I suppose if you’re Iceland, you can afford to be frivolous


Donald Trump complains about the United States taking responsibility for collective security in the world, and suggests our allies need to step up and look to their own defenses.

I almost thought, “Maybe he has a point” when I read this item this morning about Iceland:

The party that could be on the cusp of winning Iceland’s national elections on Saturday didn’t exist four years ago.

Its members are a collection of anarchists, hackers, libertarians and Web geeks. It sets policy through online polls — and thinks the government should do the same. It wants to make Iceland “a Switzerland of bits,” free of digital snooping. It has offered Edward Snowden a new place to call home.

And then there’s the name: In this land of Vikings, the Pirate Party may soon be king….

Victory for the Pirates may not mean much in isolation. This exceptionally scenic, lava-strewn rock just beyond the Arctic Circle has a population less than half that of Washington, D.C., with no army and an economy rooted in tourism and fishing.

But a Pirate Party win would offer a vivid illustration of how far Europeans are willing to go in their rejection of the political mainstream, adding to a string of insurgent triumphs emanating from both the far left and far right….

It occurs to me that maybe if Iceland had grownup, global responsibilities, maybe Icelanders wouldn’t be so utterly frivolous in their politics.

But then, do we really have room to talk, when Donald Trump has been given the Republican nomination for president of the United States? Obviously, many, many Americans don’t take the world, or the presidency, very seriously either….

3 thoughts on “I suppose if you’re Iceland, you can afford to be frivolous

  1. Brad Warthen Post author

    If you want a swashbuckling, rapacious, outrageous, no-holds-barred name for your party, and you’re Icelandic, why not just go with Vikings? Was that too appropriate — and perhaps too nationalistic-sounding, imparting too much race memory or some such — for these Blackbeard wannabes?

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    Changing the subject slightly…

    Anybody watch the Norwegian series “Occupied” on Netflix? We did. It was pretty good, but it was also sort of weird, requiring a greater-than-usual suspension of disbelief.

    The plot is this: It’s the near future. Squabbling in the Mideast has led to a collapse of oil production in that region. Europe is starved for fuel, and suddenly Norway, under a Green Party sort of PM, suddenly ceases oil production. Russia sends troops into Norway to force the country to restart production. There’s no battle; the Russians simply move in.

    This raises a lot of questions. For instance, why does Russia WANT Norway to produce oil? Seems like the situation put Russia in the catbird seat, as an oil producer itself. You’ll also wonder, Why did the U.S. and NATO stand still for this? Well, the explanation given is that the Russia is invading with the E.U.’s blessing, because Europe is so desperate for oil. As for the passivity of the U.S. — we’re told that America has achieved energy independence at the very start of the first episode. Seems like other reasons were given early in the series for U.S. neutrality, but I forget what they were and I didn’t find the reasoning all that persuasive anyway.

    Seemingly, one reason the world stands by is because the whole thing seems so bloodless — at first. And Russia doesn’t take over the government — it just makes the government restart oil production. And the Norwegians aren’t thrilled about it, but for awhile at least they ACCEPT it.

    And that was what I found the hardest to accept. Later in the series, a resistance movement does form, and violence steadily increases.

    But what I found weird was that the Russian presence was at first accepted so blandly.

    Of course, y’all think of me as this bloody-minded, jingoistic American, but I wonder — is it conceivable that Americans would accept such a state of affairs? I doubt it, even as conflict-averse as we’ve become as a people. And I found myself wondering whether, in reality, Norwegians would, even on a limited basis. Maybe they would. And I suppose Iceland, which has no army, would be even more likely to do so. (Which is what made me think about this.) It’s sort of a basic tenet of left of center Westerners that Europeans are SO over nationalism and fighting, unlike us American cowboys… but how true is that, really?

    It’s ESSENTIAL to the plot that the viewers accept that Norwegians MIGHT accept such a thing, under the right circumstances. Because the whole structure of the story depends on the plausibility of each and every character’s position.

    As I read in an article about the series (I forget where) when it first started, there are no heroes or villains here. You can sort of understand and appreciate the motives of every character — the prime minister, the Russian ambassador, the resistance people, the Norwegian security chief who turns against the government to quietly back the resistance, the restaurant owner who was about to go out of business before her place became popular with the Russians, the Norwegian security agent (initially sort of a Secret Service protector) who early on saves the Russian ambassador’s life and by the end is sort of working for both sides, trying to prevent a total meltdown…. None of the characters are totally sympathetic, or totally unsympathetic.

    It’s quite fascinating. But since I’m not Norwegian, I just don’t know how credible the main premise is…


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