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First of May speech (kinda)

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This is the speech I wrote for 1st of May, but then didn't give it.

I always was the good foreigner, the one to show off, the example for good integration. I have the right skin colour. I come from a desirable country. Nationality matters. It appears to matter more than any other aspect of me, as it is usually the first question to be asked, sometimes even before my name. It is vital for judgement and to place me into the grand hierarchy of foreigners in this country. I'm high up in this hirarchy. I'm young(ish), educated and usually employed. Also, as Icelandic people like to tell me "Ég tala góða Íslensku". It is one of the many ways random Icelandic people like to let me know that my existence in this country has their approval.

Icelanders like to let me know how and why they approve of me. In conversations with more openly racist foreigners the adventitious nature of my skin colour, nationality and "culture" are commented on. If the Icelander is a self proclaimed liberal it's all about being "dugleg", next to my language skills.
Because if there is one defining trait of being a good foreigner it's being duglegur. Dugleg í vinnu, dugleg að tala íslensku, dugleg að blanda í samfélag, dugleg, dugleg, dugleg. A good foreigner works hard. A good foreigner speaks Icelandic. A good foreigner blends in. A good foreigner does not complain. Always. A good foreigner works tirelessly for the approval of any and every Icelander and is grateful when it is granted. "Þú tala góða íslensku". "Hún Christina er mjög dugleg".

I know I'm breaking protocol here. First and foremost a foreigner's function is to like Iceland and Icelanders, to soothe the nagging suspicion that "bezt í heimi" is just collective performative nationalism in the face of a crippling inferiority complex. After all, "How do you like Iceland?" is not more than fishing for compliments.

Being a good foreigner means confirming Icelands and Icelanders superiority, and because of that it is chasing an ever moving goalpost. With equality superiority is lost. First it's about working hard and learning the language. Then it is about not rocking the boat and staying pleasant when faced with underlying racism and structural inequalities. The promise of integration a mirage in the distance with acceptance just around the corner.

Individualism has taught us, that if we only work hard enough we can reach even the farthest goal. It is the grift of the capitalist society, which the lone foreigner is especially susceptible to. Sociocultural differences being used to justify socioeconomic ones. It is implicitly understood that we do not only have to compete with each other for our place in society, but even to have one at all. There are only so many token foreigners even the most liberal society needs after all.

The solution for sociocultural marginalisation is the same as for the socioeconomic one: organise, organise, organise. If you organise you do not have to work harder than everybody else to have a fraction of the rights and acceptance, you can demand it. Just look at the famous slogan: "We're here, we're queer, get used to it!" We need a slogan like this for us foreigners. Then we can change our answer to "Þú ert dugleg að tala íslensku." from "takk" to "why do you think I would give a fuck about your approval?"

Posted on - Categories: Iceland

I needed a laugh

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The election results were sad and it seems more and more likely that we are going to get the same government which collapsed last year, with a xenophobic party thrown in for good measure.
I has also gotten cold, windy, rainy and worst of all dark. Then I found this:

So true
Posted on - Categories: Iceland


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The one thing that these elections have told me is that the Icelandic Pirates are more than willing to throw the rights of foreigners and asylum seekers under the bus.

The endless cicle of frustrating Icelandic politics

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Last year the government collapsed over the revelations from the Panama Papers. Two politicians were implicated, Sigmundur Davið Gunnlaugsson and Bjarni Benediktsson. Sigmundur Davið, chairman of the Progressive Party and prime minister resigned from both posts after massive protests, which went on for weeks (so many days standing in the rain). The government collapsed and new elections were set for October, 29th. Bjarni Ben, chairman of the Independent Party did not resign and went on to run in the election. In the election, the Independence Party won the majority, with 29%, 3% more than in the previous election and formed the government with Bjarni Ben becoming the prime minister. Maybe the reader can start to spot the source of my frustration.

This September the government collapsed again, this time over the stomach turning scandal that Bjarni Ben's father had provided a letter of recommendation to a convicted pedophile for a process called "restored honor", which Bjarni Ben and others in the Independence party (among others the minister of justice) had been covering up.

Now after just one year there are again elections in Iceland (28th of October). Bjarni Ben is still the chairman of the Independence Party, even though there is yet another scandal involving insider trading and an injunction against the newspaper reporting on it, that I'm too tired to elaborate on, see here and here. The Independence Party is currently, one week before the election, polling between 23% and 25% and there is a chance they will again form the government...

