These and similar jokes we tell each other here in Iceland. And the Icelandic TV reporters who cover the Eurovision song-contest in Oslo at the moment tell us they have heard hundreds of volcano jokes whenever they are around other media people.
Now you in the rest of the world have heard a lot about the recent volcano-eruption over here and even more about the Icelandic bank-collapse and our Ice-Save troubles. Iceland was all over the world media in the last couple of years and more so in the last few weeks.
“We want cash, not ash,” said the British government.
I have a few questions of my own about the volcanic hype and the effects on air travel and if there isn´t indeed a cash-ash connection that has very little to do with our volcano and us. Though that´s a topic for another time.
Today I´d like to talk about the political ashes in our mouths and their after-effects on our political system.
Here are a few rather interesting tidbits you might not have heard about:
Last month the special investigation committee dealing with the banking collapse published their final reports in a press-conference, which just about everyone in Iceland watched life. Factories and offices closed down for an hour to allow their employees to get in front of the TV and listen to the main-speaker of the investigation committee to give a summary of their reports.
They talked about enormous corruption within the banks which was facilitated by the complicity of political leaders in this corruption and the incompetence and the ineffectiveness of the financial regulatory system.
Most of the facts had come out in bits and pieces even before this special press-conference, but hearing the compiled message in a such manner had an enormous impact on the Icelandic psyche.
People became very, very angry.
One thing that I noticed, however, is the way in which this investigation committee members went so obviously out of their way in laying the full burden of guilt on the Icelandic bankers, the rich Icelandic “Viking” investors who bought foreign assets on speculative credits and on the Icelandic politicians who received campaign contributions from the rich and the corrupt as well as on on the Icelandic financial regulators. The committe refused to mention the international system in which those acts tool place and the similarity of the behavior of the Icelandic speculators to the fraudulent speculatory deals going on in Europe and the US at the very same time. The difference was only that while American and European taxpayers now had to bail out the banks over their, Iceland just doesn´t have enough taxpayers to do the same.
Even when they mentioned fleetingly that indeed it were foreign corporations and financial entities which were involved and profited from these risky speculations which brought down the system in the end, even then committee told us in the next that often Icelanders were involved in those foreign entities.
The consequence of this putting the blame exclusively inside the country was, that now most Icelanders accept that Iceland as a country has to take on the burden of paying the Brits these Ice-Save debts, and be grateful if we only can get slightly better conditions than in the first contract.
But the other consequence came probably as a bit of a surprise to the political system.
Icelanders have decided that since it´s our crooks who are responsible and we are the country with the worst crooks ever, we need first get those economic crooks behind bars and throw away the key. Since they are our crooks we can actually do that, foreigners can escape but our own we can catch or at least we can get them extradicted from whereever they are hiding.
And secondly we won´t trust the political system any more, not any of those politicians, none of them.
Tomorrow are Municipality elections and in a pre-election poll done last week the majority of the citizens of Reykjavik told the pollsters they were going to vote for Jon Gnarr.
Jon Gnarr is a comedian an actor and a joker.
His party “Besti Flokkur” (“Best Party”) and its participation in the elections were supposed to be a joke.
The only pre-election promise Jon Gnarr ever made that his potential voters actually take serious is the one, where he promises that he will break every pre-election promise he made. So when he promises he will open tariff-lines and borders between Reykjavik and the next town in order to get revenues for the city, nobody is worried. Neither are they worried when he promises an ice-bear for the city park´s pet-zoo. And the citizens of Reykjavik aren´t afraid of the expenditures of building a puffin breeding rock in the middle of the municipal park either, neither are the ornithologists who know were puffins can and cannot breed.
“Besti Flokkur” started out with 2 percent of voter approval, but with the anger of the Icelandic people so grew its approval rate exponentially.
Jon Gnarr achieved this by holding a mirror to the Icelandic political system in all its cronyism, dishonesty, corruption, chauvinism as well as its patronizing attitude towards women, handicapped people and immigrants.
He also holds a mirror to the Icelandic voter who once used to fall for those political games every time.
And the people get it.
They understand exactly what Jon Gnarr is showing them, although he completely stays in his role and never explains himself.
He starts out with all the “right” slogans and promises, soft, nice and political correct, just like everybody else and then ruins them, in the second half of the sentence.
