Jul 07 2007

‘Blue Eyes in a Pool of Sharks’ by Guðbergur Bergsson

“We have the passive mentality of the eternal colony.”

A talk delivered by Iceland’s foremost author Guðbergur Bergsson (1932-2023) at the Saving Iceland Conference 7 July 2007.


Jesus, a leader of an upcoming universal power knew that he would soon be physically destroyed when he heard women cry over his condition. He then turned to them and said: “Daughters of Jerusalem don’t cry over me, cry rather over you and your children.”
At that time the Roman Empire dominated the world and the lesson Jesus gave reminded people that destruction was not something that would only happen to him but also to future generations. He seems to have already known that in spite of being the Saviour of the world, his death, uprising and the ethics of his learning, destruction as such would go on having future and be constant in acting of Christian nations, at least the European.

Devastation was obviously the nature of great powers.

Till our days they succeed one after another and nothing has changed, people live in constant fear the land and they themselves would be destroyed. So daughters and sons of Iceland will still have to cry over their land which is only a small part of the world at this moment due to globalisation of economical growth which has in stead of promised glory brought widespread hate in form of terror, hate as ethics and revenge, a claim for justice. In our time hate has become a sense of justice.
Because of globalisation there is no reason why we in this country should only cry over our condition. Of course to everyone the nature of a homeland is dearer than the one of others. The world is too big for an individual to have true feelings for it, at least not in details. Feelings for faraway nations with strange sounding names tend to be abstract rather than real, more intellectual than emotional.
This is at least so in my case. I have sailed up the Yangtze River through the impressive XiLing Gorges before that beautiful phenomena of nature was going to disappear for ever in name of Chinas giant progress. I saw cities along the riverbanks, empty houses without dwellers; citizens had been chased away and the rivers turbulent brown water to supply power stations for heavy industry was to take their place. I listened to speeches of proud authorities and common people too. The population is obedient and as usual follow the words of mighty rulers. But at the end they become victims when it will be too late to resolve anything. Nations do not eye destruction until benefit brought to them is harm. Then women cry as daughters of Jerusalem but nothing can be repaired and no universal saviour.
I have seen Egyptian monuments destroyed at the Aswan dam and heard voices of pride but the poverty of neighbour people seemed to be as it always had been. In Spain during Franco’s time villages were wiped out to build dams in name of economical progress. The inhabitants protested, they climbed up to the rooftops to defend their homes and farmers were seen beating police with stick. But they lost. And now, years later, they still cry over the waterpower station producing electricity for heavy industry.
The destruction of nature is old in history, not exclusively done by contemporary capitalist. It was done by the now disappeared communist. That heroic act, creating a new world, maid by the soviet-man was highly priced by writers like Maxim Gorky and Paustovsky and a lot of western intellectuals followed as well. The soviet system wanted to do big things in days of glory. The leaders wanted, among other things, to change the climate of the whole world building for the benefits of their nation, and the humanity, thousand canals and dams for hydraulic stations. But finally they only destroyed the nature and culture of many lands in Middle Asia. Also they wanted to create miracle of science in Kara Bogaz, but the chemical wonder partly destroyed the Caspian Sea.
Most likely grandparents of some here present admired that paranoid project looking and reading enthusiastically the magazine Soviet Union at the end of Second World War. But in reality nature was damaged and many Russian cities became because of that ghost dwellings like American radio stations in this country left by the so called NATO defence force. They were not only in Keflavik but all over Iceland. And something similar might happen to places now willingly accepting Alcoa factories. Their directors and owners only aim at making benefits. That is their nature and aim they defend better than we protect ours. Having done what they can and having emptied their possibilities they simply move to another region that has quickly entered the competition offering still better conditions and facilities concerning taxes and prices of electricity. Capitalism in America is that way and it is too well known in all the United States.
To me this is felt as a question of knowledge. I have not suffered it in the flesh. In reality it is remote, something like a sad memory, a frustration, a sign of lack of believe in human dignity. It is like a feeling that a tourist might have, a tourist entering Human history. But to see in the future similar destruction in my fatherland where my hands can feel things and my feet walk brings anger, even in the vain of hateful sense of justice when it is absurd and based on frustration.
So I can understand and have sympathy for a terrorist if he sees his land has been for example invaded by a declining world power, former empire that still pretends to bring law and order to a “primitive” country. But with its supposed law and order the dying empire turns countries into colonies, both economic and cultural. So the so called terrorist feels he and his fatherland has been insulted, humiliated and injured in the deepest sea of their religious believe. The praised Anglo-American freedom flag of law and order has never brought anything to other countries, no order, no justice, no law, only chaos and destruction.
This is not our Icelandic case. Here nothing really has been forced upon the population. We have freely accepted the established foreign power and its destruction. First there was the American defence force. It came and brought with it all its junk. No defence. And now it has flown away and left behind its junk. And if it would like to come again we would say “yes of course” and the army would bring with it all its junk again. We would accept that as if our government and the nation and the inhabitants of different parts of Iceland were participating in a competition of humiliation.
Same thing happens with Alcoa aluminium factories as before the American army. They could come and go and behave their way. Our authorities and the population seem to have no political or national will or pride. If the foreign companies should meet some resistance in their invasion in one region, willingly they would be accepted and acclaimed by the population of others. Regions would compete, offering their rivers, trying to be at their best in favouring.
This is really strange in a civilised modern and educated society. But weak behaviour is due to the fact that although we have sufficient means to create works, industries or traits we still live mainly on fishery and farming like at the beginning of our history. The economy fundamentally has not changed much in spite of the nation being now highly educated, having received many years of schooling both at home and abroad. The character is still primitive or rather it is naive and therefore it is easy for sophisticated foreign companies to handle us. We do not have active imagination. We have the passive mentality of the eternal colony.

Gudbergur Bergsson was an Icelandic author, translator and social commentator. His books have been translated into several languages and have received strong acclaim in many countries. In the opinion of Milan Kundera, Bergsson was “…a major European writer.” Bergsson received the Nordic Prize of the Swedish Academy in 2004.

2 Responses to “‘Blue Eyes in a Pool of Sharks’ by Guðbergur Bergsson”

  1. friendoficeland says:

    Sjá einnig Þjóð sem hörfar