Published June 6, 2016
This week’s hero is the Icelandic protestor. Some of the biggest stories about Iceland to make international headlines have involved them in some way, but more importantly, the speed with which they can organise a massive amount of people is pretty breathtaking. Icelanders love social media—which some have speculated is just an electronic format for the kind of “village square” meeting place that you can find in small towns all over the country—and are very diligent about using Facebook and Twitter to raise awareness, create events, and organise people behind a single cause. Protests and direct action in Iceland have helped topple governments, jail bankers, bring deported asylum seekers back home, and basically keep our elected officials honest—provided we keep the pressure on. Democracy wouldn’t exist without them, and it’s for this reason that the Icelandic protestor is this week’s hero.
This week’s villain is the President. And by that we don’t just mean current President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. We mean literally every president Iceland ever had or will have. Second only to Bishop of Iceland in terms of Most Useless Office, the president gets a fat salary and a huge chunk of real estate… for holding what is essentially a ceremonial position that is a holdover from when Iceland used to be ruled by a king. In fact, the only time the President makes any noticeable difference to Iceland is when they defy legislation passed by a democratically elected parliament, or when they take an interview with the international media and express opinions on a particular topic that may or may not be the official policy of the Icelandic government. As our current President will be leaving office after a military strongman-type length of time—20 years—and as we already have a Prime Minister, it’s hard to interpret the President’s purpose as anything other than some very expensive ornament. It’s for this reason that the President is this week’s villain.