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First of May speech (kinda)

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

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