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Opinion
The Dark Twins

The Dark Twins

Published July 17, 2009

It is always healthy for a society to go through a period of introspection and self-doubt, whatever the cause may be. The Germans did after World War Two, and decided to become a nation of pacifist nature lovers. The Americans did after Vietnam and Watergate and made some of the best movies known to man, until Reagan came along and dulled everyone again to the roaring chants of “USA, USA.” It’s their turn again now. The South Africans had their Truth and Reconciliation committee, to find out what really happened during apartheid. The Russians never quite did question themselves systematically after the collapse of the USSR, which is why their political life remains decidedly unhealthy to this day.
Iceland’s contribution to recent world history might not have quite the same body count, but it remains disastrous. This is our moment of doubt and pain. Future generations of Icelanders will probably never quite understand how almost the entire nation marched so eagerly off an arctic cliff. The usual suspects – the dark twins, Greed and Stupidity – are there to be found. But they don’t quite answer the question.
Iceland’s Ancien Regime
The problem in dealing with historical epochs is: How far do you go back to find the original cause of later effect, in this case an original sin of osrts. The one counter-argument one was always met with when criticizing the Boom was this: “So, do you want to go back to the old system?” No one did.
In the old system, party affiliation was everything. If you wanted to open up a business, get a loan, or even get a job, you had to belong to the right party. The Independence Party took care of theirs, so did the Progressives and to a lesser extent the Social Democrats. If you were a Socialist, you were pretty much screwed. Small wonder then that most people opted for the largest party, the one in the best position to dispense favours, however detrimental this might be to society as a whole.
Sure, Icelanders had equal rights to education. But once you got out of school and started paying back your loans, your education didn’t really matter. You had to know someone. In a small country, this usually meant a close relative. Iceland was only egalitarian on the outside.
Mare’s piss and gold risotto
As in most postcolonial societies, Icelanders in a position of power saw this as a means to dispense patronage to friends and relatives.
In 1994, Örnólfur Árnason wrote Bankabókin (The Bank Book), which tells of a familiar scenario: a group of Icelandic bankers sit around at London’s most exclusive gentleman’s club. One of them is spotted drinking the second most expensive champagne. “Why are you drinking that mare’s piss?” asks his colleague, holding a glass of the better type while buying all the working girls a round. The first banker, of course, upgrades.
If the disease won’t kill you, the cure will…
All this was expensed to the Icelandic public. One of the main rationales for privatisation was that privately owned banks would not be as wasteful of funds and positions would no longer be filled according to party lines. We all know how that went. The banks were given over to a handful of individuals, who moved from mare’s piss to gold drizzled risotto. Yet again, the public foots the bill.
As heroin was to morphine, privatisation turned out to be more deadly cure than the original disease. We would do best to be rid of both. It seems that Icelanders abroad always have to throw money in every direction to prove that they are no worse than the big city folk. If we really want to win their respect, we will have to change our habits.   



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Opinion
So What’s This Order Of The Falcon I Keep Hearing About?

So What’s This Order Of The Falcon I Keep Hearing About?

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In a better, more entertaining world than ours, the Order of the Falcon would be Iceland’s premier superhero group, featuring Captain Fisherman, Doctor Feminfist, and Sterkálfur, the World’s Strongest Elf. In our reality, the Order of the Falcon is the medal that the Icelandic State bestows on whomever it pleases. It has been in the news lately because in mid-December the President gave the Prime Minister the Grand Cross of the Order of the Falcon. That last phrase still sounds like it’s out of a comic book. It was done almost in secret. No press releases were sent out, no

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Opinion
Don’t Ask Nanna

Don’t Ask Nanna

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Dear Nanna I’m confused about the Icelandic practice of using the -dottir and -son suffix instead of last names. Does that mean you guys change your last names for every generation? How do you keep track of who’s who?  Thanks, Son of Question Mark Dear Son of Question Mark, We manage. Nanna   Dear Nanna, An Icelandic friend of mine says he is considering going into rehab. I’ve been trying to tell him about some alternative holistic therapies I found to help him with his recovery but he just brushes me off. I feel like he’s acting really unappreciative and

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Opinion
For The Record

For The Record

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The Holocaust remains incomprehensible in its totality. The goose steps taken towards it, while horrendous on their own, can seem less other-wordly. The photograph accompanying this article is taken in Vienna in 1938. The women are put on display on a public square, wearing a sign that says: I have been expelled from the people’s community. The young men behind the women are preparing to shave off their hair, as a crowd watches. Such displays were not uncommon. The reasons could involve being Jewish, communist, gay, lazy, or —as in this case— having sexual relations with Jews. At a symposium

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Opinion
Hope In Dangerous Times

Hope In Dangerous Times

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The year 2014 has left me asking what it really means to be Icelandic, and whether that might be something I should feel embarrassed about. Because looking back, I kinda do. For Iceland, last year was marked by a plethora of major scandals, especially in the fields of politics and law enforcement. We witnessed our politicians and oligarchs make sickening attempts to shut down any and every attempt at investigative journalism. We were subjected to the nature pass, attempts to militarise our police force, Biggi the cop, Hanna Birna, livestock farmers’ systematic mistreatment of animals, a corrupt dairy monopoly, the

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Opinion
We Need 1,000,000 Humans, Stat

We Need 1,000,000 Humans, Stat

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At the end of 2014, we find ourselves inhabiting a Western welfare state, a pretty good one thank you very much. However, we need about a million more people to make things more interesting and fun. The coming year will bring endless nagging about our horrible government and the garbage Progressive Party. This will ultimately prove inconsequential, because the bourgeoisie will inevitably fall for whatever new hocus pocus tricks our rulers will come up with for the next elections. The year’s optimal outcome—since it’s not very realistic to imagine we’ll get an extra million people to Iceland by the end

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Opinion
Shattered Conceptions

Shattered Conceptions

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In 2014, we saw that politicians are not afraid to attack institutions and ideals that some of us had—naïvely, I admit—come to take for granted. We thought we all agreed to keep public radio alive; we thought we all wanted lower taxes on culture and healthy foods and a higher asking price for natural resources; we thought we were forever free to roam our own country; we thought we were kind and tolerant and peaceful and welcoming; we thought we had agreed to fight inequality and safeguard the communal; we even thought our politicians—also those we disagreed with—were mostly intelligent

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