Published February 7, 2011
A regular day at Grapevine HQ entails lots of trying to keep folks happy, at least trying to avoid angering them. See, Reykjavík is a pretty vibrant city, and there are lots of people staging lots of events that all need and deserve our attention/promotion, to ensure all you readers out there know about them and perhaps attend them.
So we get anywhere between ten and fifty emails every day asking our help publicising an art show or concert or theatre performance or new puffin shop or whatever. This is fine; this is why where here: to serve Iceland’s amazing community of artists, performers and entrepreneurs, and to ensure you know about all the cool stuff that they’re doing. We strive to serve our purpose, and we strive to provide equal exposure to everyone out there—although we do seem to favour some of the work being done by our friends and/or relatives, as is the style in Iceland (c’mon, that was a joke. Lighten up!).
In any case, I was working on something or other the other day when I got one of those emails. This one was from ‘concert hall and conference centre’ Harpa’s recently appointed PR representative, enquiring whether we wouldn’t like to publicise the house a bit, as it was opening soon and all. “Sure,” I responded, “maybe a bit closer to when it opens this spring, though, as we are running a really short issue in February.”
She replied saying that was fine, but it would be cool getting something on our website at least. Maybe we could write something about The New York Times travel section naming it a ‘MUST SEE’ attraction when they dubbed Iceland one of their ‘41 Places To Go In 2011’ article (who travels to 41 places in a year, though?). She attached a link to the piece in question.
I got a little excited. New York Times has a gigantic readership, and it’s a pretty cool newspaper. Maybe them pointing to Iceland as a cool place to visit will mean more tourists visiting, which means more advertising, which translates to more pages per issue for us to write about everyone that’s staging events in Reykjavík, which means fewer angry glares from artists and event promoters when I go out drinking.
So I clicked through and scrolled down the page (we’re number four, after Santiago, Chile; San Juan Islands, Washington and Koh Samui, Thailand). I am not easily offended, especially on behalf of my nation (in fact, I quite enjoy offending my nation given the chance), but their headline offended me. It said:
4. Iceland Where a country’s hardships are a visitor’s gain
The opening paragraph read: “Iceland’s economic crash has had an upside, at least for tourists. After the devaluation of the krona that followed the country’s 2008 financial crisis, the breathtakingly beautiful island is a lot more affordable, meaning that a hotel room that was $200 before the crash might cost $130 now.”
I was sorta outraged. “HOW DARE THEY?” I thought as I ground my jaws. “Are we enduring mass unemployment and severely painful cutbacks to essentials like healthcare, education and welfare [not to mention the most joyless, soul-killing discourse known to humankind] all so some fancy New York Times reader can save $70 on his or her hotel room? Fuck you, New York Times travel section. Fuck you very much!”
I relaxed a little. “Why would anyone revel in large groups of people’s disadvantaged position anyway, just because it benefits them financially? There’s something awfully wrong and distasteful about that mode of thinking. Shouldn’t they at least pretend to be down about it?” I mumbled to myself.
Filled with righteous indignation, I angrily closed the tab on my browser and clicked through to a link someone posted had posted on Facebook. “APPLE’S CRIME AGAINST HUMANITY”, the link said, and it took me to a story about workers at the FOXCONN factory in Shenzhen, China, and how they suffer abuse, injury and insane work hours so we can save money on sexy designer electronics.
I read about the inhumane conditions at the factory where my MacBook and iPod were made by workers as young as 12-years old. And even though I had known all about conditions at factories in places like China and India—where most of our non-digestible consumer goods are manufactured—for a long time, I still died a little inside.
My mind raced, and suddenly I recalled all the disposable clothes I have bought at places like H&M through the years. Items that I damn well know are made by disadvantaged people under horrifying conditions, items that I still bought because I feel like I can never afford anything and 2.000 ISK for a pair of jeans is just such a great price!
I thought about every article I ever read in Icelandic media recommending some far off destination or other because it was cheap, because they are poor, because they are undergoing (or live in a constant state of) ‘hardship’.
And I thought: “Sorry for judging you, New York Times travel section. I guess most of us deserve a big ol’ FUCK YOU.”
Present company included.
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