Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Would you vote for this man?

Politics are probably the same world round. Come election time the public is bombarded with flyers, commercials, posters and pins – all unappealing and unwanted. An array of well dressed, well coiffed people of all ages fall over each other in their attempts to sell the public their lofty aspirations and vague ideals, something no one is really in the market for. We all know what we want: social justice, security, equality and jobs and systems that keep our bodies and mind ship-shape (health care and schools), reasonable taxes – i.e. the ingredients for reaping as you sow. We also know what we don’t want: corruption, nepotism, greed, rampant bureaucracy, interest juggling, ridiculous spending, inequality or any other such ugly behaviour that has no place anywhere, least of all where society’s puppeteers are concerned. Sounds simple enough but I guess it must be anything but, seeing how difficult it appears to be in practice.

Later on this month Icelanders enter the voting booth to place their ballots for the municipal elections held simultaneously around the country. Here we have 4 main parties, none of whom are extreme and would probably all fall pretty close to the line separating left and right wing political beliefs – two swing to the right and two to the left. All parties present a mix of good and bad, both on their agenda and on their candidate rooster. In any other year these elections would have been a severe case of “same-old, same-old”. However, this is not any usual year. Just two weeks ago a committee assembled to get to the bottom of the banking crisis published its findings which were made available to the public on the internet or for purchase in bookshops. The report was in 9 volumes, no less was needed to paint the awful picture of corruption and greed that reigned supreme in our society before the crash. How so few did so much harm is incredible and maybe at a later date I will brief you regarding the report’s contents, at present I am too disgusted to even make an attempt. For now I am just going to describe the report’s effect on the elections.

Every now and again joke political parties enter the scene here, never managing to get anyone elected. I remember one that ran under the name: Left right and centre party – pretty funny stuff but not enough substance to engage the voters. Now yet again another joke party is running – this one in Reykjavík. The party is called the Best Party and its primus motor is a comedian named Jón Gnarr. In interviews he states his reason for entering politics – he wants a well paid indoor job that comes with a car and a chauffeur to keep him company while he is driving – i.e. he wants to be the mayor of Reykjavík. In interviews he states that he is going to be corrupt but he is not going to hide it so it won’t matter. He is also going to hire all of his friends in order to remain popular within his social circle. He is hilarious in interviews, providing an uncanny parody of professional politicians – belting out long sentences made up of words favoured by those in power, the speak that sounds good but if you reaaly want to really understand what was actually said  you need to write it down verbatim, only to reach the conclusion that the emperor has no clothes – talk that says absolutely nothing. In between these he manages to throw in really funny things – today he participated in a televised debate where he stated that he intends to rise from the ashes like the bird – Felix. He also quoted some nonsense that he attributed to Benjamin Franklin, only to add that he might be mistaken, it could have been Richard Nixon.

Like all parties the Best Party has a political agenda – when they entered the scene it only contained one single item: Add a polar bear to the Reykjavík petting zoo. Slowly they have added more, here are some examples:
  • Plant palm trees along the Icelandic shoreline
  •  Establish a program to try and tame the fish in the sea
  • Install toll gates around Reykjavík to charge suburb inhabitants an entrance fee
  • Similar to “adopt a highway” introduce “adopt a bum” program
  • Free dental care for children and losers
  • Make Iceland the leading country in the field of prisons

As you can see it is impossible that anyone could be under the misconception that the Best Party is taking the election seriously. But because of our frustration with the more serious, established parties and their participation in corruption, nepotism and lax work ethics - the Best party is doing quite well in the polls, incredibly well at that. Consistent voter approval (rising if anything each time the pulse is taken) show that this is not a fad that will blow over. The newest numbers show a 24% following, putting his rivals to shame. So who knows, at the eve of this coming election day maybe we will have a new mayor in Reykjavík – the honourable Mr. Gnarr.

If so we will have a lot of construction on our hands, seeing that his super-prison Gnarrenburg will be given a green light, as will the erection of toll gates and the enlargement of the petting zoo.

Yrsa - Wednesday


  1. Yrsa - Whoever suggested that people pay to enter Reykjavik must have visited Kansas City, Missouri and adapted the idea.

    "Mayor Mark Funkhouser caused a bit of a flap with his statement that he would consider repealing Kansas City’s earnings tax....Actually, he deserves credit for being willing to take a fresh look at this subject. The earnings tax has helped squeeze money from people who work in Kansas City but live elsewhere, spreading the tax load beyond the city’s borders."

