Monday, October 04, 2010

Alþingi protests

We interrupt this pastoral trip to bring you a sound sample of what's happening in downtown Reykjavík tonight. Thousands of people are protesting around the Parliament building (also known as Alþingi or the Althing), which began the year's new sessions today. The sound of the protestors is wild, like Björk's 'Earth Intruders', but this time it's kitchen percussion, barrels, firecrackers, vuvuzelas, and a country full of residents who are at wit's end about the failure of their government to help them out of economic crisis. Protests are likely to go through the night until morning (no fun for guests at the adjacent glamorous Hotel Borg).

I am only beginning to put the pieces together about Iceland's government, economy, and the many viewpoints of its citizens, so I don't feel like a voice of authority of what's really happening. I do know that Parliament is currently covered in eggs, red paint, and the police have put a barrier in front of the building. I also know that the people are angry at the government's inaction to help its own citizens after Iceland's economic collapse; individuals who were responsible for the failure of banks have not been punished; meanwhile, average citizens are having homes repossessed and losing their life savings because their mortgages and loan rates are too much to afford. Drastic changes in laws, leaders, and ruling political parties may be happening soon.

More information here and here (both in English).

I felt an unease at going to the protest; I'm not an Icelander but I want to understand what's happening and see how things work here. I wasn't sure what to do, being a Fulbright and all as an 'ambassador' to a particular country. I'm glad I brought my recorder, it felt like the right thing to do to capture the sounds. As luck would have it, as I was walking away from the protest, I ran into the Fulbright adviser! She said, 'Nathan! It's so good to see you here! I should have told you about it earlier but it looks like you already knew about it. I was just protesting, and now it's time for a hot dog.' Looks like I'm in the clear.

No comments: