bríet — DINO & on iceland’s æthereal music

icelandic music has long captivated me, just like iceland has long captivated me. an interesting country, iceland reminds me that no matter one’s excuses (being from “the country” versus “the city,” being “isolated,” being from a religious background, being conservative, etc.) you can still have socially liberatory politics. all of those descriptors fit iceland and its history in one way or another, but of course iceland is not so simple. icelanders who fit all of those descriptions—rural, isolated, religious, conservative—can still be supporters of women’s and lgbtq+ rights. many are. of course, as the song i am about to translate below attests to, iceland is all and none of these things: questioning the very dichotomies, i think, that we rely on in how we conceptualise and conceive of our own geography and world.

the intriguing thing to me, which i think goes hand-in-hand with this kind of cultural attitude, is how aethereal icelandic music is. a lot of icelandic indie, a huge genre for such a small country, really highlights the qualities of this that rely on high melodies and an almost whisper-like quality to the sung word. even in icelandic rap and hip hop, one can see this at play.

as a kind of introduction to possibly more examples of the genre, i translate below one of just a dozen or so icelandic songs currently on repeat on my phone and buzzing in my headphones. the song is DINO by bríet, an icelandic egyptian (what isolation?) woman artist, written about the artist’s boyfriend whenever she is stress.

it is this kind of aethereal quality that, even when a song is upsetting, is calming and centring and meditative. this kind of aethereal musical quality, which i do not really have the vocabulary or knowledge to describe about in a nuanced and meaningful way, is not just icelandic, of course. but i have found it in the work of so many icelandic artists.

watch bríet explain her song in icelandic, with english captions:

lyrics

hey
stundum er ég reið þó það sé ekkert að
leita og leita en hverju er ég að leita að?
hey
sometimes I’m angry even though it’s nothing
look and look but what am I looking for?
því ég veit alveg hvernig ég haga mér
hvernig ég læt, þú
ert fyrsta manneskjan sem að ég hringi í þegar ég græt
because I know exactly how to behave
how do I do, you
are the first person that I call when I cry
ég veit alveg hvernig ég haga mér
hvernig ég læt
i know exactly how to behave
how I leave
ég veit
ég ýtti þér í burt og gleymi
þú ert alltaf til staðar
þegar á reynir
i know
i pushed you away and forgot
you are always there
when push comes to shove
sorrý með allt sem að ég segi
ég vil að þú vitir
þú ert bestur í heimi
sorry for everything I say
i want you to know
you are the best in the world
ég vil að þú vitir
þú ert bestur í heimi
i want you to know
you are the best in the world
vildi ég væri meira eins og þú
minna blóððheit og meira þolinmóð
svolítið eins og þú
gæti höndlað mistökin þín eins og þú höndlar mín
meira eins og þú
vísað þér veginn eða af vegaleið
meira eins og þú
alveg eins og þú
i wish I was more like you
less blood pressure and more patience
a little like you
could handle your mistakes as you handle me
more like you
showed you the way or the way out
more like you
just like you
ég veit alveg hvernig ég haga mér
hvernig ég læt, þú
ert fyrsta manneskjan sem að ég hringi í þegar ég græt
i know exactly how to behave
how do I do, you
are the first person that I call when I cry
ég veit alveg hvernig ég haga mér
hvernig ég læt
(hvernig ég læt)
i know exactly how to behave
how I leave
(how I leave)
ég veit
ég ýtti þér í burt og gleymi
þú ert alltaf til staðar
þegar á reynir
i know
i pushed you away and forgot
you are always there
when push comes to shove
sorrý með allt sem að ég segi
ég vil að þú vitir
þú ert bestur í heimi
sorry for everything I say
i want you to know
you are the best in the world
ég vil að þú vitir
þú ert bestur í heimi
þú ert bestur í heimi
i want you to know
you are the best in the world
you are the best in the world
(stundum er ég reið þó það sé ekkert að
leita og leita en hverju er ég að leita að?)
(sometimes I’m angry even though it’s nothing
look and look but what am I looking for?)
ég veit
ég ýtti þér í burt og gleymi
þú ert alltaf til staðar
þegar á reynir
i know
i pushed you away and forgot
you are always there
when push comes to shove
sorrý með allt sem að ég segi
ég vil að þú vitir
þú ert bestur í heimi
sorry for everything I say
i want you to know
you are the best in the world
ég vil að þú vitir
þú ert bestur í heimi
i want you to know
you are the best in the world
ég vil að þú vitir
þú ert bestur í heimi
i want you to know
you are the best in the world

