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March 25, 2013 | by  | in News |
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VUWSA orders Hördur-Ves

icelandic activist speaks to students aBout forking government

Gördur Torfason, the initiator of Iceland’s ‘Cutlery revolution’, was hosted by VUWSA to speak on his role leading the economic and political upheaval of the small Scandinavian nation.

Iceland has seen a government resign, an economy reformed, and a constitution redrafted by citizens using online and other non-partisan forms of crowd-sourcing. The veteran social change-maker addressed a packed audience of students and non-students in the student union Building last Wednesday.

The former troubadour and thespian told the assembled audience of about 100 people that what started as a one-man protest in the fallout of the 2008 global financial crisis led to gatherings of thousands outside Iceland’s parliament. For months, these protests were weekly events, through the midst of a subarctic winter, and with a national population smaller than the greater Wellington region.

Dubbed the Cutlery revolution because the protesters banged on all manner of kitchenware, Torfason was careful to point out that their demonstrations were always nonviolent.

Torfason described how the protests became the catalysts for the Government’s resignation in early 2009, the nationalisation of the banking
sector, and the instigation of a civilian-led redrafting of the constitution.

Despite the breadth of reform, Torfason spoke of the local and international media vacuum about the protests.

A young Icelandic woman in the audience confirmed this, surprised at not having heard about the revolution while living in Reykjavik. “There’s just been nothing—silence,” she said.

Although the talk promised to provide alternatives to austerity, Torfason made no comment on how his strategies might apply to the New Zealand situation, or on increasing democratic engagement with constitutional arrangements. The Government-appointed Constitutional Advisory Panel is currently reviewing New Zealand’s constitution.

Instead, his lesson appeared to lie in individuals standing up to lead their own movements for change, and then inspiring others to do the same. Several times, he repeated his mantra: “It’s about when ‘I’ becomes ‘us’.”

Torfason holds something of a hero status to those interested in political change. salient spoke to one student who described it as a “once in a lifetime talk”, and another who used the phrase “eye-opening”, Both agreed that it was important to learn about a situation they had never heard of before.

The democracy activist is currently touring the world, promoting ‘active democracy’. Funding for his New Zealand trip came from online crowd-sourcing platform, Pledgeme.

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