Aug 242022

War is more than collapsed buildings, deaths, and lots of people maimed for life. It is also paralysed infrastructure. We have just seen the beginning of the war with Russia. We have not seen the end of it.

As I write tonight, I find myself without internet. The internet service provider assures me that the break is due to a ruptured cable. That may well be the case, but what is also the case is that it could have been caused by Russia. Russia might yet decide to create havoc on our electrical grid, our water mains, etc. After all, war is war, and we (Europe) are in it, contributing in a big way to its perpetuation.

So we may all wake up one day to find that we have no Internet, no Facebook, no Instagram, no Google… That would be scary! But what if we have no water? In much of Europe, water is coming to an end due to droughts and heat waves. What if it disappeared altogether?

Russia has made it clear that they do not want to precipitate a nuclear disaster. Nor do “we”, obviously. But disasters do happen. And there are other forms of disasters that most of us lack the imagination to envisage. Such disasters are truly disastrous – not least for the allegedly innocent party.

Are we an innocent party? You might be interested in what Jeffrey D. Sachs has to say about that.

Yesterday, I spoke with compatriots who complained: “We were used to differences being sorted out with diplomacy and dialogue, and suddenly Russia attacks us!”. Was that really what happened? Did “we” (NATO/EU), prior to this war, really try to sort out differences with Russia with dialogue?

After the war started, did “we” belatedly try to halt its progress, settle differences?

In countries at war, dissidence is not tolerated. In Russia, individuals openly expressing opposition to the war are being arrested. In my country this is not yet the case, since no dissident voices are heard at all. Hence dissidence represents no threat to the powers that be. On the contrary: Support for NATO has never been greater in this country. I am tempted to maintain that the propaganda machine is more effective in Norway than in Russia

That, Mr Putin, is something you should consider. You may win the war in Ukraine, you will probably see Europe reduced to indigence, but you will be facing the hatred of Europeans.

Does Mr Putin care? Do we care? Alas, war turns us into primitives.

Aug 172022

Do you sometimes come out of a building and feel that the world outside is somehow unreal? Maybe if you have been very immersed in your work, or if you have seen an engrossing film or even just read a thrilling saga?

Recently, I have had that feeling almost every day, but not when I relocate between physical spaces. No, I am discombobulated by a sense of unreality every time I enter the space of – the enormous space of – mass media.

During Covid, we clung to mass media, not only for entertainment. Banned from the real world, many of us had to resort to laptops, mobile phones and TVs, to see a beach, cows in a field, and the delightful hubbub of a train station. We even turned to broadcasting outlets for comfort and reassurance.

In my country, the benign, familiar face of one of our news anchors would remind us every evening to maintain a two-metre distance distance, wash our hands thoroughly, and wear the mask properly. We would anxiously wait for the daily figures (remember the Worldometer?) – active cases, critical cases, deaths…. Almost every evening, the news included a brief lesson, such as “How to put on your mask”, “How to wash your hands”, “How to sneeze”, “What to do when you feel ill”.

In Norway, there was hardly any political opposition to government imposed measures regarding Covid. In fact, there was practically no political debate at all during the Covid regime.

We hoped, month after month after month, that it would soon end, that this was only a parenthesis in our normality, but it lasted for two years. Strictly speaking, it is still not entirely over. And we all know that it will happen again. And again.

Yet, we return with a vengeance to a semblance of normality, to a pretence of normality – to the realm of make-belief. News anchors are still telling us that everything is fine, except of course in Ukraine, but we will all do our bit to help Ukraine, and everything will soon be all right there too. Of the looming energy crisis in Europe, particularly in Germany and UK and of the numerous apocalyptic fires devouring hundreds of square kilometres (yes, kilometres, not acres) of forest, not to mention homes… hardly a word. As for the tension in South-East Asia – all China’s fault, of course, just as the war in Ukraine is all Russia’s fault – we choose to hope that justice will prevail, and justice is, of course, on our side. No doubt about that, at least.

There are doubts, though, fears even. Not about justice’s being on our side. We are, after all, like all human inhabitants, inculcated with certain values. (Inculcation is just a polite word for indoctrination – which, of course, is only practised by “Commies” (i.e. the Russians and Chinese). So justice is no doubt on our side, and we believe in progress, and just look at what science has accomplished, even in our lifetime.

Yet, something feels wrong, and definitely not right. Deep down, under our apparent complacence, there is angst. Everywhere.

Overnight, in my country, the mainstream press has become monolithic. Faced with a common enemy, Covid, the competing news outlets joined forces. Now that the threat of Covid may or may not be over, there are still threats, most notably that of Russia. Russia stands accused, and no news outlet or newspaper will allow the defendant to state his case.

As for the rest of us, we all know that the government is and has always been lying about the energy situation and about the urgency of the climate situation, yet, we put up with increasing militarisation, the theft of our hydroelectic energy and the refusal to seriously cut back emissions. Every evening, the benign, familiar face of one of our news anchors still tells us that everything is fine except for the people in Ukraine, and since most of us feel, for some reason or another, more kindly towards Ukrainians than to Syrians, we hope and believe that NATO’s defence of democracy and liberty will prevail.