From Iceland — Wake-Up Call

Wake-Up Call

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Published January 13, 2006

On January 7th, a number of musicians of great stature dedicated their time and reputations to saving Iceland’s highlands and stopping the construction of the Kárahnjúkar aam – or at the very least further dams like it. It looks to be an historical occasion. Even if the dam is built, at least now there has finally been large-scale vocal opposition. As one local reader, a young doctor returning from studies abroad, told me it is now impossible to openly admit that you have ever been in favour of the dam.
While I gladly dedicate this magazine to Hætta and other protest organisations, which may now enter the mainstream – including Saving, an organisation with whom the Grapevine has had a great deal of difficulty in the past—I ask the reader to take note of the non-January 7th articles in this paper. If profound social injustice in need of large-scale reaction is your thing, take a look at the treatment the Reykjavík City Council, and mayoral hopeful Dagur Eggertsson, gave the Muslim and Eastern Orthodox communities here in Reykjavík. Bad enough that these key members of the Reykjavík community have been denied the right to build a place of worship, but even worse than the fact that they are being denied the right to build a place of worship is the almost boastful ignorance of Mr. Eggertsson, proudly proclaiming that paperwork was held up for a year in city hall because he didn’t know, and wouldn’t bother to ask, if Eastern Orthodox Christians can worship in the vicinity of a crematorium.
I also ask you to browse, as always, our cultural reviews. Personally, as significant as January 7th was, a key pull for the Icelandic music scene is the idea of bands playing solely to entertain and help people get through long nights, bad weather, and awkward growth spurts—something Hjálmar, Mínus and Bang Gang did recently at a free show.
Barði Jóhannsson of Bang Gang had a particularly uncomfortable night on January 6, and he told me he was horrified to play in front of children who looked like their brains had been turned off and were set in front of a TV. This is what made his show so remarkable. The honest truth is that the crowd who attended the free show on January 6th did have their brains turned off – mainly by a society that isn’t too interested in the effect of its culture on its own youth. Maybe this is a former English teacher speaking, but seeing a thousand teenagers slowly come to life and react to art seemed like a remarkable accomplishment. If a bit more of a connection could be made, if Icelanders below legal drinking age could be awakened enough to take part in a local dialogue, we wouldn’t have to worry about a population of voters passively accepting the decisions of a government that doesn’t act in their interest.

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