From Iceland — Mayor's Address

Mayor’s Address

Published January 12, 2014

Mayor’s Address
Jón Gnarr, mayor of Reykjavík

A total of 2014 years have now passed since Jesus was born in a barn in the town of Bethlehem, Palestine. This is why we celebrate New Year’s Eve. Actually, archaeologists said that the town of Bethlehem is but one thousand years old. That does not matter in this context, however. This is a year-end annal, not a scholarly article in some boring journal of anthropological studies. Little is known about Jesus anyway, except that for three or four years he walked around with a few guys and made all kinds of fuss about love, told various parables, performed a few miracles and got killed. Getting killed isn’t an entirely unusual fate for those who like to talk a lot about love and that kind of stuff.

Jesus’s birth occurred in a rather unusual manner; unknown stars twinkled in the sky and angels floated between houses and talked to people. Respected wise men showed up in town and announced that a great man was born. One would assume that any child born under such circumstances would have its youth documented by its parents, relatives and even the authorities. But it was not. There are no records of Jesus’s youth. We know nothing of his first words or when he started walking. None of his childhood drawings have been preserved. We have no knowledge of how he matured or how he fared in school or in his day-to-day interactions. Nada. He just disappeared and wasn’t heard from in thirty years.

Then, he suddenly sprang forth and made a big racket. He started by turning lots of water into a most decent wine. Nobody knows for sure why he did that. It happened at a party in a town called Cana. And that town is probably best known for not existing. And he started talking and spouting all kinds of ideas about everything. He was really mad at some people, but really good to others, especially underdogs. He was angriest with those who bullied others through their authority or in the name of some religion or other. He said that no law or religious doctrine was above love. Love is all you need. And he also started curing people of all sorts of ailments using miracles: blind people, people with leprosy, paralysed people and others! He also drove away a few demons.

His best-known miracle is probably when he raised his friend Lazarus from the dead. He was so bummed out when he heard Lazarus had died that he just up and decided to raise him from the dead. Of course, Lazarus was like a zombie for the first few days after his resurrection, but he soon got better.

Jesus kept walking around and giving sermons. A lot of the sermons were kind of incoherent, but he was assertive and determined. And slowly, he amassed a group of followers. He picked twelve of them to be his assistants, and they travelled around with him and spent every waking moment by his side. They did not receive a salary, but he called them apostles. They were like interns. However, it doesn’t seem like they learned a lot, as none of them wrote anything of their experiences or became famous for knowing Jesus.

His family thought he was crazy and wanted to lock him up. But his fans wouldn’t hear of it! He had many good friends, but also a few powerful enemies. This inevitably happens when someone stands up to bullies. Then, when he started insinuating that he was the son of god, that insulted a lot of very religious people. When he then claimed that he was not only the son of god, but god itself, they had enough. He was arrested and crucified and killed.

One shouldn’t talk a lot about matters that concern faith and religion. That usually ends badly. History has proven that. Indeed, faith is faith, not certainty, and cannot be refuted by logic—and least of all by a different form of faith. When people try that, that’s when all hell breaks loose.

Even though Jesus had been killed, he soldiered on. He was unfazed by his death and continued talking and performing miracles and such right up until the moment he ascended to the heavens right in front of his friends and followers.

Some people believe Jesus really existed. Others do not believe that. I think that maybe 70% of his story is exaggeration, misinterpretation or even pure fabrication. Maybe Jesus was a Chinese Taoist that arrived to Galilee via the Silk Route? Maybe he was a slave. I do not believe that he performed any miracles. I think it’s likelier that he was gay. It maybe doesn’t make a big difference. His story is still important. It is about a nobody who starts speaking up in a society that’s controlled by bullies. And even though the bullies have, through the course of history, changed the story and falsified facts to make themselves look better, it still retains a core of truth. The story of Jesus is the story of the battle between good and evil. It is the same story as the one in Star Wars, Matrix or Lord of the Rings. Jesus is as much of a Luke Skywalker as he is a Neo or Frodo.

The story is the story of the person and her conflicts with other persons and villains, but not the least her battle with herself. Perhaps not much has changed over the past 2014 years. The bullies are still in control, and Bethlehem is an occupied territory. All those who provoke the bullies’ regime are mocked and crucified.

Just like the Terminator, Jesus promised, in the end, that he would be back. But unlike the Terminator, he hasn’t made good on his word. Not yet. Or has he? Maybe he’s back. Maybe he’s in isolation in a US prison, a repressed woman in Saudi Arabia or under house arrest in China. Or maybe he’s a persecuted homosexual in Russia.

Maybe Marilyn Monroe was Jesus? We took her, humiliated her, disgraced her and crucified her, to great applause. And then rewrote her history. We abused her and then turned her into a sex symbol. She suffered the same fate as Jesus—underdogs usually don’t stand a chance outside of stories and movies. Frodo would have never prevailed in reality. The ring would have swallowed him whole, like it did Marilyn and Jesus, and Sauron would have ruled Middle Earth, as he does most places.

Why do we always root for the underdog in fiction, but vote for the bullies in real life? I do not understand that. Maybe just because they are bullies and will bully us if we don’t?

Here’s hoping for a bully-free new year!

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Enough. Stop. Now.

Enough. Stop. Now.


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