“i’d love it if we made it”: sandum micronationalism as satire and resistance

Sandum micronationalism in the age of moral cowardism, the theme of a colloquium held on 25 May 2019 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the nation, strikes the chords of moral indignation mixed with the subcultural resistance we embody as micronationalists. taken from a cultural Marxist lens, this resistance can come in many forms, of course, but micronationalism purposefully takes on many mantles at once: we can resist moral cowardism and the retreat from moral responsibility in a variety of ways as micronationalists, as many ways as americans or britons or french citizens can. micronationalism is at a real intersection between politics, culture, society, economy, ecology, geography, and so on. as intersectional as contemporary nation-states are, micronations like Sandus are many times more than that because of how international and pluralist individual micronations are. we reject essentialist nationhood and ardently believe both in popular sovereignty and self-determination, and we also believe—in Sandus—in the role our state has in providing for the common welfare.

the 1975’s song “love it if we made it” is just one song that represents our zeitgeist. the british band from the midlands city of manchester represents our present historical moment with lyrics that can be read both as a narrative and as profound individual statements, like with Billy Joel’s 1989 hit “we didn’t start the fire.” what is striking, however, about this particular song of the times is the almost dark hope and despondency. the song’s melody are uplifting and hopeful, always ending on high notes (literally), but the lyrics juxtapose this hope with the dark reality and with the frequently repeated lines “modernity has failed us, and i’d love it if we made it.” this last line is sung several times over the course of the song on its own, both suggesting the sincere hope that we all will make it in the end but also burdening us with potential future disappointment and the expectation that we won’t.

this kind of juxtaposition is often found in the genre of satire and both serves to give moral or philosophical guidance to the audience while also reinforcing common, shared values to people inside and out of an in-group or subculture. think of Horace’s satires—whose first satires call upon the audience to observe moral moderation in all things—or Juvenal’s satires—like his second satire that both puts effeminate (morally bad) men on stage while also roasting them. or think of contemporary satirists like Jon Stewart or Robert Colbert who both present/ed the moral failings of the american right and, in the case of Colbert, points out their inherent contradictions by applying a persona.

and, in the case of the 1975, there is much to be indignant about. the first stanza focuses on the general theme of communication or, more to the point, miscommunication, especially in the age of social media and the internet. “saying controversial things just for the hell of it” is something close to home for us Sandum micronationalists, let alone for anyone who has heard someone say something without thinking of the potential reality behind their romanticism or controversial language and comments. we can think of the more radical and controversial micronations, like the federal republic of lostisland or the empire of pavlov, micronations that seek to be simulations of ultra-orthodox, traditionalist conservative states like imperial Russia or contemporary presidential dictatorships. or, in the case of emperor Jonathan of Austenasia, that still seek this traditionalist conservative ephémère, although in that reality he would be implicated by his treason, his lowborn status, and his a/sexuality. micronationalists like these do not see how their hoped-for micronations would self-implicate them in destructive and oppressive state- and social-structures. instead, they romanticise the “glory days,” much like the romantic old days contemporary white supremacists make up in their minds, without realising what role they’d play in that kind of reality. (to be clear, we do not support this kind of oppression, but that’s the point! we are realists and historically conscious.)

Realists that we are, we do not appeal to the kind of history that they do. Sandus is decidedly not a simulation, and we do not have any golden oldies to go back to—even collectivised soviet Russia. our vision is for our present, to create a commune of like-minded people to better our lives and those of others, not to become a mighty empire where we’d be hypocrites and moral cowards. we seek to rupture the hold that history places on us while recognising the effects that permeate us. this puts us at odds with these micronations, but puts us closer to those that are trying to do something sincere—like Flandrensis or Westarctica with ecological concerns or Hélianthis or Aigues-Mortes with local culture. big problems, sure, but with limits. let’s move on.

