Yesterday my friend RJ facebook messaged me about this guy Jon Gnarr, the mayor of Reykjavic, Iceland. Being an American, I don't generally follow the local politics of other countries, much less Iceland. But after RJ explained that Gnarr started his own political party, The Best Party, first a a joke, and then actually won the mayoral race, I was intrigued.
I ran for Fullerton city council back in 2010, largely because I was so fed up with the way politics worked in my hometown. I ran a moderately successful grass-roots campaign, used youtube and facebook, made hand-made signs with my artist friends. I didn't win, but I think I made a statement. My goal was to help people see that local politics are important and interesting, and that artists can have valuable things to contribute.
I found a documentary on Netflix called "Gnarr," about Jon Gnarr's campaign and ultimate victory, which was tremendously inspiring. I found myself relating to this Icelandic comedian-turned-politician. He used humor and light-heartedness to break through the boring stagnation that had come to define city politics in Reykjavic. He said that he refused to work with anyone who hadn't watched the HBO series "The Wire." He enlisted the help of artists, writers, and activists to help with his campaign. And what began as a joke started to gain traction, and The Best Party actually started to pull ahead in the polls, much to the chagrin of the established parties and politicians. Here's a campaign video Gnarr and his friends put together, which captures the spirit what they were up to:
What I like about John Gnarr is that he is a doer. Lots of people complain about politicians, how they are corrupt, how they favor the interests of the wealthy and powerful. But Jon Gnarr actually did something. He ran for office, he spoke truth to power, and he won. Recently, on his facebook page, Jon Gnarr wrote, "Dear friends. No I can not 'come to your country' and 'run your country' or 'become mayor' in one of your cities. But I'll tell you what. YOU CAN DO IT!'" Amen, Jon Gnarr.