Sigmundur Davið, feeling himself to be a victim of a leftist-liberal conspiracy and stabbed in the back by the Progressive Party founded a new party, Miðflokurinn (the Middle Party,) three weeks before the election. The party's logo looks like it could be from some hippie party from Lower Saxony:

They immediately started polling around 10%, even before they had a program. I saw someone with a Miðflokkurnn badge the other day and had the urge to go up to him and ask: "What is wrong with you people?"

As a none citizen I have no vote, I can only hope.

Bolurdagur makes me miss Aachen

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Karneval in Aachen is probably my favourite holiday. My friends here do not understand why, probably because their only experience with this holiday is me insisting to celebrate my birthday by forcing everyone to wear silly costumes. I love that Karneval is one of the few holidays with distinct local flavours (Brazilian Carnival, Mardi Gras, Venice Carnival, Fasching etc) a mix of folk and Catholic traditions. However, I find the Iceland version of Karneval pale in comparison to the one I know from Aachen a sad leftover from when Iceland was Catholic (until 1550).

Aachen - Fettdonnerstag (Weiberfastnacht, Fat Thursday)
In Aachen Karneval begins on Thursday at 11:11am. Traditionally this day was the day for women to take charge and throw all the "proper ways" for women to behave out of the window for one day. The only leftover from this origin is that women cut off the end of the neck ties of men (yes, not so subtle). These days it is the beginning of the street Karneval, everyone leaves work at 11:11am and goes out on the street to dance, watch perfomances and celebrate. I costume of course (yes we turn up to work in costumes and no this is not an actual official holiday, but custom to the point that banks for example close at 11:11am).

Iceland - nothing
and I always feel sad at 11:12am that day.

Aachen - the whole weekend after
Parties everywhere, crazy people in costumes everywhere and this:

I know it needs some more explanation. So the area around Aachen was taken over by Prussia after the Napoleon wars. Prussia was a very bureaucratic and militaristic state. The uniforms, voting for a "king of karneval", mock ceremonies political speeches (held standing in a bathtub and using rymes) were all pocking fun at the people in power. Unfortunately some of the biggest Karneval organisation now invite politicians and leaders of Germanys biggest businesses to give them a platform in their celebrations. This is what one sees in TV and it is dreadfully boring with a side of fremdschaemen at the obvious pandering and bad, bad humourless speeches. There are smaller organisations (or non-organisations as the Tropi Garde) which still is full of witty political commentary made by volunteers and no politicians or business tycoons are invited, but one has to find it.

Iceland - nothing

Aachen - Rosenmontag (Rose Monday)
So I was under the impression that this is an official holiday until I started googeling (or rather using duckduckgo for searching) facts for this post. Public institutions are closed on this day, public transport is running on a holiday schedules. There are parades, which means the city is closed for traffic. The parades include candy being thrown into the crowd of onlookers. We used to come home with bags full of candy as kids.

Iceland - Bolludagur (cream puff day)
Cream puffs are eaten that day. Imagine a donut bun filled with marmalade and cream. Yum, yum, yum, yum!

Aachen - Dienstag
People are going back to work and/or slowly recovering from 4 days of partying. There are still some things going on, but it is winding down.

Iceland - Sprengidagur (bursting day)

Saltkjöt og baunir, túkall
Salted meat and yellow beans, two krónur"

old Icelandic song

This is the day you eat salted meat and yellow peas for lunch until you burst. From 2009 to 2013 IKEA offered salted meat and yellow peas for 2ISK (less then 1 cent) to honour the tradition, especially as a response to difficult situation for many Icelanders after the economic crisis. People ate so much that they puked, so they changed it in 2014 to 995ISK and this year they are selling it for 495ISK, which is still cheap (4€).

Aachen - Aschermittwoch (Ash Wednesday)
As I mentioned above, Karneval has folk as well as Catholic roots. Ash Wednesday, the beginning of lent is when last years palm branches (from Palm Sunday before Easter) are burned and the Ash used to mark the forehead with a cross. For the purpose of Karneval we say

Am Aschermittwoch ist alles vorbei
Ash Wednesday everything is over

The party is over, lent starts and after almost a week of constant partying people feel inclined to fast.

... is confused here. They call it Ash Wednesday (Öskudagur), but this is the day the kids dress up in costumes and go through town from shop to shop to ask for candy, basically mimicking Helloween (not the same as Carnival, people!)

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