It is possible for brave individuals to make a difference. In this interview Icelandic protest leader Hordur Torfason speaks of what makes an activist, by relating his own experience. First he talks about his gay rights activism, and then onto the Iceland Revolution, of which he was the major initiator. Importantly, he allowed other people to do their own thing, and did not insist that everyone worked with him. This allowed other leaders to express themselves and come to the fore and the movement grew.
In October 2008, after years of phenomenal economic growth, Iceland suffered an unprecedented financial collapse. Triggered by the global bank crisis, the country’s three largest banks (comprising more than 80 percent of Iceland’s banking system) went bankrupt in less than two weeks. Hordur, already a gay rights activist, went around asking people questions. He placed himself in front of the parliament building and asked people, ‘Can you tell me what has happened in this country?’ and ‘Do you have any idea what we can do?’
What followed was the Cutlery Revolution, the government stepped down and bankers have now been imprisoned.
“The collapse also triggered enormous collective action. Activists and critics organized a series of outdoor and indoor public meetings in Iceland’s capital city, Reykjavík, and eventually, on January 20, 2009, large-scale, South American-style cacerolazo demonstrations (banging pots and pans and other utensils from one’s kitchen) broke out. Protesters gathered on a national symbolic square located in front of Iceland’s parliament, banging utensils from their kitchens.”
“The demonstrations went on for several days, creating enormous pressure on the government to meet the key demand of protesters, namely, to resign. The government did so on January 26, six days after the demonstrations broke out, and a new coalition government was formed, announcing elections that spring. The protests thus ‘successfully’ brought down the ruling government of Iceland, a rare occurrence in an affluent democracy.” For more of this article see http://councilforeuropeanstudies.org/critcom/financial-crisis-and-protest-in-iceland-october-2008-january-2009/
‘Act local, think global, is one of the mottos of Hordur Torfason.
Hörður is on his 4th visit to New Zealand, and he finds our country the perfect spot to attend to his writing. On this visit he is in Auckland, last year he stayed in Coromandel and the year before that he stayed in Wellington. And he plans to come here again.
Here is a preface to Hordur’s diaries, slightly abridged:
“I am a frontline activist. Not simply a revolutionist but an evolutionist and reformist as well. I want change to occur naturally as the world changes…as society and economies change…as attitudes change. I want change to be a continuous process of adaptation and transformation. I am an activist for the natural development of humanity. Sometimes that means being on the frontline, and being demanding. The backlog of change potential occurs in the now, not some time in the future, because the evolutionary change should already have occurred but it hasn’t. Sometimes it means having to be revolutionary for change to occur. Sometimes that means being on the frontline alone until joined by others…or perhaps no one else at all. This autobiography is the story of what began (for me) as a one-person activist initiative that grew to encompass a great many people from all walks of life. This is When the I became We. It is a story of what became a movement, and it’s my story because I motivated the formation of that movement.”
See here for a detailed (written) interview with Hordur.
This interview is sponsored by The Awareness Party: http://www.theawarenessparty.com