From Iceland — I'm Not Stupid!

I’m Not Stupid!

Published April 3, 2009

I’m Not Stupid!
You gotta love us Icelanders. We take everything to the extreme.
Two of our girls were voted Miss World in the 80s and we decided that ALL our women were the world’s most beautiful. One Icelandic guy repeatedly won the title of The World‘s Strongest Man, and we assume our men are the strongest of all. A few people started behaving like they were the astronomically wealthy aristocratic class that Iceland had always lacked, and the rest of the nation bought into the idea that the nation‘s economy was booming like never before.
A few not-so-good men managed to ruin the banking system, almost bankrupting the entire nation and staining our reputation as content hard-working, honest, tax-payers… and now we can hardly find words powerful enough to describe our self-deprecation. We‘re humiliated and we blame ourselves for all helping to blow up this bubble that has now burst.
Bloggers seem to be competing in who-can-use-the-nastiest-language when describing how utterly stupid we are: myopic, stupid, naive, stupid, immature, stupid, overly-confident, stupidly optimistic, stupid and irrational. And stupid.
I guess it‘s an understandable psychological reaction to the trauma of watching your country‘s economy crumble to dust. We blame ourselves for not being able to prevent it. But enough is enough. I refuse to kick myself over things I had nothing to do with. I don‘t work in the finance sector; I hardly understand the stock market news. And why should I? Only a small portion of the nation works in finance and only a small percentage of them are to blame for taking these outrageous risks with the nation’s money.
We vote for people whom we trust can take care of things for us, like ensuring that our economy is soundly run, so that we can get on with living our lives. If the government fails, as many of us think they did, we simply get a new one.
I don‘t want to spend my days and nights worrying whether the country is being run well or not; I trust others to do a much better job than I ever could.
And with trust comes the danger of disappointment. Yes, I‘m disappointed with our former government and financial structure. Yes, I‘m disappointed with how a few of my countrymen have behaved and I honestly believe they will get their just comeuppance.
But I will not talk down to my nation or declare my own stupidity. I was a university student during the boom years. I was studying at the faculty of humanities, not economy.
I paid my taxes and debts, took student loans and worked my ass off to make ends meet. I used the bus or a bicycle to commute. Those three times I went abroad in the past decade, I bought the cheapest bulkhead seats on the longest milk-run flights. That’s how I lead my life, I and the vast majority of the nation.
I believed what I was told, that our banks were sturdy and our economy was sound. How could I have known better? What could I have done differently?
So I refuse to join the bemoaning, self-deprecating choir of the Icelandic masochists. I will not mock my own nation; I will not agree with foreign journalists making fun of our misfortune; I will not take our bleak situation and make it worse by kicking myself. I have nothing to be ashamed of and I‘M NOT STUPID!
I have much to be proud of. Those who can‘t see that and truly believe we are an island of idiots should just leave and find someplace more befitting their standards. Because that‘s not the spirit we need to get through these next few years. I‘m tired of sarcasm and self-deprecation. Quit wallowing in shame and do something about things.

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