Steinunn Gunnlaugsdóttir is an artist and one of the Reykjavík 9, who are charged for attacking Alþingi.
2010 was a good year for authorities. It proved that a few months of revolutionary status and two days of rioting that led to the fall of a government changed just about nothing. Every grim prophecy made in the aftermath of the collapse has come to fruition without strikes, rebellion or attacks to the capitalistic powers that caused the situation.
Greece, the cradle of democracy, experienced a revolt at the same time as Iceland. Although the two uprisings are in many ways different, they are still interesting to compare. Both places saw a relatively small part of society protesting in the streets compared to how widespread public dissatisfaction had gotten. In Greece, it was the police authorities’ murder of a teenage boy that set things in motion. In Iceland, it was an economic collapse. But what boiled underneath was similar: inequality, abuse of power, corruption and other consequences of the capitalistic structure. What’s entirely different, however, is that in Greece the original revolt went on for a month, but when the first wave slowed down the flames of protest still retained a spark. Opposition has since spread and evolved as a real resistance to the systematic and pointed social destruction and exploitation the government is engaged in under the pretext of recession. But in Iceland, where exactly the same things are happening, every- thing died down almost as soon as an election was announced.
As this is being written—on December 15, two years after the December revolt— Greece is undergoing a general strike. People of all ages attacked former ministers, burned vehicles, broke the windows of banks and corporations and threw rocks and Molotov cocktails at armed riot police. These people’s rebellion shows their dignity and spirit that doesn’t bow down so easily to capitalism’s attacks on their freedom and rights. This is in striking contrast to the servile limpness that so quickly overtook Iceland after a short-lived revolt of the wage-slaves in Iceland, the cracker factory.
What will the new decade bring?
It is easy to see that the situation will keep getting worse in Iceland, and the people’s reluctance to resist is a cause for great concern. The surrender and apathy bring the dominant powers even more ways for oppression. But there are other ways. People can look to protesters in Greece and elsewhere for inspiration, because revolt does not only lead to human dignity, but also the possibility of something different, and better.
For nearly thirty years, dissidence wasn’t cool in Iceland. But during one good economic collapse, partaking in revolution became fashionable. A lot of people can feel saved by not missing that Kodak moment.