Humble brag: I’ve been to Iceland.
Now that I’ve returned from my semester abroad, I reference this fact whenever possible (much to the amusement of my family and friends, I’m sure). So naturally, when I was asked to write a piece commenting on Justin Bieber’s latest music video, which was filmed in Iceland, I accepted. I’m an authority on the subject, after all. Did I mention I’ve been to Iceland?
While I’m not a Belieber, I have to admit that the video for “I’ll Show You” is often strikingly beautiful, highlighting the majesty of Skògafoss Waterfall (been there) and Jökulsárlón Glacial Lagoon (also been there). I didn’t quite understand Bieber’s decision to swim half-naked in near-freezing temperatures. However, I was enjoying a pleasant trip down memory lane … and then he committed the cardinal sin of Icelandic travel. Justin Bieber, Canadian heartthrob, rolled in the moss.
I don’t know that I can adequately express the gravity of this situation. Upon our arrival in Iceland, our tour guide Johannes presented us with two simple rules. First, you must never call Icelandic horses ponies, as doing so will offend them. Second, and most importantly, you must never set foot on the delicate moss growing on the lava fields. As though he were the Beast guarding the West Wing, or Dumbledore keeping students out of the third floor corridor, he sternly warned us, “It is forbidden.”
I promise you, Mr. Bieber, had you seen the look in Johannes’ eyes at that moment — the sheer pride, patriotism and protectiveness — you would have felt what I felt in that moment. You would have watched as hundreds of years passed by, as innocent moss grew unmolested on the lava-encrusted rocks of the countryside, untouched by the ravages of human civilization. Had you heard Johannes’ warning, Bieber, you would not have rolled in that moss. You wouldn’t have dared.
It’s possible that Bieber, punk that he is, simply didn’t know what a grievous offense he was committing. It’s also possible that he’s a heartless, unfeeling moss murderer. Perhaps it’s not for me, Iceland enthusiast though I am, to judge. But if you’re looking to travel the world any time soon, here’s a piece of advice: take time to understand the cultures surrounding you and respect the environments you encounter.
And if you don’t, make sure Johannes doesn’t catch you.