The horrific July 22 terrorist massacre in Norway should be the cause for a lot of soul searching in the West.
The massacre by Anders Behring Breivik at the youth camp of the Labour Party on the island of Utoya, and the bombing of government buildings in Oslo, were motivated by a fanatical belief that the Labour Party, the senior partner in a coalition government, was “betraying” Norway by being too soft on migrants and Muslims.
Unfortunately there is an unwritten but strictly followed “political correctness” in public discussion that stops any real examination of the source of most politically motivated violence.
It is not acceptable to state the simple truth: most violence in the world comes from the West and has done so for the past 500 years.
The rush to portray Breivik as a deranged “lone wolf”, ignoring documented links to various extremist networks and instead emphasising his psychology over his ideology, is part of a broader refusal to look at the violent nature of Western culture.
This includes a culture, promoted by much of the media and “mainstream” politicians, that is intensely hostile to all things non-Western.
People in the West and elsewhere have been horrified by Breivik’s massacre. In the West it is, to say the least, not normal to settle political differences over immigration quotas by slaughtering more than 70 fellow nationals, mainly youth.
US talk show host Glenn Beck was widely criticised for remarks vilifying Breivik’s victims — comparing the youth wing of the Labour Party to the Hitler Youth.
However, the fact that Beck’s views were heard at all reflects that he is an establishment opinion maker. He only recently parted company from the godfather of Western ideology, media baron Rupert Murdoch.
His regular vilification of non-Westerners, particularly Muslims and Latin Americans, never received similar criticism.
Likewise with Breivik’s rambling manifesto, 2083 — The European Declaration of Independence.
Most Westerners would find his Knights Templar fantasies bizarre and strongly oppose his calls for a European civil war.
However, many of the points in his thesis can be found in varying forms in the statements of Western leaders across the political spectrum and forms a constant thread in the Western media.
This includes the inevitable “clash” between Western and non-Western cultures; the threat to Western “values” and “identity” posed by peaceful communities of immigrants; the vilification of Islam; and, most importantly, the unquestioned assumption of Western superiority.
The reflexive Western response to Breivik’s atrocity is denial that Breivik’s fringe world of neo-Nazi groups and “Justiciar Templars” is a product of the Western body politic.
But the anti-immigrant and Islamophobic far right is growing in support across Europe. This includes in Norway, where the anti-immigrant Progress Party (of which Breivik is a former member) is the second largest party in parliament.
Since the initial Western assumption that Muslims were the perpetrators of the Oslo terrorist attacks turned out to be untrue, Western ideologues have tried to blame Breivik’s Islamophobic ideology on … extremist Islam.
The July 23 New York Times claimed Western anti-Muslim terrorists “were mimicking Al Qaeda’s brutality and multiple attacks”, as if “brutality and multiple attacks” were somehow innovations in the practice of terrorism.
Yet Breivik names as influences a number of mainstream Western conservatives.
This includes mainstream Australian sources.
Breivik cites positively Australian establishment figures, including former PM John Howard, right-wing historian Keith Windshuttle (who denies the genocide against Aboriginal people) and misogynist, homophobic Catholic Archbishop of Sydney George Pell.
Some of those Breivik cites, such as US blogger Pam Geller, not only spout the same Islamaphobic and anti-immigrant hate speech as Breivik, but also make hysterical allegations and use violent language against mainstream political opponents.
In Geller’s case, this includes the administration of US President Barack Obama.
Such commentators generally refrain from explicitly endorsing violence against mainstream opponents, and have distanced themselves from the Oslo attacks.
However, advocating violence against non-Westerners, and Western dissidents such as WikiLeaks editor-in-chief Julian Assange, has become par for the course from this type of Western conservative.
The influence of Geller’s Tea Party Movement over the US Republican Party, and the Republicans’ influence over Congress, shows this extremist thinking permeates Western politics.
However, it is not just Western conservatives who have been in denial about the Oslo attacks.
