The debates on Monday #6
Only the privileged few
A large number of Icelandic books are available as audio books at the audio books library. Available, in this case, however, means available to those who need them rather than those who would merely enjoy them. The audio book library is publicly funded and to some extent exempt from copyright restrictions, to serve blind and dyslexic audiences. Last week saw a mild debate involving non-blind and non-dyslexic readers who would nonetheless like to be able to buy these audio editions; the manager of the library who explained how absolutely nonsensical and futile not to mention old and often repeated that suggestion is, and that if any attempt were made to offer audio books to the general public, the whole system would crumble, dissolve in copyright disputes and costs, and in the end the blind would lose all access to literature at all. You do not want that, do you? An author then declared his surprise at finding out that his books existed in an audio-book form, and perplexity at not having been notified at all, let alone asked permission. Somewhere on the sidelines one Kristján Hrannar Pálsson defied the whole arrangement by reading some of his favorite books in full on YouTube. He must have some pretty good connections, for at the moment there are no signs that he will be sued or charged for the effort.
A tale of two sagas
Novelist Hallgrímur Helgason and former Minister of Agriculture, esteemed Progressive party member, Guðni Ágústsson, debated the milk monopoly. Debated as in: Hallgrímur said that Guðni had revealed himself as a Don Corleone of Icelandic cows, and Guðni replied that Hallgrímur reminded him of a character from a medieval saga, a character who, according to my best memory of what Guðni wrote, sometimes just seemed to hate everything to do with his nationality, as an Icelander. In that article, actually, Guðni also definitely wrote the quote of the week: Wherever to Icelnders get together, there’s a mafia. Somehow he seemed to think this statement supported his argument if there was one.
Then last week’s forecast proved right: the closure of the Islamic state’s website did become a matter of dispute, even if it seems at time that the honorable pirate members of Alþingi are the only ones on their side of the argument: that closing down media should perhaps better be based on clear principles and take place in accordance to some sort of protocol rather than haphazardly, even when something just doesn’t feel right. Those at the other side of the argument apparently don’t feel they have to say much, and in pragmatic terms, they are probably right: few people will be eager to spend much time to debate which procedure to follow when eliminating the Islamic state’s mouthpieces.
There was more, Alþingi is just starting this winter’s session, and because in some fundamental way nothing is happening, nothing at all, but we all have to do our jobs and parade our words, I predict a veritable debate flood on its way: there will be milk. Opinions will get all the stronger as they are less capable of affecting the world in any tangible way. Next Monday will see an unmistakable increase in the number of debated subject-matters per week. Quantity will not equal quality.
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