Teaching Evil to Norwegians
Illustration by Olov Lagerqvist
Norway has been linked to grandiose notions of evil for centuries. In the Middle Ages, some Europeans believed the country was full of witches, and in the 1990s, the country’s black-metal scene made headlines for alleged ties to satanism, burning shit, and even murder. Though Norway’s crime rate is laughably low when compared with most of the world, the country’s fascination with evil is still apparent and widespread. And this fall, Norwegians’ preoccupation with wickedness will manifest itself in its most insidious form: a university class.
Last March, Soltun, a folkhøgskole (a school Norwegians attend for one year after secondary school) in the town of Harstad, announced that it will be offering a new course devoted to a yearlong in-depth study of the evil that lurks in the hearts of men. According to the official description of the course, which is simply called Ondskap (“Evil”), pupils who enroll will experience “one year when you get to explore who you are and at the same time try to find answers to questions that carry with them gruesome, grotesque, and horrible actions.” The class’s instructor, Kristine Edith Morton, explained to me exactly what that means.
VICE: First thing’s first. Are you evil?
Kristine Edith Morton: I believe that everybody has something evil inside, and that this surfaces during certain circumstances. Everyone knows it’s there. During my classes I won’t try to find the answer to evil, but I will analyze it, tear it apart, and try to understand it. Understanding evil is the gateway to being good.
Are Norwegians keener to venture to the dark side than other nationalities?
Maybe, but I also think evil has made its comeback in Norway with Anders Behring Breivik [who, in 2011, was responsible for a brutal shooting spree that resulted in 69 deaths]. It’s pretty much established that he is evil, although there are still supporters of his ideology. In my class, we will reflect upon what it is in our society that allows us to think those kinds of thoughts. We will also consider things like, is a deed still evil when you think you’re doing something good? Young people need to answer questions like that.
What else will be included in your curriculum?
It would be interesting to have people who worship Satan as guest lecturers. To let them tell their stories, and see if the students find that kind of thing appalling or appealing. I’d like to put evil and good up against each other. For example, we can reflect on the similarities between Hitler and Mother Theresa. Were they driven by internal motivations or were they products of their times? After nine months of reflection about things like these, I would like to think that my students will hopefully be able to go out into the world and do some good.
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