The Grapevine Presents A Spoken Word Creation Written for, But Not Performed by, the President of Iceland During the 61st Celebration of Iceland’s Independence, at Austurvöllur, Reykjavík, June 17th 2005.

24.6.2005
Words by Haukur Már Helgason
Fellow citizens.

It was on a rainy day 61 years ago that the youthful visionaries of an old nation came together on Þingvellir and declared Iceland’s independence. Vigorously have we marched on, on the solid foundation of the world’s oldest democracy, towards a bright future of prosperity, freedom and happiness. For 61 years Iceland has proudly asserted, not only its independence in the world of nations, but values and a character of its own. Yes, we have marched proudly and our singing is heard. But now, my dear fellow Icelanders, it is with unlimited joy that I tell you: March no more! The future is here! We are there!

Our dreams have been fulfilled. A recent survey, conducted secretly by government agents, proves beyond any reasonable doubt that nothing is left to be done, no desire is unfulfilled. Everyone is, if not totally satisfied, as satisfied as his or her imagination allows for. Progress has succeeded.

Agriculture, general production and business is handled by others. The development of thought has become as obsolete as the development of anything else, since no change is needed any more. You may expect technological innovations from all over the place – heck, you might even participate in such procedures, to kill time, so to speak. But nothing will be required of you ever again.

Personally, I have thus taken up golf, to kill time, or what remains of it. Recommendations for other futile activities, put forward in the conclusive report from the government agents, include such diverse things as sex, car-racing, eating out, reading good books, reading bad books, watching movies, meditation, karate, sprout fishing and creative writing courses. There is not a doubt in my mind that all of you – all of us – will find something unproductive but fairly amusing to do, until we die.

My wife has taken up poetry and I will now read you one of her poems, for our amusement, and to fulfill the last of my duties, the last duty ever laid on an Icelander, a duty that most certainly will not remain unaccomplished, my duty to stand speaking at this podium for a full twelve minutes. Here goes:

Love is like a flower
growing on lava
on the way home from Keflavík airport.

I will then tell a joke:

Do you know how many Jews you can fit into a Volkswagen? – Excuse me, it slipped my mind that this joke does not amuse me. At all. Er … how many … hm … how many Icelanders does it take to screw in a lightbulb? None, for we have immigrant workers. Actually, this is no joke. Dear fellow citizens: we have immigrant workers to do stuff for us.

If you see them idly wandering the streets and you know of something that might be done, don’t hesitate to call out and let them lend a hand! You may loathe work but they love it! They still have desires to be fulfilled, these people, and some of you could make it into a hobby to aid them by giving them things to do. I am sure some of you will.

I will now take off my jacket and swing it around to demonstrate my happiness at the success of progress. Whooooo! Wheeeeee!

And finally, I will recite the Icelandic national hymn, in as much as I remember it. Please stay silent, I want to see if I can do this on my own.

Iceland’s thousand years,
Iceland’s thousand years … no wait … wait, I know how it begins …
Oh, god of our country,
oh, our country’s god,
we praise your holy holy name,
under the … stars … knitting …
for you a thousand years is like a day,
no, no: a day like a thousand years,
and a thousand years like a day, no more – and here it comes:
Iceland’s thousand years,
Iceland’s thousand years
– a single, small eternity-flower
with a quivering tear
that worships its god
and dies.

Well and there you are, my fellow citizens … as you can see I am less and less formal as this speech goes on, quite appropriately for these not all that exciting but quite pleasant new times. There is one minute yet to go … one minute … like a thousand years, eh? I will use this final minute in the history of Iceland to mention a few of the coolest things that ever happened – what I consider a few of the coolest things and I guess you do, too – the cod exports started by World War II, thank god for that; the Marshall Plan and all its washing machines, that was quite important … Eurovision, handball, chocolate factories, er … tourists interested in the Icelandic horse, unaware that it’s not really a pony, hehe! Suckers! … deCode, which I guess will remain a pleasant place for those interested in genetics, and finally that contract with China. Now, my children, my fellow citizens, you guys, I have spoken for eleven and a half minutes, and it is high time to declare the history of Iceland, and thereby Iceland itself, over. I don’t resign, I declare that my job has vanished, as has the whole state and its infrastructure – go and have fun in the sun, enjoy those interest rates, dive in! Whooooo!

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