From Iceland — I Am Not An Icelander

I Am Not An Icelander

Published February 13, 2009

I Am Not An Icelander
I am an Icelandic person, living in New York. I don’t much care for the term ‘Icelander’. Not for any moral reason or ideological distinction, I just don’t like the word. It sounds forced and unnatural, the sort of thing someone who speaks English as a second language might say in order to sound educated. Anyway, I’m living in New York and predictably enough, every time someone finds out where I’m from, it’s time for twenty questions and an opportunity for some random asshole to show off how well he can read. “So what’s goin’ on over there? I heard the whole place ran out of money.” “Hey, don’t your banks owe so much money to the British that they declared war on you?” and so on and so forth.
It would seem that the standard queries on hidden people and Greenland being icy & Iceland being green have been replaced by subjects I abhor with equal fervour: economics, politics and the assumption I’m some sort of spokesperson for every featherbrained donkeyfucking lunatic in public office in my home country. “It’s complicated,” I respond. “I really can’t say either way, Henry” – which then gets me into the ironic position of being labelled a refugee. People both here and in Reykjavík have assumed that I just got the hell out of dodge because of the situation there, which isn’t drastically wrong, just inaccurate. I left because of the way it was before our economic crisis set in.
Wasn’t there reason enough to leave? I’m amazed that it only seems to have occurred to our much-pitied prime minister recently to start panicking over losing the youngest productive population. Maybe it’s just me, but I didn’t need much added incentive to leave an expensive, isolated bastion of conservative capitalist values with limited educational diversity, a nation that was losing so much of its identity to the United States anyway that if I would have waited another year or two, I may not have needed a passport or a visa to get here.
So you’ll excuse me for saying that there wasn’t really anything there for me. It’s not meant to be an insult to our country. In fact, I feel national pride in general is a pretty bad idea. If two culprits were to be placed on trial and found guilty of causing all the wars, all the conflicts and all the strife in human history, it would probably be greed and national pride.
I mean, a flag is a pretty cool thing. It’s colourful and makes for great scenery, but so is a lightsabre fight, and you don’t find many people tearfully swearing allegiance to Darth Maul… although, on second thoughts, you might be able to find said people. In fact, they might number over 300,000.
What is really harmed when a flag is torched? Aren’t you just offering your enemies more ways to harm you by getting upset when they burn some cloth? It’s a bit like going up to a school bully as a kid and saying, “Excuse me, but I’ve just wet myself. Making fun of that would be a good idea.”
I’m not saying we shouldn’t work for the betterment of the community we live in, but is it that important to be grouped with 300,000 other idiots and expend energy of any kind competing with other groups of people who were born in the same general area of the world?
I hate the idea that people are actually vilified for leaving Iceland in a time of crisis. If you’re an AIDS researcher and you aren’t getting paid enough money in Iceland, and you go research somewhere else, aren’t you saving just as many lives? Are Icelandic lives worth more than lives in this hypothetical other country (we’ll call it Mordor)? Shouldn’t we all be striving to improve the lives of all people, rather than just people from Iceland, which by the way, already has one of the highest standards of living in the whole world? I’m sure the Icelandic people could stand to drop a few places down the list, and still not be put off.
If you’re something completely useless, like a musician or a fashion designer, and you for some reason decide to move to Mordor and do the same thing, is there any loss for anyone involved? Can’t you prance around showing off your useless talents somewhere else and not be a burden to society? And if you are, like me, a student, is there any difference at all who I give money to for teaching me stuff? Aren’t teachers from Mordor just as noble and capable as ones from Iceland? Can I not simply walk into Mordor?
It seems to be that the people we have to hang on to the most, according to government statements, are the ones with industrial and heavy labour occupations. Why? Don’t we have enough houses and decent plumbing in them? I don’t have the exact figures for how many people were left homeless after the Chinese earthquakes, but I’m fairly certain they outnumber Iceland’s entire population. And if a bunch of people leave Iceland, won’t we need even fewer houses?
Could it be that politicians know that without a steady supply of hardworking new citizens fuelling their nation’s economy, they themselves would be rendered totally irrelevant? What good is ruling a country if no-one lives there? Could it be politicians are just jealous because they can’t pick up, leave, and come to power in other countries? That would actually be pretty amusing. I can picture Ingibjörg Sólrún running for office in rural Thailand, or Davíð Oddsson advising Robert Mugabe on financial matters.
I’m fully aware that the situation is ‘more complicated than that’, but that’s exactly what pisses me off the most. It seems unfortunate to me that we live in a world where logic and truth are irrelevant in the face of abstract concepts like money, debt, national pride, selfishness and jealousy, and that instead of doing what is best for ourselves and our families, be it staying in Iceland or simply walking into Mordor, we have to be mouthpieces and standard-bearers for the system that failed us in the first place.

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