From Iceland — Sour Grapes & Stuff

Sour Grapes & Stuff

Published October 5, 2012

Sour Grapes & Stuff

Dear editor,
We are 25 sixth-grade students writing to you from the Quatre Vents Elementary School in Manlleu, a city located in Catalonia, Spain, about 70Km from Barcelona. Our class has students from Catalonia, other countries in Europe and Africa. Together with our teacher, we are working on a project title WE LOVE EUROPE. The goal of this project is to know as many cultures, countries, landscapes, and customs as possible from all over Europe. For our project we would like to receive as many postcards as possible from all over Europe to know what your city is like (or your landscape, your food, culture, etc.). We promise to work really hard with the postcards and with the project. Please send the postcards with your information about where you live to the following address: WE LOVE EUROPE PROJECT. 6th-grade class. Quatre Vents Elementary School. Avinguda Pirineus, 19, 08560-Manlleu. Barcelona. Catalonia, Spain.
Thank you for your cooperation. We Love Europe!
Hi kids! Thank you for your letter.
That sounds like a really nice project you’re doing! We’re not sure we Icelanders share your patriotism to Europe, or at least a lot of them aren’t too thrilled about the prospect of joining the European Union. It seems we’d much rather be our own little island here. But hopefully people will get past this and send postcards your way. Good luck and may you receive some nice postcards of glaciers, elves, puffins and beautiful sunny landscapes!

On the tourists complaining about whale-watching tours and whaling, do the same tourists get warm and fuzzy about the sheep in the snow and then go for lamb dinner in town?
Hypocracy is a human failing…
Dear TW,
You may have a point there, but we think the debate has more to do with animal cruelty and humane methods of slaughtering. People have easier time stomaching a quick death after a wholesome life than a slow and a painful one. Whether or not the whales are killed quickly seems to be a topic of on-going debate. But in any case, who’s not a hypocrite every once in a while? Them’s the breaks!

Dear Grapevine Editor,
I visited Rejkjavik with my boyfriend early in August. We loved having the Grapevine to read over beverages of varying toxicity (depending on the time of day, not that one could really tell, which happily enabled us to err on the side of Reyka and the local stout. Your publication has a critical edge that is hard to come by at our end of the world (the “arse end”, in fact, according to a previous Prime Minister). We particularly appreciated your willingness to ask the reader (i.e. white, middle-class, university educated travellers like us) to consider their privilege in finding themselves at leisure in the beautiful country of Iceland, reading an elegant broadsheet in English at a charming bar on Laugavegur (issue 11, I believe).
In the spirit of this criticality – and with an eye to the autocritical hipster clearly at work in the issues we read (Issues 10, 11 & 12) – we wanted to ask you: what the fuck is with that statue of a black servant outside Dillon Rock Bar with a sandwich board showing photos of giggling white travellers posing with it? (linked image suggests it has not always been there/is not always there?)
Such “retro” objects seem to persist as outliers of the vintage aesthetic, and we reckon that’s pretty uncool. We are sick of seeing golliwog dolls, images of grinning “natives”, and indeed, objects showing servile, humbled black people cheerfully incorporated into the visual culture around the “hipster”, with no apparent appreciation that they represent the racist appropriations of the lives, and particularly the labour, of people historically enslaved and presently disadvantaged for no reason but the colour of their skin.
How about a Grapevine campaign to replace the statue with something not based in white supremacy? It’s a bad look for the main drag of an otherwise progressive city.
With love from Sydney,
Ann Deslandes.
Ann, we are high-fiving you through the computer screen right now.
We know exactly the place with the sign you speak of – it is actually not Dillon Rock Bar, a fine and diverse establishment – but a similar looking old building about a block up on the main drag. Why aren’t we naming it here? Well, that would be the same reason we can’t exactly launch this campaign you propose.
Although it might not always seem like it, what with some of our articles being pretty heavily slanted one way or another, but it is our duty as a magazine simply to report what’s happening and publish the views of our writers. If one of our militant writers felt like answering your call to arms of investigating and wielding their pen against the visible forms of casual racism that exist in our city (and country), then by all means we would publish. However, just as we don’t covertly donate our profits to certain political parties, we also can’t lend our name to political causes. Sorry if it sounds like a cop out, it’s just how it goes.
We really applaud you for calling out this bullshit though. It’s something that people have noticed and pointed out to each other for a long time and it’s just not cool. IT’S RACIST!

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