a gruelling event without other champion cyclists supporting them. Each team member has their role in getting their ‘man’ into the yellow jersey.

After coming so close in previous tours, Evans’ triumph as the oldest tour winner since WWII is an example of perseverance and determination that should inspire us all.

But alongside the glory and celebration of Cadel Evans’ example is another that should revolt all of humanity: the brutal bombing and mass murder that took place in Norway.

In taking the lives of at least 76 others, gunman Anders Breivik demonstrated that extremism takes many forms and can fester within even the most tolerant of communities.

Breivik allegedly inhabited the online world of neo-Nazi websites and forums, advocating for a revolution to restore racial purity to the Norwegian nation and throughout broader Europe.

Described by the media as ‘right-wing’, his support of the neo-Nazi ideology would suggest that he was actually a left-leaning national socialist. Of course, such semantics matter not when it comes to extremism.

The political compass joins where the extreme left and extreme right meet in their totalitarian agenda of state dominance over the individual. As such these political extremes are almost morally indistinguishable.

A self-confessed ‘nationalist’, Breivik chose to align himself with a political party with Christian underpinnings in a quest for legitimacy. Despite admitting to not being a very religious person, he reasoned correctly that it was impossible to unite people under the hateful ideology he espoused and sought another, more mainstream vehicle to mask his agenda.

An avowed anti-Islamist, Breivik set off a bomb in the Norwegian capital of Oslo before targeting a camp of teenage political activists for brutal slaughter. He saw this as the opportunity to wipe out the next generation of political leaders that would further the work of those whom, he considered, had already betrayed his country.

Just like many deluded extremists before him, Breivik released a manifesto shortly before committing his terrible atrocities. His 1500 page ‘magnum opus’ details his desire to implement a type of ‘national Darwinism’. One presumes this mandates a survival of the fittest policy, again drawing links to the Nazi-oriented eugenics movement.

He also railed against political correctness and what he termed ‘cultural Marxism’, drawing on the work of many mainstream authors and intellectuals to build his case. These are concerns shared by many people in Western society and of themselves, whilst often prompting contentious debate, are a legitimate part of political discourse.

Notwithstanding the merit or otherwise of these broader themes, the crazed aspect of Breivik’s belief was his means of responding to the political and societal issues that concerned him.

He believed that overturning the existing order required a violent revolution of which he would be the catalyst through his murderous rampage.

The barbarity of Breivik’s callous crimes and the extent of his delusion is an example of the evil that lurks within. Exactly what sparks the journey from political idealist to mass murderer will be something for the psychologists to determine.

No matter how much some will try to picture it differently, by his own admission Breivik wasn’t a religious man and his crimes were not committed in the name of any religion. Rather, they were a direct result of his disillusionment with political policies and politicians that he disagreed with. While his intention was to highlight his personal crusade, his abhorrent response has only discredited, rather than promoted, his cause.

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