It's sometimes uncomfortable to voice anything other than a Pollyanna viewpoint on current affairs, and so I usually avoid writing about current affairs! Occasionally, though, I just have to write what I feel, and this is one of those days, though I don't have the heart to go into details. Something about these still, trapped, waiting men in this dirty, decaying window is prompting me, so this is what I have to say:
The glamour/adventure construct that our PR men and women have spun in the past decade has paid off in tons more tourism and happily so, because that's where the money lay, right? I don't disagree at all, and find the average visitor to be a polite and friendly type, willing to help the natives see their homeland for all the glory it has to offer via their curiosity and cash. No cynicism intended: the traveler brings with them a new view and if they open their wallets, it's to share some of what they've got in return for local goods and experiences. Win win for sure! I hope we maintain an ethical, eco-friendly bent in the further development of our tourist industry, because that's why people come here, and not to get what they can get in any other Euro city, and probably for less.
Before we start pandering to Others and their dollars, though, we need to take care of our Own. Though a shiny new hotel might lure a thousand more weekenders into the city, it does little for the morale of the local who can barely maintain the roof over her and her children's heads. It may bring in summertime cash and create a few jobs, but it doesn't solve the problem of once-reasonable and seemingly practical student loan debts, taken by people who honestly wanted to better themselves and their society, that have now doubled since the crash with no discussion on the table of doing anything about it. A new hotel might make us feel superficially proud and even rich as a nation but does nothing for that overwhelming deep-seated feeling that we've completely lost our way and are wandering, ethically compromised, into strange unknowns, missing in our cultural hearts something we can't quite seem to name...
We can welcome our visitors with all the stuff and buildings and ads and magazines and luxuries we think they will need and enjoy, but when traveling nothing ever really surpasses a warm and contented smile from a local, does it? Let's not twist the faces of our single, hard-working mothers, and ammas and grandfathers and men into hard-scrabble grimaces because they are just barely scraping by. There's a offended,indignant tone, a bitter swallowed anger that is stuck in the throats of so many Icelanders these days for the ever-mounting evidence of swindle, corruption, greed, violence, and social breakdown happening here, on our beloved wonder of an island. There is no glory in suffering, and there is no glory in wealth if it's at the expense of a distant relative, or the woman who scans groceries. At the expense of one's own people, born here or not.
Something has to give.