The Western liberal media has also downplayed their political motivation, and the links between the terroristic fascism of European far right and Western political culture.
Mainstream Western culture is deeply narcissistic. At the heart of the Western outlook is the unquestioned assumption of Western superiority.
This can manifest itself as extreme nationalism or racism. But even mainstream liberal ideologies in the West, which reject outright racism, tend to assume the superiority of Western culture and that the West has an inherent right to a disproportionate share of the world’s resources.
These assumptions are all-pervasive in Western mainstream political parties and media and underpin the West’s violence.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, Western ideology has been characterised by the obsessive hostility to Muslims that featured in Breivik’s manifesto — especially after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks in the US.
Whether in conservative Christian or liberal secular guise, the narrative of the “clash of cultures” between Islam and the West has been used to justify major wars against Iraq and Afghanistan that have taken millions of lives.
It has also justified numerous smaller military actions and proxy wars, kidnapping, torture, secret jails, removal of civil liberties within the Western countries and persecution of refugees, among other things.
However, this Islamophobia is merely the current manifestation of a far broader Western hostility towards the rest of the world.
The history of the past half century includes devastating Western wars of aggression in Latin America and South East Asia.
Going back further, the West’s bloody colonial wars are too numerous to list. Some Western countries — the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand — were created by colonisation and the genocide of the local, non-Western people.
From the Spanish in the Caribbean in the 1490s, to France’s role in Rwanda in the 1990s, genocide has regularly been perpetrated by the West.
In the US, the nation building process also included the enslavement of millions of Africans.
Two of the more violent moments in the last century were the two world wars in which the Western powers fought with each other, in large part, over control of the non-Western world, devastating Europe in the process.
In World War II, this included racist genocide against Jews and Roma (gypsies).
Today, this event is usually cited not as a warning against the violence inherent in Western ideology but as justification for Israeli occupation and ethnic cleansing of Palestine.
The crimes of Germany are atoned for by the Palestinians, who were colonised at the time and remain so.
An aggressive Western state, imposed on a non-Western region, is cast as the victim of the non-Western people it colonises by references to the earlier crimes of another Western state.
Misplaced victimhood is another recurring feature of mainstream Western thought.
Peaceful communities of non-Western immigrants are portrayed as a threat to the “national identity” of Western countries, but the West’s right to impose its values on the rest of the world is rarely questioned.
There is not a single non-Western country that has never been attacked or colonised by a Western power.
The West is economically dominant. Western culture, transmitted by the global corporate media and entertainment industry, is ubiquitous throughout the world.
Yet the Western “identity” is apparently threatened.
In Australia, the arrival of a relatively small number of refugees by boat is described as an invasion. However, the despatch of soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan, where they have killed civilians including children, is generally not.
Many of the refugees are from Iraq and Afghanistan.
It is not enough for mainstream Western commentators and politicians to condemn Breivik, the neo-Nazi groups he associated with, or even the Islamophobic and anti-immigrant right-wing.
There needs to be acknowledgement of the violence that the West perpetrates against the rest of the world.
Westerners need to realise that they are minority on this planet — about 20% of the population. The West, however, consumes more than 80% of the world’s resources and is responsible for more than 80% of greenhouse gas emissions.
The West’s violence enforces this inequality. The resulting poverty is itself a form of violence.
Millions of non-Westerners die from preventable causes because Western corporations make profit-driven decisions to deny them water, healthcare and food.
Westerners need to integrate — for the sake of the world, but also for their own sake.
Within the Western countries, inequality is increasing. In the US, the richest 1% now own 40% of the nation’s wealth.
As anyone who has witnessed an Australian election should know, the West’s ideology, in both liberal and conservative forms, directs resentment at such inequality at non-Western targets.
Furthermore, the spectre of global warming shows that if the West does not integrate into humanity and change its destructive ways, then humanity itself is doomed.