    This is a quote from the Kansas City Star on January 10, 2010. Kansas City taxes people for working in the city but leaving it at the end of the work day. Mayor Bloomberg of New York City has long dreamed of getting a law passed that would allow NYC to tax people who work in the city but live in the suburbs. Boston briefly tried to think of ways to get it done, too. The plan was to charge people who used city services but didn't pay property taxes in Boston. They gave up the idea when no one could figure out an efficient manner of figuring out who lived in the city and who didn't. Maybe they will re-think the plan, using Arizona as a guide. Perhaps the state could issue identity papers to Boston residents so that if a non-resident gets hit by a car, he can be left there until an ambulance arrives from the town in which he resides.

    Jon Gnarr admits he is a comedian; our politicians aren't as honest about it. He wins people to his side because he admits he is going to be corrupt. That saves voters a lot of aggravation. When the US had investigative journalism, corrupt politicians would sell a lot of newspapers. Now it is just assumed they are all corrupt.

    In Clinton's first term, mid-1990's, he appointed Ray Flynn, the mayor of Boston as ambassador to the Vatican. The position of the president of the Boston City Council is revolving and when Flynn left, in mid-term, the president just happened to be Thomas Menino, a man unknown to anyone in the city except those from his district. He has been mayor of Boston since 1993, not because he is good but because he is bad. His reputation as the most vindictive mayor to ever serve the city is known but not documented; everyone is too afraid. No one else wants the job anyway so "Mumbles Menino" is the longest serving mayor in the history of the city, the city he refers to as a "world class city" thereby making a lie of the statement because he is making it.

    Menino is a man who has never met a sentence he couldn't mangle. He would understand perfectly the reference to the Felix that rises from the ashes. He may have mentioned it himself.

    You might be getting a mayor who is a comedian; the US has an entire legislative branch made up of clowns.


  2. Yrsa, what a wonderful story! One of the things politics seems to badly lack is a sense of humor - at least deliberate humor. I think it would be wonderful if Jon Gnarr wins a seat. Perhaps it would stop the others from taking themselves too seriously.

  3. Oh America,America..We are really a fine Bunch of people,but do not follow our example..This prison issue is strange for me to digest..My Dad who is sadly gone now,gave me My First Polar Bear and Penguin Stuffed Animal He was so Passionate about the two Beautiful Creatures >He used to give us "World Wildlife Stuff all the time,,Do the Polar Bears have a special place in your heart like it does in America? topic just wondering...This MIE and so much more is my go to everyday to read about events that we never know about In My Country The USA..I feel so sheltered..Susan Vt.

  4. Hi Beth - This is the first I hear of Mumbles Menino who sounds like the opposite og Jón Gnarr, despite possibly being the originator of the Felix qoute. I agree that a comedian is better than a group of clowns - we have those here as well.

    Hi Michael - I would also find it wonderful if Jón Gnarr became mayor, even though it would mean I would always be late for work because of the delay at the tool booth seeing that I live in one of the targeted suburbs (actually the one that he always mentions when referring to this supposed cash cow for the city). He would make up for it by giving us all here reasons to laugh and for all the right reasons.

    Hi Susan - America is the home to a great people although as everywhere it is not alway those in the front line that provide the correct or true impression. Regarding the prison issue Jón Gnarr is making fun of us Icelanders as we are very susceptable to grandeur, i.e. we like to think we are best at this, that or the other (similar to Texas promoting itself as being the biggest state stuck to the main body of the US - everything is biggest in Texas - that type of thing). He has chosen something no country really wants to be associated with (prisons) and stuck that one word into countless other statements regarding how this or that will make Iceland the best in something or the other.

    The poalr bears are pretty much feared here as they are pretty viscious, especially when they have drifted here for days or weeks on an iceberg and are starving. They are however also a really stark and sad reminder of the changed polar climate and the devastating effect it is having on wildlife. So I guess the answer is yes - polar bears do have a speial place in our hearts, double so as they quicken the pulse and warm it at the same time. I am very happy to read that you like our blog - I know we all enjoy writing it so much more when we find it appreciated.

    bye for now

  5. Hi Yrsa,

    Great post, I love the Polar Bears!
    Happy Mother's Day