The Power of One
Posted on July 25, 2011It is awfully hard to comprehend what happened in Norway over the weekend.
How could one man do so much damage in the name of Christianity?
How could that one man be so completely delusional to think that by killing so many innocent lives that he was fulfilling some greater mission?
Anders Behring Breivik shot dead 68 young people on Utoya Island right after he set off explosives that killed eight in downtown Oslo. According to news reports, Breivik, a blond hair blue-eyed native Norwegian, wanted to save Europe from cultural Marxism and from Muslim immigration. He apparently went on the shooting spree because he wanted to send a signal to the ruling Labor Party as a way to punish it for its lax policies on immigration.
Breivik, with more than a hint of irony, quoted the father of utilitarianism, John Stuart Mill, saying, "One person with a belief is equal to the force of 100,000 who have only interests.” Of course, it was Mill who helped to design the principle of no harm, which, according to Wikpedia, “holds that each individual has the right to act as he wants, so long as these actions do not harm others. If the action is self-regarding, that is, if it only directly affects the person undertaking the action, then society has no right to intervene, even if it feels the actor is harming himself.”
Clearly, Breivik violated the Mill “no-harm” principle.
If this attack had happened in the United States, the debate would take a familiar path.
First, liberals would immediately try to blame Rush Limbaugh and Eric Cantor.
When that tired debate ran out of steam, the gun control people would immediately start blaming lax gun control laws.
Pretty soon, liberal and conservative groups will send fund raising appeals, trying to profit off the tragedy and scare people into giving them money.
Because this happened in Norway, the media is not quite sure now to handle it. Clearly, Breivik is disturbed (mostly because sane people don’t send messages to political parties by butchering close to a hundred people).
Hopefully, it will spark a deeper debate about how we handle those who inhabit the darker reaches of society. Breivik occupies a very scary world, a world that we can’t afford to ignore any more.
Mill might have been right when he wrote about the nature of liberty and the importance of letting people do their own thing. But when that “thing” leads to serious delusions, and worse, we all have to take notice.
When one person falls through the cracks, we all pay. Mr. Breivick has demonstrated with chilling efficiency the power of one person, and how one person can systematically kill scores.