A Grapevine service announcement Pay attention: Eruption Pollution Likely To Hit Whole Country
Mag
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.   



Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

So What’s This Faroese Ship I Keep Hearing About?

by

The Faroese trawler ‘Næraberg’ was fishing for mackerel in Greenlandic waters when its engine suffered a malfunction. As the Icelandic Coast Guard was best situated to help, it sent a plane out to the trawler with spare engine parts, which it dropped in a parachute. The Faroese crew retrieved them in a dinghy and went to work repairing the engine. Another lovely story of cooperation in the North Atlantic Ocean, where hard men with soft hearts help each other survive. After the attempted repairs, the engine could only produce a fraction of normal power. The ship set course for Iceland.

Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

Nuke The Middle-East, Give Up On Iceland

by

Today, Monday, Professor Hannes Hólmsteinn Gissurarson, the Icelandic neoliberal experiment’s chief ideologue since the late 1970’s, recommends that the Icelandic right wing draw a lesson from the Swedish election results, as well as the rise of Britain’s UKIP, and uphold stronger xenophobic policies: “struggle against immigration and sever the ties to the EU”. Teacher, journalist and right-wing pundit Páll Vilhjálmsson wrote a blog post titled ‘Nuclear bombs are Christian‘ suggesting that the West nuke parts of the Middle-East to teach its inhabitants a lesson. “The rise in militant muslims in this part of the world will sooner rather than later

Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

So What’s This Hazing I Keep Hearing About?

by

Like young people the world over, Icelandic youths like to humiliate younger kids for fun. This behaviour takes many forms, but the one that has been in the news lately is secondary school hazing. In Iceland, primary school ends at sixteen and almost everyone starts secondary school the following autumn, although a secondary education is not compulsory. Traditionally, new students are hazed by students in the fourth and final year, with each school having their own set of rituals. Yes, if humiliation and endangerment is a tradition, then it’s okay. These hazing rituals are generally harmless. New students are made

Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

More People = More Fun

by

To generalise: Icelanders are a greedy bunch. After we escaped from the claws of Danish colonialist rule, the national imperative has been to make as much money as possible. You can say money makes Iceland turn, even though the Mickey Mouse money we call “the Icelandic króna” hardly qualifies as a currency. I guess we’re no different than any other Western country then. Savvy Icelanders have always been adept at finding their golden eggs. First, the nation got rich by working for the UK and US militaries who looked after us through the Second World War. You could say that

Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

This Is Not A Media Blackout!

by

You wouldn’t call it a media blackout, I guess. Because that would be hard to prove, and if you can’t prove it, someone might sue you. Newspapers have been changing hands, however, and a lot of private interest seems to be involved. All of Gaul is occupied by the Romans First, the backstory: a short overview of Icelandophone news media currently in print. For the sake of relative brevity, I will keep the weeklies out of this picture. Limiting our scope to media published more-frequently-than-weekly, or would-be-dailies, leaves us with three newspapers. Daily paper Morgunblaðið is owned by fishing industry

Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

Our Own Worst Enemy

by

Greetings, readers! It’s time for another classic edition of “Someone Who Came Here As A Tourist Before Moving Here Tells You How You Should Really Be Running The Country!” Continuing this month’s theme: tourism! You know what I think this country needs? More fences! And gates, with security guards and ticket takers around every beautiful natural site. And access passes! And pay toilets. And an army of inspectors rifling through tourists’ backpacks looking for hidden candy bars and measuring their cars’ petrol levels to make sure they’ll be buying enough while they’re here. And also, I’m an idiot! You may

Show Me More!