If it’s true that Mark Twain said, Heaven goes by favor; if it went by merit, you would stay out and your dog would go in, it’s also true that Icelanders probably think their Heaven must work differently from Twain’s ideal: otherwise, why would they be so stubborn with their dog bans?
The yearly celebrations for Iceland’s Independence Day (Þjóðhátíðardagurinn in Icelandic) are dying away in the course of this bright night: the music and the frolicking slowly fading, the flags taken down their poles. Still a few hours of nationalistic merriment, then by morning the drunken crowd will be fast asleep and everything will be over. The rest of the week-end will swallow up the festivity’s leftovers.
Iceland’s formal independence from Denmark took place in 1944. That’s quite some time and yet, it’s not that distant: the independent spirit of Icelanders is still regarded as a trademark to their identity. Remember the referendum that took place in April and, likewise, remember all the times in recent history that Icelanders, for the better or for the worse, decided on their own to go against choices universally deemed as obvious and sensible. Iceland’s popularity, or lack thereof, depended a lot on peculiar choices made at topical times by its folk. Icelanders thus deserved their fame of independent people, sometimes also thanks to totally unreasonable choices.
To an extent, independence should come naturally, but, as usual, humans devised all sorts of horrid traps and constraints to negate what Nature offered for free to everybody. States, governments and regulations have long ago become a vital necessity to most people, to let them express themselves and to protect their supposed liberties. This doesn’t mean that, even inside the most successfully self-determined systems, there is no space for injustice and subjugation. Freedom of the few is often exercised through slavery and injustice towards the multitudes.
Iceland seems to be an exemplary evidence of how independence’s notion can be, sadly, multi-faceted and ambiguous. Often labeled as a nation of oddballs, Iceland tends to promote general well-being through the enforcement of restrictive measures that are sometimes totally stupid and unreasonable. Yes, stupid. And this is a special tendency that indeed creates inner divisions that are difficult to perceive from the outside.
What has this to do with dogs?
For a coincidence, I discovered that in Iceland dogs are banned not only from many areas of the Capital’s city center — this I knew already — but also from social gatherings, which also included today’s festivities for Iceland’s Independence. A paradox, isn’t it? That a dog’s owner like the fellow in the article — bless him! — should be banned from public celebrations in the occasion of the country’s independence because the law established he’s not free to bring his dog along. For some people a dog is like a family member, rather than a disposable ornament, and this is something the majority of Icelanders still find extremely difficult to get. This is hard to understand especially to those in charge, obsessed with order and control, and for the — ignorant — bunch that supports them. Would they ban children from public celebrations just because they are noisy? Or would they consider unruly humans enough of a threat to demand their perpetual banishment from the public hullabaloo? Obviously not. But a dog is inferior even to the lowest human specimen and thus a dog’s owner, if he wants to make a point, cannot do anything else but to break the law. Is therefore independence one of these words we are encouraged to use all the times, without really taking the time to explore its meanings and implications? You’re free — no pun intended — to draw your conclusions.
Authentic independence should be granted to everybody, even to those who have no voice or means to openly express a preference; it should not be only the right of a privileged elite. And yes, a majority is still an elite, even if it’s vast. That’s not what independence should be like and it’s so evident that even animals know it. Iceland, I’m confident you will mature enough to embrace this simple truth, sooner or later.
I don’t guess Twain was sarcastic when he affirmed,
The dog is a gentleman; I hope to go to his Heaven, not man’s.