What you are currently reading is an opinion column in a magazine called The Reykjavík Grapevine. Said magazine is mostly aimed at English-speaking tourists who happened to think Iceland (of all places!) would be a fun place to spend their hard-earned money and vacation time. The growing number of English-speaking immigrants in Iceland (who greatly enrich our relatively young republic) is also a large part of its readership, as is the slew of Icelanders who have, through the wonders of television and video games, acquired a most excellent comprehension of the English language.
The young (-ish: I’m 26 now) man writing the aforementioned opinion column you seem to still be reading is a former journalist of said magazine. He is currently un-employed, stuck with the apparently endless task of finishing a philosophy thesis. He has held a number of occupations since entering the job-market at the tender age of twelve, more often than not they have involved moving around boxes of frozen fish in the frosty belly of huge trawlers, or alternatively gutting untold tons of fish that usually wound up frozen, in boxes that would be moved around by somebody else at a later date. He has also held jobs writing (mostly) insignificant things in magazines, newspapers and even political party propaganda literature. He shares an apartment with three cats.
Anyone who’s been following Icelandic news for the past two weeks will know that current events lately should provide ample fodder for one of those opinion columns that I’ve been going on about for the last 300 words or so. We famously (at least ‘round these parts) didn’t make it through the preliminary round of the Eurovision song contest. We also had an election last Saturday, an election that proved beyond a doubt that 48% of Iceland’s population is really, really happy with the way things have been run for the past twelve years, and would like to see another four years of the same. At the time of writing, negotiations between the political parties are still underway so we still don’t know which parties will be our unquestioned overlords for the next four years.
I could probably write something seemingly insightful on those topics (if I used enough big words), but I won’t. I like the parties, general tastelessness and abundance of pizza that Eurovision provides, but am otherwise indifferent to the whole spectacle. As for the elections: I could care less. No matter what the outcome, at the end of the day we’ll still be ruled by POLITICIANS. And those who enter politics at an early age (and our system has made it clear that that’s the only way to succeed in the field) are arguably (give or take a few exceptions) those least qualified to run ANYTHING. In fact, if democracy is ever going to live up to its name, we really have to start representing blank votes with empty seats in the house of parliament. If, say, 20% of the population isn’t satisfied with any of the parties running, and voices that dissatisfaction by turning in blank votes, then a fifth of the seats in parliament should be empty. Don’t hire ‘em if they’re not good enough, I say.
Being responsible citizens, we had of course all turned in our votes earlier that day and were thus excited to watch election night TV. We had a legendary dinner (did you know that raw strips of beef make for an excellent starter if you dip them in a soy/wasabi concoction?) after which we sat down in front of the TV with some beers, red wine and soft drinks in hand. We got really excited when it seemed the government was going to fall; our excitement waned considerably as the night progressed and we realised that probably wouldn’t happen.
So we thought up some things to amuse ourselves. The newscasters on channel one (RÚV) would often read out loud witty poems e-mailed to them by the audience. We noticed that the poems’ chance of being read greatly increased in direct proportion to how far away they came from. A poem from a viewer in the UK, for instance, was usually read instantly, while limericks from places like Hafnarfjörður and Skagaströnd had to wait a while.
So we wrote some poems. The first three, we sent from a fictional diplomat in Rotterdam. We got a mention, but they unsurprisingly never read the thing (it was quite rude). We gave it another go and sent one from a team of scientists on some remote Asian islands. Nothing. Desperate times call for desperate measures, so at 3 AM, we wrote a poem and attached it to a letter explaining that we were four buddies stationed at a research facility on THE MOON, following the elections via satellite. “This will never fly”, we joked, but the act itself was plenty funny to us.
To our great surprise and joy, reporter Elín Hirst apparently bought our shtick, and started reading the letter ON LIVE TV. “We just received a letter from a research facility on the moon…” she read, tired eyes betraying a sense of confusion behind her smile. Our collective jaws dropped. Election night had been saved.
However, our joy only lasted for about five seconds, as her slick and sun-tanned cohost quickly figured out our evil scheme and changed subjects.
But those five seconds, boy were they awesome.
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