“selling melanin and then suffocate the black men,” in the context of the song, is very similar, about the capitalist commodification of black culture juxtaposed with today’s police brutality and the militarisation of local police forces that literally kill black men and women. in an age of BLM, consumers can enjoy the product of black workers, some who exist as supermodels, but the real black people who perform services and do work on a daily basis for us exist nameless or, even when they do exist, their names are too “exotic” and “hard to pronounce.” in Sandus, while we also live in this contemporary macronational reality, we also try to raise consciousness of black lives in our own minds and those of others. Despite being part of a country that is 79% white, we try to be good allies at the very least and express our own moral indignation and share in black people’s mourning and sadness when black men like Eric Garner or Philando Castile, when black women like Sandra Bland, or even when black children like Tamir Rice, Michael Brown, or Trayvon Martin are murdered in the streets!

i admit, we can do more. we can always do more. but we are doing something with our art. “poetry is in the streets”—and so are micronationalists.

but in late stage capitalism, we are workers ourselves, struggling with falling wages and salaries and with increasing rent, with the expectation of constant profit and busybody-ness; all we can do most of the time is “find out the information / access all the applications / that are hardening positions based on miscommunication.” modernity has failed us, but we seek an education to soften those positions, to humanise those not like us in all regards, and to do what we can in our lives and our livelihoods to foster solidarity and to do political action. Sandus is trying to improve our reality, using our Realism, though we are limited by our means.

the song is also about what can seem like a perfect fit for micronations: failing states. when Belgium had a government crisis from 2007 to 2010, people and the media turned to micronationalists like grand duke Niels of Flandrensis to point out how average people like us can form governments and be better statespeople than people who have been in government for years and even decades! we respond to real life events in the way we know best: by exercising and by demonstrating our self-determination and our popular sovereignty. micronationalists have taken a stance against warfare and today resist aggression between peoples and even between people and the state. and this is not the only stance we can take: we in Sandus have taken many of them, and are more than willing to address them whenever and wherever we are. we use our art and our livelihood—our micronationalism—to talk about them.

micronations are often called satirical, and that is certainly the case with many micronations like Flandrensis and others who stake out positions clearly and loudly. but describing all micronationalism as satirical can sometimes give the connotation that this is humour, and meant to be funny or laughed at. that couldn’t be further from the truth. Some micronations are fun (like Molossia’s ban on walruses, tobacco, and Texans) but beneath the satire is a serious criticism of late stage capitalism and post/modernity. Sandus as a micronation purposefully critiques these ideas, while (in the case of postmodernity) embraces them. We reject neoliberalism while living in a neoliberal reality. like the icelandic band Hatari, we recognise that this makes us “hypocrites”—because we have to work within a system in order to change it. Sandus is avant-garde, it is experimental, in how it changes the world around us. these days, i am increasingly embracing the view that micronationalism is art: but that does not trivialise or compartmentalise micronationalism. instead, like the bauhaus movement of the 1920s and 1930s, it makes everyday life into art, into culture. we represent an art that alters worldviews, that inspires people to organise and to act, that critiques symbols and meanings, and that purposefully and intentionally exists.[1] Sandus as art has its own values, its own purposes, and—especially in this day and age—its own power to resist the trump era.


the Sôgmô presented this paper at the symposium Sandum Micronationalism in the Age of Moral Cowardism held in Quercus Candida (Quer), Sandus, on saturday 25 May 2019 to celebrate the tenth anniversary of the State of Sandus. It has been slightly edited and expanded for publication here.


lyrics

we’re fucking in a car, shooting heroin
saying controversial things just for the hell of it
selling melanin and then suffocate the black men
start with misdemeanours and we’ll make a business out of them
and we can find out the information
access all the applications 
that are hardening positions based on miscommunication
oh Fuck your feelings
truth is only hearsay
we’re just left to decay
modernity has failed us

and I’d love it if we made it
yes, I’d love it if we made it
yes, I’d love it if we made it
yes, I’d love it if we made it

and poison me daddy
i’ve got the jones right through my bones
write it on a piece of stone
a beach of drowning three-year-olds
rest in peace Lil Peep
the poetry is in the streets
jesus save us
modernity has failed us

and I’d love it if we made it
yes, I’d love it if we made it
yes, I’d love it if we made it
yes, I’d love it if we made it
and I’d love it if we made it
and I’d love it if we made it
and I’d love it if we made it
i’d love it if we made it

[“tell me something I didn’t know”]

consultation
degradation
fossil fuelling
masturbation
immigration
liberal kitsch
kneeling on a pitch

“i moved on her like a bitch”
excited to be indicted
unrequited house with seven pools
“thank you Kanye, very cool”
the war has been incited and guess what?
you’re all invited
and you’re famous
modernity has failed us

and I’d love it if we made it
and I’d love it if we made it
and I’d love it if we made it
[“tell me something I didn’t know”]
and I’d love it if we made it
and I’d love it if we made it
and I’d love it if we made it
and I’d love it if we made it


[1] Deborah Ascher Barnstone and Elizabeth Otto, ed., “How Art Resists” in Art and Resistance in Germany (New York, NY, USA: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019), 7ff.