Sunday, November 11, 2007

On Violence

Handgun Class
Originally uploaded by Chase Allgood
I am writing this post at Brussels airport. It’s 10.30 on Friday morning and I have been awake already for six hours. These are situations where one realises the difference in being thirty and twenty. I must say that I have never been as happy for seeing the Starbucks sign as 5.30 this morning at Vienna airport.

I attended yesterday in Vienna a meeting for European online media initiatives such as Eurozine, OpenDemocracy, and Transitions Online. The discussion during the day was on what counts as a European issue. However, during the evening we found ourselves discussing once again in the national roles – as a German, as a Finn, as an Austrian, as a Swede.

Yesterday morning I had once again a realisation that I do live outside my own country. As I was brushing my teeth I had BBC World on which covered extensively the riots in Georgia. In the ticker running on the bottom of the screen I noticed one headline saying:”Teenager shoots seven others and a teacher in Finland”. I stopped brushing and just waited to see it again. ”But something like that cannot happen in Finland. I must have seen wrong”, was my immediate reaction. I texted a friend of mine and my sister and in a minute, my sister called me back.

My first reaction was anger. Why the hell things like this happen? How can someone at that age hate the world so much that he sees killing other people as a resolution? In the discussions during the day I got the full picture. I still could not get over the anger but it was coupled with immense sadness. This morning I checked the website of Helsingin Sanomat again. My anger grew when reading news about fansites for the killers. What the hell is wrong with the way we perceive humanity and violence? I could not help thinking about the speech Robert Kennedy gave over violence.

I am at the airport waiting for teenagers flying over from countries ranging from Turkmenistan to Denmark for the annual The One Minutes Festival. These are people of the same age as the perpetrator and the victims – filled with optimism and talent. What went wrong in Jokela?

When these school shootings have happened in the US, the reaction in the European media has often been that this could never happen in Europe. Europe still has a tendency for a rather arrogant way of defining its values and traditions with a cherry-picking method. Even taking into consideration the role of the European Union as a successful peace project, we are a violent continent. In that sense the tragic incident which happened in Jokela is a European experience which needs joint discussion on how we perceive violence and guns.


Addition on Sunday evening: do get a good picture of what the winning oneminutesjr videos were like, check these:
Joseph Fadel: Flow (Lebanon)
Palvan Geldinysh: Rakyp (Turkmenistan)
Jakunze Fiston: Je m’exprime (Burundi)

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