When Uniform Meets Poet, Magical Things Could Happen

Tirsdag ledet Arne O. Holm, redaktør i High North News, High Noon-debatt om motstandsdyktighet i nord med følgende stemmer (f.v.): Brigader Terje Bruøygard, sjef, Brigade Nord; Sigríður Hagalín Björnsdóttir, islandsk journalist og forfatter; Jón Kalman Stefánsson, islandsk forfatter; Aslat Simma, reindriftsutøver, Karesuando; Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv, professor, UiT. (Foto: Astri Edvardsen)

On Tuesday, Arne O. Holm, Editor of High North News, led the High Noon debate on resilience in the North with the following voices (from left): Brigader Terje Bruøygard, Commander, Brigade North; Sigríður Hagalín Björnsdóttir, Icelandic journalist and author; Jón Kalman Stefánsson, Icelandic author; Aslat Simma, reindeer husbandry practitioner, Karesuando; Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv, professor, UiT – the Arctic University of Norway. (Photo: Astri Edvardsen)

Commentary: Why does one push oneself through a marathon week of debates year after year during the Arctic Arts Festival? I will tell you; conversations between people trump everything, and because Harstad was the center of exciting cultural meetings without respect for country borders this week.

Les på norsk.

"I never remember what I say. That is why I write," explained the Icelandic master Jón Kalman Stefánsson as we sat in my motorhome earlier this week.

Few, if any, depict the mind of the Arctic human with greater depth and love than Stefánsson. I had invited him to speak about how we prepare for what is in store, as we are surrounded by war and climate destruction.

Uniform meets author

Next to him in the debate is a uniform-clad Terje Bruøygard, Commander of Brigade Nord.

Jòn Kalman had never before sat with a man in uniform. Iceland does not have an Armed Forces. North in the Atlantic Sea, on a small island, they are not preparing for war either, according to the author. The Icelanders do not store water. They do not hoard canned goods or crisp bread. Except the cod war with the UK in the 60s and 70s, the last person to experience war on Iceland died sometime in the 1600s.

That is how different life in the Arctic can be.

A world led by despots and liars.

In an interview with High North News, the author says he would like to add a book to the list of necessities in case of a war. I agree with him. It is possible to shut out the idea that the world order is to be led by despots and liars when one is immersed in a book. They cannot control themselves, but they are set on controlling us.

But before we get there, before we in the Nordic Arctic come close to having to light our own storm kitchens to heat up the remains of yesterday's canned food, the conversation across borders and opinions are what can take us forward.

Voices from all over the Nordic region

Every single debate we have organized in Harstad this week has shown me that. We have gathered voices from across the Nordic region, we have spoken English, Norwegian, and Scandinavian. We have put people who would otherwise never meet around the same table. We have invited our foremost artists to perform for big crowds.

Different opinions, different topics, and different backgrounds. But no politicians. They have their own podium, and moreover, their calendars are generally too full to prioritize something that is not broadcast on national TV.


We need the dialogue that will bring us forward.

No confrontantions. No arguments.

Thank you everyone

Not even when military uniforms meet Icelandic poets. Those who expected that, had taken a wrong turn and should have gone to a radio channel broadcasting arguments about rents and energy prices or oil billions at all hours of the day.

We need the dialogue as a tool to move forward in a challenging world.

But also to not forget that we have been put on this earth to listen.

So thank you, Harstad and the Arctic Arts Festival, for making it possible to still create such arenas.

Thank you to the artists. Thank you to everyone who took place in our many conversations. Thank you to the volunteers and to the sound and video people helping us to see and hear each other. 

Have a good summer.

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