Wednesday, September 15, 2010


I really wanted to write something happy today, something that would hopefully make the reader smile and feel good for at least the minutes it takes to scroll down the screen. But sadly it was not to be.
At present in Iceland we are undergoing the lengthiest political havoc my country has ever seen. Old sins and new are brought to light on a daily basis, more often than not, a few per day. Since October 2008 when our emperor of a banking system was revealed to have no clothes we have been bombarded with negative news in such portions that I believe must be unprecedented anywhere, anytime.  It probably relates to our size or lack thereof, other larger countries undergoing crises have much more going on and can dilute the doom and gloom with the occasional positive event. Here no. Either it is all good or all bad.  It has become so depressing to listen to the news that some people, my mother for example, have given up on it completely. Make sure to turn off the TV and the radio, put on a CD and listen to music instead.
It is not only the political minefield we are forced to gaze upon, with each side trumpeting the opposing side’s faults and forgetting to nurture any merits they might have, or the ridiculous shambles of an economy we face. You see even the church is caught up in a storm, apparently having had a bishop in office some years back who was so busy conducting sexual harassment it’s a wonder he had time for the occasional prayer. He was not one of those you could say definitely had a type; young or old, sick or healthy, he was not one to discriminate and all women stood about the same chance of getting grabbed from behind. I do not envy any female organist playing in his church, unless she was lucky enough to have eyes in the back of her head.  How his escapades (for lack of a more appropriate word) were kept under wraps must have required some masterful maneuvering considering how small our society is, but whatever strings were pulled they sure held. Please note that the photo of the Icelandic church here above has nothing to do with this bishop, it is situated in an area much more sparsely inhabited than this ridiculously lecherous man preferred (too few females per square meter).
This is not good, obviously. It takes its toll on morale and just at the point when we need it most. Having given it some thought I have come to realize that happiness is overlooked by those who set up the way our society operates, we have ministries of justice, agriculture, education and so on but I have never heard of a country which has installed a ministry of happiness. This is strange if you think about it. Everything we believe important and value has a representing ministry, except happiness. Is happiness less important than the economy? Than foreign affairs or transportation? I don’t think so. I believe happy people are less likely to commit crimes (taking a load off the justice ministry), less inclined to go overboard in their spending (making life easier for the ministry of economic affairs) and more likely to be depressed or ill (providing the ministry of health the opportunity to once not overrun its budget). And so on. The only ministry that could possibly increase its workload under this new arrangement would be the ministry of agriculture as happy people eat more carrots and cucumbers than depressed and/or miserable people.
A ministry of happiness would not operate as an agency that was to stuff happiness down people’s throats if they become sad any more than the ministry of fishing is going to force you to eat shrimp if you are allergic to shellfish. It could however keep an eye out for ways to increase general happiness within society and address threats to the same. It could specifically address the issue of children as they have a right to experience joy as much as they have the right to booster shots on a regular basis.
But this will never happen. Happiness is not a phenomenon that brings in the votes. I have at least never heard any politician vying for office promising to make people happy or striving to increase happiness in his/her constituency. Not even our comedian mayor used this angle.
Maybe we are better off removing politics from the frame altogether. This should not be hard given today’s technological advances, one would simply need a supercomputer programmed to take in and weigh all the options, what conditions give rise to being merciful, how much money there is in the kitty, which spending posts must be met and so on. This way nepotism would become a thing of the past, what supercomputer is going to hire an old daft school buddy or cousin for a position of importance. None that I know of. Certainly not the one in the photo, which is a supercomputer despite its lack of cape.
Should it come to this the ballot on Election Day would provide the voter only two options: Dell or Macintosh.
Although my computer is an IBM I would vote for Macintosh –  being a bit less conventional it seems more likely to emphasize happiness.

Yrsa - Wednesday


  1. I must say I'm a bit proud "happiness" is at least in our Bill of Rights. Though the way government strangles some parts of our lives, it's a wonder anyone is able to pursue it!

    As to Iceland's government...(sigh)...

    I love the smiling goat. Besides the braces, he looks like a few politicians I know, whether they promise happiness or not!


  2. Hi Michele,
    As you point out it's the PURSUIT of happiness which is in the Bill of Rights. No one says you're expected to, or have a right to, catch it!

  3. Hi Yrsa!

    Have you not heard of Bhutan? I'm sure you have, but just didn't remember why it's relevant. They introduced the idea of replacing GDP as a measure, with GNH -- Gross National Happiness -- and they have a government department, The Centre for Bhutan Studies, which was established to define happiness according to the Bhutanese, and to create a system for measuring it.

    Yea! and the wonderful thing is that other countries are also interested now :-)

  4. Yrsa - The damage done by sexual abuse is life-long and it is especially destructive when the abuser is someone the victim trusted. I hope the women are receiving community support and benefiting from the expertise of mental health professionals.

    I am not only a Catholic but I live in the archdiocese of Boston, the epicenter of the clergy sexual abuse scandal (the term "scandal" is an easier way to hide the truth than if it was called a "crime").

    The largest group of Catholics in Boston were Irish. When my grandfather came to the US in the early 1900's, there was no country called "Ireland". It was controlled by the British and they outlawed the Catholic church. Since the people didn't have a nation, they took their identity from their faith. Many years removed from those immigrants, the church was the most powerful entity in Massachusetts. Over decades, whenever the leaders of the church heard about a priest's behavior, they would transfer him to another parish. He kept his reputation and he always had a fresh crop of victims waiting.

    The United States is #1 in predator priests with Ireland in second place only because it has a much smaller population.

    We belong to different faiths. The victims in Iceland were woman; in the US the victim of choice was a young boy. The Catholic church in the US is going to take generations to heal. I hope the people of Iceland can heal faster.


  5. Hello all,

    I think the pursuit of happiness is a wonderful thing to have in a constitution - supposedly we are about to revise ours and I hope they add something similar.

    Michele: The goat would get my vote at the moment.

    Tim: Butan cinched it!

    Beth: Thankfully the women are now receiving a wave of public sympathy, albeit a bit late but still. Thankfully the man was really bad at being a pervert in addition to being nuts as he did not ever manage to accomplish his mission, i.e. it was always merely attempted rape. It is a very, very strange case to say the least. I think the curch (both here and everywhere) is sadly lacking in acting when these things arise, they would be in a much better place if they would do the right thing a.s.a.p. instead of being dragged all the way. I am 100% certain that very few priests etc. are of the bad kind but trying to cover up their crimes only serves to make them more prominent. We have a great saying that goes: In the beginning one should scrutinize the ending. Impossible to do and yet not.