Dean Rohrer

What Failed in Norway?

It would be facile to link the tragedy in Norway solely to the rise of far-right political forces there, but it would be naïve to rule out any connection between the two phenomena. We know all too well what horrors grow from the combination of fear, hatred, and de-humanization.

PARIS – Japan in March 2011 and Norway in July 2011: any comparison between the madness of nature and the pure madness of man in Norway may sound artificial. Yet, confronted with their respective tragedies, Japan and Norway displayed a very similar combination of qualities and flaws.

In both countries, civil society reacted to the events in a remarkable manner, with a sense of unity, dignity, and reaffirmed national cohesiveness. But, while citizens in both countries have emerged more confident in themselves and in their core values, the security authorities’ performance clearly fell short. As a result, Japanese and Norwegians might emerge more critical – and justifiably so – of their respective official bureaucracies. Hail to the people, who had to supplement with their own ingenuity the organizational capacity of those who were in charge of their protection.

One should not, of course, try to take the comparison further. Fukushima will forever stand for the uniqueness of nuclear energy: as long as it works, it is cheaper and cleaner than most alternatives. But, unlike other energy sources, when something goes wrong, the consequences are catastrophic.

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