On September 29, 2008, EPI and I had just come home from a holiday in Croatia. He went to work, then called me just after 9 am and told me that my bank, Glitnir, had collapsed.
I was speechless. Up to that time I had it had been my absolute conviction that banks were like vaults – they were built to withstand anything. I had never even thought to question this assumption – it was a given, like the air we breathe or the water we drink.
Oh the folly!
Within two weeks, the other two banks had also collapsed, our currency had become worthless outside of Iceland, and we were all terrified and in shock. We didn’t know what was going to happen. Would the country go bankrupt? Since our money was worthless, how would we survive? All the stuff we imported on a regular basis – the food, the oil and gas, the medication … how long before things started to run out in the stores? And then what would we do?
People were losing their jobs en masse. Employers had no idea what their businesses would look like in three months’ time, so they just laid off everyone to stay within the three-month termination period. The view of the future was apocalyptic. It was like a nightmare. And most of us had no idea how it had come to this. We’d gone to sleep in one reality, and woken up in another.
Then, slowly, things started to become more clear. Out of the fog appeared a picture of astonishing corruption and incompetence. WE SAW. Finally. And we became angry.
There was a revolution. It takes a lot to push the Icelanders to that point, since servility seems to be hard-wired into the nation after centuries of colonization. That’s why the Kitchenware Revolution of 2009 was so remarkable. And that’s why the government collapsed. They knew, as we did, that if the people were so furious as to stand for four days and four nights outside the parliament buildings, shouting and throwing things and lighting fires, it meant nothing less than war.
The rest, as they say, is history. The socialist government that took over came up short. They were too divided, they tried to do too much at once, and they couldn’t live up to the Great Expectations of the people. Sadly, after four years of them, the people of Iceland voted the same old villains into power who had brought this country to the brink of destruction before. And their audacity and contempt for the people whom they are supposed to serve knows no bounds.
More on that later.