The View From Afar - The Reykjavik Grapevine

The View From Afar

The View From Afar

Published June 22, 2009

It has been six months since I upped and left. Six months since I said: “Hell no! I won’t be a part of this,” and packed my bags to start over somewhere else.
Call me a quitter. I don’t really care. I just couldn’t stomach the thought of being a part of a system where a few thoroughbreds were allowed to run a whole country bankrupt under the guidance and protection of a government that I never wanted or voted for. It is not in me to first say I told you so and then clean up your mess.
For now, I’ve made my home in Sweden. In many ways, this country is everything that Iceland aspired to be. At the same time, it is everything that Iceland prided itself for not being. Allow me to explain. Sweden has been the model for the social democratic political economy that Iceland always aimed for: a place where the standard of living was assessed by the quality of life for the worst off. In Iceland, we always liked to brag that no one was poor.
At the same time, it is home to unbridled bureaucracy, safe bets and boring restrictions. Far from the ideal of the free-spirited daredevil of an international businessman – the modern day Berserker – who had become synonymous with the Icelanders’ own portrayal of themselves.
Safe, boring, or just within the reaches of sanity; it doesn’t matter. So far, Sweden has been good to me. I get by and I don’t have to worry that the nation as a whole might be deemed insolvent at any given moment. Plus, it is warmer. What more can a man ask for, really?
The other day, I was watching an investigative journalism program on TV. Swedish reporters were running down the trail of a shady business mogul who had bankrupted a large company through dubious investments, and cost some poor Swede his life savings. Obviously, the trail ran through Iceland.
As the journalists drove through the rain in Reykjavík on a grey winter day to meet an Icelandic investor, or a banker, or another shady business mogul, the camera panned over Austurstræti, past my beloved Café Hressó, where I used to sit down for a cup of coffee in the company of friends ever day. My wife looked at me and said: “Do you feel remotely homesick now?”
I wish I could have said yes.


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