From Iceland — Letters


Published June 24, 2005


Hi Bart,
I was in Iceland until yesterday doing my journo-ing bit looking at a new product made by an Icelandic company and picked up an issue of the Grapevine in my hotel, the Bjork. I like the look of the Grapevine, long may it succeed and prosper.
Something else that caught my attention was the Icelandic girl in the rather beat-up, soft-top Suzuki Vitara jeep, which had broken down right in the middle of Laugavegur on Wednesday at around noon. Now obviously, most British guys would be far too reserved to ask for the phone number of a woman in distress. Normally, I would have thrown caution to the wind and asked, but I was on my way to catch a bus to the airport to come home. So, through your letters pages, may I enquire as to the condition of her battery now (well, I am an automotive journalist!) and whether, should she read this, she might send me either her phone number, or e-mail? I’ll be coming back to Iceland later this year and would be happy to bring a new set up ‘jump leads’ with me.
How many girls are there in Reykjavík that drive beat-up white Suzuki Vitaras? I’ll be happy to share that information with you in due course! Incidentally, on another tack, why is it that Icelanders are so blind to the treasures that are right there in front of them? I’m talking about 1930s ‘Art Deco’ buildings. True, there are quite a few bad examples, but Reykjavík has some really excellent – if rather neglected – examples that with a little bit of imagination could provide more than a good enough reason to visit the city. If you, or the Icelandic tourist office doesn’t believe me, look no further than the equally hard to reach New Zealand city of Napier for inspiration.
I managed to (just) find enough time to start photographing the best examples I could find and asked a number of local book dealers and antique dealers whether there was a society in Iceland for the preservation of what I think Icelanders call ‘funky’ 1930s-style buildings and objects. With massive degrees of redevelopment now taking place in the city centre, it would be a great shame if this heritage was lost now in my view.
Is there an opening here for a new pressure group? If so, count me in.
Oh boy, is this awkward.
My girlfriend drives a beat-up, soft-top white Suzuki Vitara jeep, which broke down in the middle of Laugavegur on Wednesday.
Curse you automotive journalists and your ways!!!!!!
Also, I wouldn’t start a pressure group about preserving anything if I were foreign. They’ll call you a professional protestor.
From: Kara Hnjukar [] “It should be noted that the term “professional protestor” (atvinnumótmælandur) has been frequently used to describe those practicing civil disobedience in Iceland. The term is inaccurate, as there is no such thing as a “professional protestor.”
Of course professional protestors exist. Throughout history, imperial forces on both right and left have often bribed citizens to turn against their own government. Surely you must have heard the term “fifth columnist”?
Closer to home, you say that “all are welcome” to join the demonstration outside the Ministry of Justice. You are presumably being paid a salary at the Grapevine so the Icelandic government could claim that you are a “professional protestor”.
And let’s not forget that Susan de Muth, the author of that Guardian piece, is the wife of protestor Ólafur Páll Sigurðsson. Presumably she was paid for the article, which the Icelandic government and others claim to be highly inaccurate – professional protesting by a journalist. And that’s nothing new.
This kind gentleman confirms the definition of “professional protestor” not with the fascist belief that if you have a view that doesn’t match the government you are there to cause disorder. No, he advances it to a unique level: if you report on someone who doesn’t fully agree with the government you are a “professional protestor.” Excellent logic.
We are familiar with the term fifth column, a term coined by General Mola in during the Spanish Civil War, but that has since been used to scare populations about foreign-born populations, especially popular against Jews in Britain in the middle of the last century, as Jews would be loyal, according to their accusers, to anarchists and Bolsheviks. How curious to see the term thrown about in Iceland when a group of locals want to protest big business.
The kindly gentleman also confuses the Grapevine for any and all foreign media. There he is correct. The foreign media is actually a large jellyfish-like creature living in a parallel universe that sends bits of cruel information through the cosmos undercutting the otherwise philanthropic ways of all local non-media peoples. There can be only one answer to this dilemma: construct a safety helmet from two parts cotton, one part aluminium foil, and three parts microwave chili. Don it. Now sit in your bath tub and repeat “The rain in Spain falls mainly in the plains” until the apocalypse wipes us from the planet.
Mr. Cameron,
I have a bit of a thing for Iceland. I would describe my fascination as an intense interest in studying and observing Icelanders in regards to people of color and immigrants. Others would describe my fascination as freakish obsession since I am a black woman from Alabama. Most people in Alabama suffer from severely localized mentalities. When I was moving to London years ago, countless southerners asked me what language they spoke “over there.” But, I digress.
I visited Iceland in April through Icelandair’s Midweek Getaway. I had an amazing trip. Yes, the natural wonders and horseback riding were nice, but my best days were spent schlepping around Reykjavík’s coffeehouses. As much as I would like to say that I no longer feel drawn to Icelandic history and immigration issues, I cannot. I feel more compelled to study the strange way Icelanders insist bigotry doesn’t happen in their country. For some reason, Icelanders seem to think that placing focus on preservation of their lineage and culture has nothing to do with bigotry. It’s the same mentality that fueled the Ku Klux Klan in the United States. Racism doesn’t have to be a violent act or a yelled slur. It is more offensive in those small every day acts. But, I am not writing to flog Iceland because I live in the hypocrisy capital of the modern world.
I would like to know if there is any way someone like myself could assist with your paper on a volunteer level. I currently live in Philadelphia and have writing experience. I work as a copy editor at a financial firm.
April Dobbins
We welcome submissions from around the world, though we focus mainly on local issues. We pay all writers as much as we can.
Regarding blatant racism, in this issue we decided not to print any of the Iceland is a white motherland emails that we receive. For one thing, they have gotten more violent in tone and they are not adding to the stupid racist discussion—so if you want to read about ignorant angry racists, read any of our back issues.
Another reason we aren’t running any of the angry racist letters is because whenever we try to respond to one of the vicious, antagonistic pieces of mail in the hope of opening a dialogue, we find the email is blocked. That’s right, angry racists are afraid of emailed replies from journalists of free newspapers. Or, to paraphrase our journalist Paul Nikolov, the racists were using our letters page like a bathroom wall, scribbling graffiti, not opening a discussion.

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