Published August 17, 2009
For some reason, I don’t have a lot to say this time around. No witty comments or clever analyses to espouse. If there ever were any.
However, I did recently receive an interesting letter from a friend of the Grapevine’s. I dug what it said, so I asked Friend if I could print it. Friend said it was alright, as long as long as I didn’t give out her name. So I translated it for you all to read. Here it is:
“Dear Haukur and the Grapevine crew,
How are you guys? It seems like I haven’t seen you all in ages, even if it’s only been a couple of months since I left the country. How are things anyway? I like keeping up with what’s happening on your website, and I do read the paper on line. You guys have been doing an OK job since I left. I like a lot of what you print; it makes me feel like I’m back at KB, browsing through a fresh copy over a cold one. Also, the letters are always fun. Good to see Andy Saur is back in action.
Anyway. I was reading over your last editorial (from issue 11) and I felt the urge to share some of my thoughts with you, something you said there really resonated with me and sort of made me reflect on why I left in the first place and my feelings about the whole collapse thing.
I understand why you got bored of covering that, by the way. It’s a boring, boring topic. And you do get angry when you think about it. Pissed off, in fact. Anyway, the following passage struck a cord with me especially, when you say that: “…what we have is the result of what the majority of us asked for, what the majority of us voted for, approved of, condoned and cheered on. Not me, ever, but that’s how democracy works. […] it’s not like they weren’t being warned, again and again. It’s not like our corrupt system wasn’t evidently and obviously so – it was. Probably still is.”
As I said, it made me think pretty hard about why I chose to leave, and why I’m not sure I’ll be returning anytime soon. All of the sudden it dawned on me that I’ve been feeling out of step with Icelandic society and its values for a long, long time. It’s not that I don’t like the people or our general way of going about things – I really do. I like the can-do spirit, the go-for-it attitude, the not thinking anything through, necessarily. The crazy scramble to finish a job, staying up for a week working hours on end before stumbling out and getting drunk for another week.
I like how people are kind of rude, how they bump into you and how not every single person you meet tries to make small talk and exchange meaningless banter, feigning a smile and an interest in who you are and what you’re doing for two seconds (this is an especially popular activity here in the US). I like the landscape and our schools and our TV shows that aren’t reality TV shows.
So it’s nothing like that. I like the people, and I am proud of a lot of what we as a nation have stood for over the years. I am by no means a self-hating Icelander (if such a thing even exist, I feel we may be too full of ourselves to ever appreciate the subtle art of self-hate).
I just feel hopelessly out of step. And I’ve felt that way for a long time. I feel no one out there is speaking on my behalf. I feel my own views and opinions, my values and needs, that they haven’t been represented in public life by… by anyone. For as long as I can remember, for all of my 27 years. Nothing. And those who try and speak to them or something of the like get laughed off the stage or ignored.
Remember: every single person who opposed privatisation and corporate interest and smelting and didn’t necessarily like where we were headed as a society back in the nineties and early 2000s – they were laughed off or ignored. Or considered jealous or crazy. “Do you want to return to the trawler?” They’d say. “Do you think we can live off eating grass
and mountain herbs?” (What’s ironic here is that the policies those people supported have brought us closer to working on a trawler, eating mountain herbs, than anyone even thought possible).
I haven’t supported any of the governments we’ve had since I started following politics back in 1993. Not a one. I mean, fuck. It’s like every single decision made by every single ruling party in Iceland has been in direct opposition with my views on the subject. Every time! They built Smáralind. Everyone loves it. I don’t love it. I hate it. They tried their best to demolish our social
welfare system. They privatized everything to fuck. They make silly highways all over the city that make it impossible to get around on foot or bike. They hunt whale. They build aluminium smelters. They give tax breaks for corporations and banksters. They… they declared war on Iraq! Fucking Iceland fucking declared war on a sovereign nation! Their favourite singer is Bubbi (or maybe Bono), their favourite food is KFC or McDonalds and their favourite show is Icelandic American
So yeah, I’m glad I left. It’s not that things are much better here in the US – believe me they are NOT. USA also loves Bono and McDonalds and American Idol, and they also declared war on Iraq. But at least there are many. many people living. This makes room for diversity of opinion, it enables someone like myself to identify with a group of people numbering in the hundreds of thousands. I feel part of something, and I feel free to form my own opinions and identity. I feel they are respected, even by those that do not agree. This is important to me.
I don’t know what any of this means, or why I decided to write and share this with you. I guess I just felt like voicing my opinion for
once. And I do miss a lot of things about home (including you guys).
See you soon,”
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