Monday, December 10, 2012

Jón Gnarr is pretty good at mayoring

Jon Gnarr is the current mayor of Reykjavik, Iceland.  He's had a somewhat unlikely ascension into politics--as a child, he was diagnosed with mental retardation and ADHD, he attended a number of high schools but never passed the university entrance exam, and he worked for a time as a taxi driver while playing in the punk band Nefrennsli (translation: Runny Nose) for which he briefly changed his name to Jonsi Punk.  He had the opportunity to play with Björk Guðmundsdóttir and Einar Örn Benediktsson, which leads me to believe that Nordic languages make every name sound awesome.  He had a pretty successful movie and TV acting career by Icelandic standards, starring in such projects as Fóstbræður,  Ég var einu sinni nörd, Næturvaktin, Dagvaktin, Fangavaktin, and Bjarnfreðarson.  I feel pretty confident that every movie title would sound better in Icelandic after seeing these.  I did a little background research into Dagvaktin, which I initially assumed was a post-apocalyptic survival thriller based on this image:


How is it that "Dagvaktin" sounds so apocalyptic and exciting, but the translated version ("Day Shift") sounds so terribly boring?
After a little further searching, I determined that my assumption was likely incorrect, as this is the cover of the movie:

Post-apocalyptic farmers with just a pinch of comic relief, maybe?
Gnarr's entry to the political sphere has been unusual, to say the least.  In 2009, he founded the Best Party, or Besti flokkurinn, which was at the time intended to be a satirical party mocking the failed policies of the established Icelandic politicians.  Among their stated goals were a mix of jokes and semi-serious ideas, including the following:
  • Stop corruption: We promise to stop secret corruption. We'll accomplish this by participating in it openly.
  • To improve the quality of life of the Less Fortunate: We want the best of everything for this bunch and therefore offer free access to buses and swimming pools so you can travel around Reykjavik and be clean even if you're poor or there's something wrong with you.
  • The Best Party pledges that it will not honour any promises given before elections.
  • Free access to swimming pools for everyone and free towels: This is something that everyone should fall for, and it's the election promise we're most proud of.
  • Listen more to women and old people: This bunch gets listened to far too little. It's as if everyone thinks they are just complaining or something.
  • A polar bear for the city zoo.
Their campaign also featured this video, which is arguably the best political campaign video in existence:

 
In 2010, the party was shockingly successful despite its less-than-serious approach to some issues, winning a plurality of seats on the Reykjavik City Council, which enabled Gnarr to become mayor of the city.  One of his first announcements following the election was that he would not enter a political coalition with any politicians who had not seen The Wire.  He also attempted to allay the fears of people who felt that his party was not serious, saying, "No one has to be afraid of the Best Party because it is the best party. If it wasn’t, it would be called the ‘Worst Party’ or the ‘Bad Party’. We would never work with a party like that."  Which: that seems quite logical.

How do we know it's the best party, really?  This suit would be Exhibit A.
Since entering office, Gnarr has proceeded to appear in drag for gay pride parades, including one notable occasion where he led a float calling for the release of Pussy Riot:

Even in the cases of Cory Booker and San Francisco, American mayors are nowhere near this cool.
He has a great Facebook feed, where he publishes any number of things that would lose an American politician their job pretty quickly, as well as occasional random posts about what Iceland looks like upside down:

By Jove, he's right!

Oh, and this was his Christmas card last year:

I know it's not relevant to his political career, but I'm a sucker for Star Wars references.
Long story short, I can't help but think the world would be a better place if there was more room for figures like Gnarr in politics.  Given that he's an avowed anarchist, it probably wouldn't be great if too many politicians were like him, but it's always cool to see someone bringing a new voice to the table, especially in cases like this where he genuinely seems to just care about people.  Too often, even the most idealistic, outspoken politicians don't or can't stick too closely to their beliefs for the sake of political expediency--it's fun to see a guy who just doesn't seem to care what makes sense politically at all, preferring to say what he believes without too much regard for the consequences.

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