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How a clown decided to joke, became a politician and saved the capital of Iceland from devastation and poverty
How a clown decided to joke, became a politician and saved the capital of Iceland from devastation and poverty

When the famous Icelandic stand-up comedian Jon Gnarr ran for mayor of Reykjavik in 2009, it was clear to everyone that this was just a performance. Moreover, the comedian's party was called "The Best Party" and its election program included such things as free towels in the pools, Disneyland at the airport and a fundamental failure to fulfill election promises. When Gnarr was elected mayor, it is difficult to say who in Iceland was not surprised. He himself was very surprised.

One third of the country in one city

Becoming the mayor of a capital almost always means entering the world of big money and a big political game. Regarding the scale of the game with Reykjavik, the rule applies in particular: a third of its population lives in the main city of Iceland. But with money in 2009, everything was very bad.

After 2008, Iceland did more than just become impoverished. The three largest banks in the country went bankrupt. The island's only overly profitable venture, whose profitability was counterbalanced by investing in third-party commercial projects - a company supplying energy and water - suddenly became overwhelmingly unprofitable. The loans, which the Icelanders were willing to take, were now overwhelming. The President of the country commented on the situation with the words: "God help Iceland!"

Iceland is a harsh land, poverty here literally will cost your life

Against this background, the mayoral elections took place. From politicians, with bated breath, they did not expect promises - plans to literally save the country, which is falling into crisis. Will one of the most prosperous states in Europe soon have to reheat houses with a fin thrown ashore and carry water with buckets? Such thoughts spontaneously arose when, instead of explaining how he would take Iceland out of the pit, the president reminded that her people are the descendants of harsh, brave, hardy Vikings who were not afraid of difficulties.

Jon Gnarr, a former punk rock musician, a popular stand-up comedian, jumped into the political arena, it seemed completely out of place, as if continuing his once failed show, in which the politician gave out all sorts of promises just to get through the elections. He recruited a party of punks and anarchists of both sexes, having separately found a Jewess Elsa Yoman - so that an "alien" surname would catch the eye on the electoral lists. Ideologically he designated the party as anarcho-surrealistic and came up with a simple name: "The Best Party."

Gnarr was as strange and unlike a politician as anyone could possibly be

Let politicians be better clowns than deceivers

Gnarr acted as if he had decided to commit political suicide in public and cheerfully. While in televised debates opponents took turns pouring mud at each other, he, as soon as he got to him, poisoned jokes. When asked by journalists what he exactly intends to do with the current situation, he honestly answered: “I don’t know” and could add that those who think they know have not yet helped.

However, when one of the opponents stated that Gnarr cannot become mayor because he is just a clown, Yon replied with unexpected seriousness: he is not a clown when he has to take care of his children, and he is not a clown when he has to pay bills. … The fact that he is joking and that this is his job does not mean that his whole life is one big comic show.

Comedians are citizens like anyone else

This response shocked voters so much that the party's ratings soared to unprecedented heights for Iceland: 38%. Traditionally conservative and cautious Icelanders are imbued with the idea that the guys who said they knew what to do, just brought the situation to a critical one. Honest clowns are better than deceivers who talk but don't do it! And in 2010, Gnarr became mayor of Reykjavik. That is, he took responsibility for a third of the country's population. Least of all he expected it himself. After all, his participation was indeed originally a performance, and nothing more. Jon was scared, but together with his team decided that since they got down to business, they just had to do everything they could.

How surrealism saved Iceland

Although the mayor of Reykjavik is not responsible for the country, the position of the capital still greatly influences the situation with Iceland in general. Such a burden of responsibility made Gnarr's team nervous. There were too many problems to be dealt with with a virtually negative budget.

First of all, it was decided that activities to maintain the spirits of citizens will be carried out - but with a minimum investment of money. Instead, the mayor relied on creativity. He announced the day of a good day, organized a competition for the fattest cat, participated in a gay pride parade, dressed in a woman's dress and a wig and letting go of sharp jokes.

Jon Gnarr constantly encouraged Icelanders with his antics

Further, Gnarr's team, having looked at all the data, came to the sad conclusion: it is impossible to cope with the situation without raising taxes and utility tariffs, without reforming the budgeting (and therefore, the organization of work) of kindergartens and schools and, most importantly, the very company that converted the energy of the geysers into electricity and supplied water. When Gnarr voiced this, the Conservatives immediately yelled that he was a socialist, if not a communist, and reminded him that his father was fond of Stalin.

Well, if ensuring the life of the city is about socialism, then we need to work with the socialists. Gnarr began to cooperate with the Social Democratic Party, demanding from them, however, first of all … Watch five seasons of the TV series "The Wire." After the comedian's victory, politicians were not surprised at anything and went to the video library. In the series "The Wire," the main plot is police investigations, but the background tells how the work of the city administration, the education system, and so on, is described, the weak and strong points of these institutions are named.

Despite the constant jokes, Gnarr approached the matter of governing the city very seriously. Although in many respects he was guided by an entertaining detective series

At meetings, politicians often allowed themselves to insult the new mayor, reminding them that he did not understand anything. The mayor calmly replied that it was true and that is why he consults with those present, as with good specialists. This cooled the whole fuse, and soon the participants of the meetings in the mayor's office were enthusiastically looking for non-standard and, most importantly, extremely low-budget solutions to situations. For example, many Icelanders are left without their own credit cars, and public transport is not very developed. Great, why is Reykjavik worse than Copenhagen? If you correctly define bicycle routes and make paths where there are not enough of them, then for little money you can provide residents of the capital with the opportunity to get anywhere on their free bicycles.

The energy company carried out mass layoffs; the top management was replaced by specialists with more energetic and realistic views. Icelanders greeted the raised tariffs and taxes calmly, but the reorganization of schools and kindergartens caused a wave of protest. Now, five years after the end of Gnarr's term, however, everyone is happy with the new work of schools and kindergartens. It's just that Icelanders are big conservatives, they are often afraid of the new, especially if the old seems to work so well.

It is inconceivable that such conservatives as Icelanders chose as mayor of the capital a man who even came to the polls in a carnival costume. But they did it

After four years of Gnarr's management, Reykjavik was unrecognizable. Tension disappeared and cyclists appeared everywhere. Suddenly money was found to support small art. Schools and kindergartens continued to work and were still convenient for parents, children and teachers.Tourism grew by 20%. Not a single house was left without electricity and water, which many feared in 2009. And most importantly, people have learned to derive great pleasure from small deeds - just as their ancestors once learned to derive great benefit from small resources.

Many said they would definitely vote for Gnarr again, but Gnarr refused to run for a second term. “There was a deal,” he said, “I worked as a taxi driver for four years. That was the period. It's over. It's the same with my mayoralty. " Well, Icelanders understand this position. As in Russia, many people there change several different professions over the course of their lives, acquiring new skills in each of them. It's a bit of a pity that none of the politicians are trying to try themselves in the career of a comedian. If, on the contrary, it turned out well, maybe there is something in it?

Iceland is generally a very unusual state. Feminism and no crime reports. Iceland: a paradise built in hell.

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