On Monday morning (July 25), following the Friday (July 22) rampage by the mass murderer Anders Breivik in Oslo, Norway, I was informed by a reporter from the Canadian Press about my name, besides those of a few other Canadians, appearing in his manifesto.
Needless to say, I was momentarily taken aback with this bizarre information.
Colin Perkel, the reporter, wanted my reaction to this piece of news of whatever questionable value.
Following my exchange with Perkel, I received phone calls and emails from reporters across the country wanting to take note of my reaction on learning a mass murderer took note of my writings, and quoted passages from one of my papers published in an American journal.
I eventually took a cursory look at Breivik’s manifesto titled A European Declaration of Independence, courtesy of the link Perkel kindly sent me after we had spoken.
This is a massive document of some 1,518 pages filled with musings and ramblings of a troubled mind feeding his demons.
In it, Breivik fantasizes his role as some knight of an ancient order dedicated to preserving an imagined Europe — Christian and racially white — cleansed of alien cultures and mixed races, in particular Islam and Muslims.
What appalled me, besides Breivik’s pathology that erupted in mass murder, was the puerile curiosity or voyeurism of journalists in our society seeking a measure of my reaction on discovering my name mentioned in the catalogue of names and quotations Breivik collected.
I was left pondering if the same journalists would call upon John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Bertrand Russell and many more from the canon of western literature if they could be reached to get their reactions on learning a mass murderer spent time assembling their names and quotations.
The wonder of human society is its natural diversity.
In any free society there will be found saints and devils, individuals of varying talents and unique abilities — Newtons, Einsteins and Mozarts on the one end of the spectrum, and on the other imbeciles, perverts, misogynists, bullies and a sprinkling of psychopaths driven by demons inside them to murder as did Anders Breivik.
It would be sheer madness, and counterproductive, to imagine a free society can insulate itself from such horror that ripped apart the heart of Oslo on a quiet summer afternoon. Imagine such an effort as one similar to some municipality’s grand scheme to rid its precinct of all bacteria in its air and water supply.
It cannot be done, or done in some imaginary construct of an impregnable fortress where any sign of freedom is expunged and human society is turned into an ant hill.
People, however, will insist on drawing some lesson from the tragedy in Norway.
In a free and open society, people will reach their own conclusions about what possibly transformed an apparently nice looking young man into a monster.
Whatever diagnosis is made of such madness, it will be inconclusive.
Madness is by definition what is considered normal snaps, become scrambled and, paradoxically, is elusive for comprehension and repair in advance.
The lesson here, if any, is freedom is always fragile and it must not be suffocated even further to placate madness in a free society.
Salim Mansur is a Western political science professor, and a national columnist for QMI. This column, originally printed in the July 30 edition of Toronto Sun, is reprinted here with permission of the author.