He plays the political imbecile in a way that´s pure genius (in my opinion anyway)
A few program points of the “Best Party”:
I (Jon Gnarr) want to become mayor, so that I can do a lot of good things….
for my friends and relatives.
We want to abolish corruption……
by doing our own corruption in plain sight.
We want to have free bus-rides for children…
We want to have free entry into the public swimming-pools for students… and cripples and also a free towel for these kinds.
There are now so many foreigners in the country. They don´t even speak a decent Icelandic and they still have a voting right.
We are going to talk to them.
The trick is, you go to the places where these kinds work, like the fish-factory. And then you find the one who speaks Icelandic, especially if this is a woman and tell her to vote for you and then she will go and tell everyone else.
We want to listen to women and the elderly… and these kinds.
Everyone thinks they are always just rumbling something or other.
I (Jon Gnarr) think it is important to listen to them… these kinds.
And besides, if they think that I am actually interested in what they are rumbling about, they will vote for me.
Every party has values. Most parties have five to ten values. But “Besti Flokkurinn” has twelve. This is because “Besti Flokkurinn” is the best party in everything.
(Then the values are named, from self-sufficiency (named twice) over democracy to positive thinking, creativity, honesty, respect and charity (in the biblical sense of pure and unselfish love):
We show all our voters respect and Christian love. Then they will talk to others and tell them about “Besti Flokkurinn” and then they will become also voters and talk to others how “Besti Flokkurinn” is a party so full of love and how everyone is so happy when he votes for “Besti Flokkurinn”.
We are the only party in Iceland that has charity as a value, this is because love is so important. And then it is also so much easier in tricking people into voting for you, if they think you actually like them.
And then came the time when the media and the “real” politicians really got worried. In an interview on national TV Jon Gnarr was asked why he went on with it and how he could possibly be trusted to run the financial affairs of the Icelandic capital, when he himself had a bankruptcy behind him.
Jón Gnarr didn´t miss a beat:
He started by blaming his partner in the radio production firm they ran together.
Then he played it down: It was just a little bankruptcy.
And then, at the close of the interview he said:
Actually we always payed our debts, I really have no idea, why we went bankrupt.
The TV interviewer seemed not to get the joke, while most of the viewers, who had just in recent weeks watched the same game being played by the “real” politicians, quite obviously did.
After this interview Jon Gnarr´s approval rate soared to near 50%.
Of course the “real” parties are quite annoyed and not amused.
Their TV ads also sound quite desperate:
“The people of Reykjavik trust us. They trust our social system and educational system.”
“We have to show responsibility now.”
the same people who irresponsibly supported and took money from the bankers who gambled away our children´s future?
Or the ones who sold out the rest of the economy and our national resources and infrastructure to foreign “investors”, committed us to debt-slavery forever and told us that our votes in a national referendum were irrelevant and therefor the people shouldn´t go voting at all?
This just about covers the whole political spectrum of “real” parties from right to left and middle and up and down, the pre-collapse government and the one we have now, the one Icelanders had put in office after their pots and pans revolution, just to be sold out by them to the British government and their banking overlords.
And Jon Gnarr, the comedian with anarchist tendencies, is everything we´ve got left here in Iceland.
Is Jon Gnarr really an anarchist?
Well, maybe, kind of, who knows:
I googled the part of the T-shirt I could read and found the rest of the quote. It says:
Anarchy is the radical notion, that other people are not your property
Well, I´m not an anarchist. Anarchists – according to an anarchist website – believe, that there should neither be enforcable rules and laws nor should there be morals and ethics in society.
I, however, believe in the need for some enforceable rules to protect society from murderers, rapists, child-molesters, investment-bankers and other sociopaths and predators. And I also believe in the necessity of ethics and morals which however should not be enforced by police action, but taught in words and more importantly in good examples.
But I do believe “in the radical notion, that other people are not my property” neither are they yours or anybody else´s.
Many people think there´s nothing he could do that could make anything worse than it already is. I agree and so I´ll vote for Jon Gnarr.
I hope the rest of the political spectrum won´t succeed in scaring Icelanders into changing their mind and voting “responsibly”.
It would be interesting to see what happens, if Jon Gnarr and his party of actors and comedians win.
He said if the chair (of mayor) is offered to him, he´ll take it. Otherwise it would be so impolite to not sit down when asked.