Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Jokela revisited: Times controversial take on Finnish killer (and Finland)

Similarities to other massacres - but this was a very Finnish affair

Watch video posted by the YouTube killer

Read Roger Boyes's response to your comments

In the old days Finns used to believe in the dark power of Tuonela, the mythical land of the dead. Now they believe in YouTube, the land of the virtual living.

The crazed marginalised teenager who takes out his frustration on his teachers and schoolmates, who chases them through classrooms like mice in a maze, has become a universal phenomenon: the massacres at Virginia Tech, Columbine and Erfurt in Germany conformed to a pattern. A pupil is snubbed, is deemed a failure, and retreats into an interior world that structured by his computer, video games that tap his inner aggressions, throbbing downloaded music and a locked room.

Sven Christianson, professor of psychology at Stockholm University, said: “There are distinct similarities with Virginia Tech. It could well have served as an inspiration.”

Above all, the young killer’s presentation of himself with weapons — a method favoured by Cho Seung Hui at Virginia Tech — suggested someone with low self-esteem trying to build himself up. The recorded warning of an impending bloodbath suggested a narcissistic personality, a youth determined to exert control, to choose between life and death.

Yet despite the common features with other massacres, the shoot-up in Tuusula was a very Finnish affair.

Finland is a land of wide open spaces, between 16-17 people per square kilometre. Lakes often separate neighbouring farmsteads. At this time of year it is sunk in almost permanent half-light and Finnish families count the days to their winter holidays when they can flee to the bright sunlight of south-east Asian resorts.

Clinical depression is high, the suicide rate too. But above all the Nordic winter isolates the young in the small towns: they arrive at school in the dark and leave it in the dark, travelling long distances to their homes. Friendship in the traditional sense is often a summer luxury.

And so friendship becomes virtual. The social networking sites are switched on the moment the Finnish teenager returns home. YouTube substitutes for television, which is regarded as dreary and middle-aged. About 75 per cent of all Finns use the internet. And Finland, the cradle of Nokia, has some of the cheapest mobile phone rates in Europe. Kids as young as 6 take mobiles to school; a child’s first text message is a matter of parental pride. None of this is unusual for modern Europe, but in Finland the high-tech world has become a normal, rather than an exceptional, substitute for the world of human contact. A youth isolated at school sinks even deeper into isolation when he has left the school gates: a recipe for trouble. Even more so in a country where guns are so readily available; Finland has the third-largest per capita ownership of handguns in the world.

The youth who ran amok signalled his intentions using the codename Sturmgeist89. The word means “storm-spirit” in German and probably refers to a Norwegian heavy metal band, but it provides a marker of sorts: when he took the gun in his hand he seems to have imagined himself as a hero, a corrector of wrongs. There is nothing very modern or YouTube-ish about that self-image. In ancient times the Finns used to worship Ukko, the mythic god of the sky and thunder.

Yesterday, invoking new gods and myths, an 18-year-old brought thunder down on a small frozen township. It was a sign of disturbed times — but also a very Finnish tragedy.

Murder ‘manifesto’

“I am a cynical existentialist, antihuman humanist, antisocial socialdarwinist, realistic idealist and godlike atheist. I, as a natural selector, will eliminate all who I see unfit, disgraces of human race and failures of natural selection. You might ask yourselves, why did I do this. Well, most of you are too arrogant and closed-minded to understand. I am ready to die for a cause I know is right, just and true. This is my war, my ideas and my plans. Don’t blame my parents or my friends. I told nobody about my plans and I always kept them inside my mind only. Don’t blame the movies I see, the music I hear, the games I play or the books I read. No, they had nothing to do with this. This is my war: one man war against humanity, governments and weak-minded masses of the world! HUMANITY IS OVERRATED! It’s time to put SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST back on tracks!"

Original article posted here.

No comments: