A Man May Dream - The Reykjavik Grapevine

A Man May Dream

A Man May Dream

Published August 6, 2004

I asked whether the price was right and received a shrug and look that told me to move on, as there were other customers in the cue. Well, that did it.
“You can’t charge me 640kr for these, that’s over 80kr each.” I shouted as the left side of my brain slowly kicked in. “That’s one euro, more than a dollar, 85 pence. Frankly it doesn’t matter what the bloody currency is… it’s far too much to be paying for this misshapen, sprouting lump of starch and carbohydrate which is masquerading as a potato…This is the staple source of nourishment for we who live in the Northern Hemisphere and there’s a glut of them in Europe. How can they be so expensive? What’s more your government has got the temerity to stick a 14.5 percent value added tax on this cancerous looking tuber. Get me the owner immediately, or is that him I see driving that Rolls Royce on his way to Keflavik on his way to visit his sumarhús in Monte Carlo?”
I’m in full flow now and despite efforts to restrain myself, I leap up onto the cash counter and address the astonished customers. “The time has come to stop paying these prices.” My voice has adopted a more Churchillian tone and I’m sure I can see many bending to my argument. “There should be no tax on food, and importers should be made to be transparent in what they pay at source for these products and the cost of shipping. If Baugur and Haugkaup can buy it cheaply, why can´t we? We need the truth, the unvarnished, Óli Tynes truth.”
My voice trembles as I notice the men, women and children who now listen, as one, to my entreaty. “Enough is enough – we will strike. This shop today, but next week, the whole country. We will refuse to by one item a week until prices have reached acceptable levels and the government has withdrawn all taxation on food, except junk food where it will double the excise.”
The manager in alarm reached for the phone to summon the police, disturbed to see several shoppers emptying their trolleys back to the shelves – the noise of the cans rattling is drowned out by the cheers and applause that greet my last entreaty.

“We can do it, we can protest, we can make a difference. Keep your money in your pockets and the prices will tumble!”
I was carried out of the shop on the shoulders of an adoring crowd to the awaiting television crews. RUV had interrupted their coverage of the finals of the European Cup to show a news bulletin featuring my protest. The next day I was summoned to the Alþingi to address a packed chamber who passed a bill then and there. Later that evening I was across the water to Bessastaðir to receive the Falcon of honour…

How I wish that were the truth. But I, like everyone else in this town, kept my mouth shut, paid my bill and went home.

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