does Iceland welcome Alcoa?
People of Chatham were able to get under the skin of
a large corporation.
Thats a victory, David and Goliath style.
not meant to be a strife
Its not meant to be a struggle uphill
Youre trying too hard
Give yourself in
Youre trying too hard
Its warmer now: lean into it
Unfold in a generous way
Oh, how it warmed the cockles of my heart when I met an Icelandic
writer at Saving Icelands conference on Global Consequences
of Heavy Industry and Large Dams last weekend. We reasoned
about having an emotional investment in your country as well
as an understanding of the social, chemical and economic science
of destructive industries.
He said one of the Alcoans told him that its so much
easier to work in Iceland than it was in Trinidad. Imagine,
without the benefit of millions of dollars to do spin campaigns
and flashy power point presentations, the people of Chatham
were able to get under the skin of this corporation.
Its a victory in a David and Goliath kind of way and
it makes me certain that in the end the poor and the meek
will inherit the earthand hopefully before its
been totally raped and every fecund piece of land and clear
spring of water has been polluted.
Meanwhile, as I wrap myself in rather dramatic fashion fitting
of a black yeti against the Arctic breezes that freeze me
to my tropical core, my Icelandic bredrins tell me this is
the hottest summer theyve had so far. Not because I
brought some sun in my back pocket, but because of that whole
global warming thing that Dubya still insists isnt really
We travelled north to meet with residents of a small community
questioning the building of an Alcoa smelter in their bay.
The activists there have an uphill struggle in a small town
where supporters of the smelter sound like they could be Cepep
workers. They think they will get more jobs and they think
the price of the land will go up.
I wonder how they feel about arms. In a country like Iceland
that has no national army, I wonder why when Alcoa is having
their slick Power Point presentations they neglected to mention
that 30 per cent of all the aluminium thats produced
goes to the arms industry?
This doesnt apply to Trinidad where we militarise our
schools, homes, fetes and think its totally normal to
live under the gun. But I still wonder who Alutrint will be
selling their aluminium to. I wonder how Trinidad Muslims
feel about supporting an industry that ultimately will contribute
to the murder of their brothers and sisters in Allah in the
Middle East and Afghanistan.
In the past week Ive seen such breathtaking beauty I
sometimes wonder if I hallucinated it all. And not just of
the landscape. The Saving Iceland protest camp is just about
the best possible incentive one can get to be interested and
Young people and old people and children and dogs and birds.
Theres yoga in the morning and vegan food cooked by
lovable green anarchists from Holland. And workshops about
conflict resolution and a solar powered tent with books and
information and videos.
The temptation to fetishise revolution is great. The temptation
to get caught up in a world where everyone thinks like you
or allows you the space to engage in free thought is great.
And if I wasnt so cynical Id say that this was
Utopia. This would be my perfect bubble and Id be a
cartwheeling nut-eating bippy for the rest of my days. But
the Utopia would be if we werent all here because of
a common enemy. Tapped phones and slap-happy police are not
the paranoid delusions of free thinkers who have high daily
intakes of psychotropic plants. Neither are politicians who
curse you and their blind, dumb followers who think its
Those of us who have come from far awaywhether my big
mouthed sister from South Africa or the sweet natured G8 protestors
from Denmarkhave received a mixed reaction from the
Icelanders. On the one hand there are people like the security
guard at the big shopping mall where we went to do an anti-consumerism
action who dont like people who challenge status quo
On the other hand there are young people who happen to pass
by, who listen and then express a great embarrassment about
the fact that more Icelanders arent brave enough to
let their voices be heard. Because at the end of the day,
Iceland is a lot like Trinidad. Were both small communities
where going against popular opinion is frowned on; hell, its
downright despised. No one wants to be the village virago,
the boy who points out that the Emperor is naked. No one wants
to take responsibility for how they feel and they certainly
dont want someone who has made a decision to show them
up as being indecisive.