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Where is the Icelandic Aristotle?

Where is the Icelandic Aristotle?

Published July 20, 2009

Iceland only seems to be large enough to accommodate one, or at best two, points of view at a time. While our Scandinavian cousins were busy inventing model societies that stood somewhere between the two extremes of American Capitalism and Soviet Communism, and achieved a wide consensus among their populations in doing so, Iceland was deeply divided between left and right. Mid-century newspapers seem almost comical to us now in their fervent Cold War rhetoric, but how much has really changed?
A wound that will never heal
In the Post-war era, you were either opposed to or in agreement with the US military presence, and the debate took the form of sloganeering when at its best and teargas at its worst. This rift has never quite healed. In the past decade, no neutral ground seems to have been found between conservationists who are often portrayed as being in principle against modernity, and industrialists who seem to want to dam every river, waterfall or hot spring they can find. In political discourse, you seem to have to be either for or against nature, which is quite a remarkable feat of oppositional thinking.
When faced with the issue of joining the European Union, this problem becomes apparent yet again. On the one hand you have people who are portrayed, Cold War style, as traitors who want to sell Iceland’s independence to foreigners. On the other hand, you have people who are portrayed as wanting to sever all connections with the outside world. About the actual pros and cons of joining the EU, we hear very little.
Tap water journalism
As usual, the media is at least partially to blame. Icelandic news programmes and papers are run on a shoestring budget by all international standards. Investigative journalism is both expensive and time consuming. The cheapest option is what has quite appropriately been called “tap water journalism.” You get two people with opposing views, and then you turn them on and off like hot and cold water. With no one in a position to present the actual facts, political debate is quickly reduced to the level of a football game with no referee where everyone simply cheers their side reduction ad absurdum.
Aristotle said that for every virtue there are two vices, both located at opposite ends of the spectrum. He would no doubt say that those who see the EU as the devil incarnate as well as those who see it as the answer to all our prayers are equally wrong.  The answer, no doubt, lies somewhere in the middle. Only by examining things from there can we truly see what is the right path. Tap water actually works best when hot and cold are mixed together. How much of each should be the subject of political debate, not either or. Even when, as with the EU, one must eventually decide one way or another. 



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Listicle: A Survival Guide For The Darkest Months

Listicle: A Survival Guide For The Darkest Months

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In Reykjavík and beyond, there are some activities that are available only in the winter season. January can be made into a lively month, with a few ideas and a bit of willpower—never before has the frozen city pond looked as inviting, or a glögg by the open fireplace seemed so tempting. The hardest part is often deciding to do something and getting going, so push yourself to get out of the house and you’ll rarely regret it. Instead of dozing the morning away, you can flick on a SAD lamp, down some lýsi, pull on some colourful clothes, and

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SAD Times: The Effects Of Winter—And How To Fight Back

SAD Times: The Effects Of Winter—And How To Fight Back

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When I meet working psychologist and PhD student Erla Björnsdóttir, it’s already dark outside. Reykjavík’s streets are becoming treacherous as compacted snow freezes into sheets of slippery ice, and the streetlights have been lit for a couple of hours already, throughout the late afternoon. People clutch their hot drinks in the coffeehouse, and a barman lights candles on the tables. The atmosphere is tangibly hushed as the winter season hangs over the city. Around 101’s many downtown bars and cafes, sleep issues become a common topic of conversation at this time of year. Whilst some locals carry on as normal,

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A Tale Of Ice And Fire (But Mostly Wind… And Not Much Sun)

A Tale Of Ice And Fire (But Mostly Wind… And Not Much Sun)

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Icelanders are obsessed with the weather. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone who’s ever been here: the weather is no joke. If you don‘t keep a close eye on forecasts and weather-related news, you might miss out on the few good days of summer, end up stuck somewhere in a snowstorm or—on rare occasions—drive right into the latest eruption’s ash cloud. In that spirit, we present some peaks and ebbs of 2014, as it pertained to our friendly in-house meteorological expert. Now, it would be a bit extreme to say that this was a good year for Iceland

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WHERE WERE WE? WHERE ARE WE? WHERE ARE WE HEADED?

WHERE WERE WE? WHERE ARE WE? WHERE ARE WE HEADED?

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To mark the beginning of a new year, we posed two questions to dozens of Icelanders, old and new. Representatives of every single political party, ministers, mayors and machinists alike (as per usual, the governing parties mostly ignored our queries). We asked them to tell us—in their own unique ways, from their own unique perspectives—what summed up the year 2014, and what they expected of the coming one. We asked them to answer the following: “Where are we now, at the end of 2014. Looking back, how did that journey begin, and where did it leave us?” “Furthermore: Where are

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Eight Inside Tips to Surviving the Icelandic Winter

Eight Inside Tips to Surviving the Icelandic Winter

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DARK ICELAND can be a total fucker to deal with, all Northern Lights and magical elves aside. So guess what: our man Ragnar put together a bit of a “listicle” to help y’all cope. Now, go forth and cope! Try the secret menu at Bangkok Ask for the “Thai Style” menu at Thai restaurant Bangkok in Kópavogur. Asian take-out in Iceland can be a pretty dismal affair, but it’s not entirely the fault of the restaurants—as Icelanders can’t seem to see past their love of soggy deep-fried shrimp with sweet-and-sour sauce. But if you know the magic word, they’ll serve

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Year In News: 2014

Year In News: 2014

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The year 2014 was chock-full of controversies, blunders, humour, and, of course, cat stories. So brew yourself a cuppa and make yourself comfortable—we have a lot to go through. JANUARY The year came out of the gate running, with television personality-cum-sports announcer Björn Bragi Arnarson remarking that Iceland’s dominant performance in a handball game against Austria was “like the German Nazis in 1938. We’re slaughtering the Austrians!” All the while, Icelandic brewery Steðji put slaughtered whales to good use, crafting the novel Þorri “Whale Beer,” which contains trace amounts of whalebone meal. And, in an attempt to harness the 40%

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