From Iceland — Polite-ics


Published April 24, 2013


The Battle of Wits scene in the classic film ‘The Princess Bride’ ends with the arrogant Vizzini dying from iodine poisoning in the midst of a laughing fit. It is a must Google.* Vizzini is so sure of his mental superiority that he regards Plato, Aristotle and Socrates as morons and in the end, after a series of extremely bad arguments, this illusion is the death of him.
Regrettably, many in the profession of politics share this general outlook. The certainty of being absolutely on the right side of the truth can be found within the old parties of Iceland established at the beginning of the last century. In fact it can be found in all parties everywhere and is not a specific Icelandic political problem. It is in plain view in American politics and we are witnessing the same in many European countries.
This outlook is at the root of most of the problems the political system is facing today. Why? Because it leads to the dangerous conclusion that anything is justifiable because you are right. It leads to zero tolerance for opposing views, to no respect for different approaches. It leads to the loss of civility and it has led to genocide.
Civility, and the lack thereof, also results in the general public’s disillusionment with politics, distrust of political parties and of the political system. In a crisis, the lack of civility becomes even more visible and more costly and can spell the economic death of countries.
This needs to be solved. But how? Some argue that all politicians need to be replaced. We have to vote for new people. The last four years in Iceland have all but killed that argument. We had 27 new parliamentarians and nothing changed. New politicians and new parties change nothing if they behave like the old ones. Even Hreyfingin (“The Movement”) became a classic political party within a few months, with the spirit of the before-mentioned Vizzini very much alive. 
Enter Bright Future, the party I’m running for! We have defined this problem to be at the core of Icelandic politics today and put together a declaration on how this should be solved. To put it simply, we want to create a relaxed venue for political participation. It should be fun and non-threatening and the objective is service. We do not look at politics as a battlefield. We do not like to use the fight-lingo associated with political speak: things are beginning to heat up; this is going to be a hard battle, etc. Politics is not the art of war. It is the art of the possible. We are merely exchanging ideas on our society. Thus, we do not answer with a sneer and we do not assume motives for other parties. Instead we listen and try to find the best solution.
What Besti flokkurinn (“The Best Party”) did in Reykjavík we want to do in Althingi. It is a no-nonsense approach based on creating a friendly atmosphere where the best decisions can be reached together. The Best Party has shown this to be possible. We can change the way politics are done and Bright Future is the next step.
So does that mean that Bright Future has no vision or ideology? No. We have differences with other parties and very strong views i.e. on the protection of the environment, economic stability and European cooperation; being polite does not mean that we have no opinion and will not disagree. And it does not mean there will not be room for a gentle joke or humorous comments. The fundamental difference is that we believe that we can disagree and still respect each other’s views. A smiley face in your Facebook comments changes the way others perceive them and the same goes with political dialogue. Answer an accusation with a smiley face and it can change the way we make political decisions.
Respect is key. Remember the lesson of Vizzini and his famous last words: “Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line! Ahahahaha, ahahahaha, ahahaha”—thud.
*All characters appearing in this piece are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental!
Róbert Marshall is an MP running with Bright Future in the Reykjavík South district.

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