Politics is about gaining power as well as using power. It involves that which separates us (gender, class, age, ethnicity) as well as that which unites us as human beings. Reason often battles emotion just as minorities battle majorities and the future competes with the present. It involves loyalty and tribalism as well as objectivity and rationality.
Good politicians understand all of this but are not swept aside by it. It is when each of the tensions is ignored and politics reduced to a technique that we enter troubled waters. There is an important distinction to be made between the techniques that can assist politicians and politics as a technique. Politics requires research into both its ends and means but above all else it requires the capacity to judge and the will to decide in an imperfect world.
There are few words that describe how I feel reading about what happened in Norway at the Labour Youth (AUF) summer camp. Frightening, sickening and horrifying are words that come to mind but it cannot capture how I feel. I never imagined targeted political violence against young social democrats in a Western liberal democracy such as Norway.
It is a tragedy that is being felt beyond Norway. At the moment, I’m on my way to the International Union of Socialist Youth (IUSY) World Festival in Austria. It is a political summer camp, just like the one that the AUF held on Utoya. The AUF is an affiliate to IUSY and were going to have a delegation at the festival. The feeling of absolute shock and disbelief has been widespread amongst others traveling to the festival.
What makes the events in Utoya so upsetting is knowing you share similar beliefs and values with activists in the AUF. Many of them would not be that different to me or many other young members of the ALP. It happened at an event that you would have been at if you were Norwegian. The terrorist attack on the AUF feels like orchestrated violence against all young social democrats and their values. The statement by by IUSY, captured this sentiment:
The attack on AUF is an attack on all of us, our values and principles.
There are still many questions left unanswered and answers may not be known for some time. One thing that we can do though is to give our solidarity and condolences to the AUF. The thoughts of the world are with AUF members and their families. For the moment at least, we are all AUF activists and Norwegians.