Jamie Walden is glad to see Anders Behring Breivik held morally responsible for his actions and that the blame is not being transferred to any “root causes” of the atrocities in Norway.
The Breivik massacres must surely put an end to the quest for “root causes”. The self-generated evil perpetrated by this grandiosely deluded non-entity cannot and is not being put down to any “root cause”. The world has not done anything to Breivik which could rationalise his actions and he was not left without any choice but to do what he did. However that might seem rather obvious.
Conversely following the attacks of September 11th 2001 many decided that it was not a case of self-generated evil; in fact the idea of evil itself became unfashionable. Instead “root causes” were sought. A meme floated around which asserted that if someone were to do something so awful, they must have a justifiable gripe with those who were the targets of the assaults.
Various attempts have been tried. America should support Palestine instead of Israel; the West should not interfere when dictators in “Muslim land” enslave the populations there; we should feel guilty about global economic disparity etc. All of the attempts to show how we brought it on ourselves were nonsense. Terrorists are morally responsible adults, who are not “caused” to do what they do, but they do it themselves because they decide to. They could have decided not to, but they didn’t.
The endless search for the “root causes” of Islamic terrorism came from a deeply embedded racism in Western society about non-Westerners. The non-Westerner was being considered an inanimate object which could not screw up as a culpable being itself, but could only screw up if “caused” to by the West being mean to them. This subtly racist narrative cast the Westerner as a morally responsible adult and the non-Westerner as a boomerang. The Westerner throws the boomerang, and being a boomerang it comes back and hits the Westerner in the face. Of course it is not the boomerangs fault; it is after all an inanimate object without moral responsibility of its own. The Westerner was to blame- he should not have “caused” the boomerang to hit him in the face.
This ‘classic piece of leftist pathology’ as Andrew Sullivan calls it, was no more on display than when Robert Fisk wrote about being roughed up in Afghanistan for no reason other than being a Westerner. Yet Fisk said that ‘I understood. I couldn’t blame them for what they were doing… [their] brutality was entirely a product of others’. According to Fisk they were ‘innocent of any crime, except that of being the victim of the world’. Sullivan pointed out that Fisk was arguing ‘someone- anyone- is either innocent or guilty purely by racial or cultural association. An average Westerner is to be taken as an emblem of an entire culture and treated as such. Any random Westerner will do. Individual notions of responsibility or morality are banished, as one group is labelled blameless and another irredeemably malign’.
This pathology cannot feed on the recent acts of terror in Norway. Breivik does not have the hallmarks that would relinquish him of his responsibility. He is not a victim of anything. He is not from the third world. He is from a consumer society, not a poverty stricken quaintly spiritual one. Quite rightly he is being blamed for his own actions. These events may give those in their endless masochistic searches for a “root cause” the jolt they need to remember how moral blame and responsibility should sensibly be attributed.