Thursday, 22 January 2009

Kreppa = Kr = ?

Huh. With all the noise and lights and bonfires, it may appear to be New Year's all over again but it isn't. The protests I talked about a few months ago are spilling out onto the weekdays and late into the nights. There are now more police and more anger and more action.

The visual effects of the country's economy didn't appear until after the new year. Most of the clothing stores on the main shopping street have massive (presumably) closing-out sales. Much commerce is shutting down. One of the favourite hangouts of foreign students, a place called 22, has closed down and another (Q-Bar) might be next.

I was attending a university quiz night yesterday when I couldn't concentrate on the game because I was sitting near the window. Outside I heard chants. People were on the roofs putting off fireworks. The coalition government had just been dismantled. Some people from my residence just escaped the tear gas they let out. The night before that, they burned down a huge tree that was given to Iceland as a gift from Norway. You can see it here, at minute 34:

This may sound like a story from East Europe or Greece, but no, it's happening in Iceland. In fact, on a Czech blog it was reported that this was being compared to the Czech Velvet Revolution of 1989 (tongue-in-cheek called the "Fleece Revolution"). The blogger commented that these protests from a prosperous and still wealthy nation should not be compared to protests against acts of communist Czechoslovakia.

Most people blow whistles, bang pots and make noise. Everyone is down at the parliament or prime minister's house for a unique personal cause. They all have just one thing in common: anger at the government. It's the largest protest since 1949 when Icelanders were protesting about NATO.

Everyone is down in the streets. Professors come into class and talk about what they did at the protest. Friends greet you on Facebook with, "How was your experience at the protest today?" Of course, just because everybody's doing it doesn't mean it's right. So the question this right, is this cool?
Some foreigners are supporting it, others are saying it's useless.

In any case, it is a very interesting time to be in Iceland. We (well, they) are making history.

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