How did Iceland do it?
No, not ‘How do they manage to sell their highly processed, frozen produce at price we can all afford?’
Not THAT Iceland.
I’m thinking about the other one…
Ok, close your eyes for 20 seconds and think of Iceland…the country…
What did you get?
The volcano and all it’s pesky ashes, leaving thousands of holiday makers, er, still on holiday?
The cod wars?
The Icelandic Revolution?
Iceland’s beautiful countryside?
The folk from Iceland are, on average, the second tallest race in the world….?
The fact that the Iceland handball team knocked team GB out of the Olympics?
Hold on, did you say something about a revolution?
In 2008 their economy – driven by the bankers – Cockney rhyming slang if you like – hit the buffers, much in the way ours did…
Only they dealt with it in a slightly different way…a wonderful way that reminded me that people should not fear their governments – governments should fear their people.
Like us, their government nationalised the banks. Whereas we picked off one or two, they reined in all of them.
They borrowed from the International Monetary Fund (IMF)and a number of countries including Holland and the UK.
In return for these loans these countries demanded austerity in Iceland – demanding that each and every Icelandic citizen pay back $130 per month for the next 15 years.
The Social Democratic Government resigned due to the pressure from the protests and riots from the people.
A left-wing coalition was voted in, condemning the mistakes of the previous government, and then carried on with the same austerity measures as their predecessors.
This is where the people of the UK and the people of Iceland go their separate ways….
The government finally succumbed to the pressure of it’s people – before putting these punitive measures into place – where the people would have accepted responsibility for the banks debts – the head of state, Ragner Grimsson, accepted calls for a referendum.
Should the people of Iceland be responsible for the debts of the banks.
The international community went bananas.
The UK and Holland and the rest of the financial world threatened dire reprisals should Iceland not do as they were told.
Grimsson said at the time,’We were told that if we refused the international community’s conditions, we would become the Cuba of the north. But if we had accepted, we would have become the Haiti of the north.’
No pressure there then.
The referendum took place in March 2010 and 93% of the electorate voted against the repayment of the debt.
The IMF froze Iceland’s loan – but the folk of Iceland refused to be intimidated – the government launched civil and criminal investigations into the real culprits of the financial crisis.
Interpol put out an international arrest warrant for the ex-president of Kaupthing (one of their big 3 banks), Sigurdur Einarsson, as the others implicated in the crash fled the country.
Iceland didn’t stop there – oh no – they decided to rewrite their constitution – one that would free them from the excessive power and the vagaries of international finance and virtual money.
From a pool of 522 applicants – who in turn were recommended by at least 30 citizens – twenty five people, who didn’t belong to any political party, were chosen to write the new constitution.
The people of Iceland were able to access the formation of the constitution on the Internet – including streamed meetings, comments, suggestions and documents for all to see –
If this isn’t participatory democratic process in action, I’m not sure what is.
This new constitution will be submitted for approval in the next Icelandic elections.
On top of all this there came an acceptance that the traditionally male approach to politicking – you know, shouting opponents down; refusing to agree with the opposition when their right; refusing to accept the blame for being an arsehole; refusing to ask for directions and so on…- had been instrumental in the country’s downfall.
Iceland ensured, through voting and positive discrimination, that women represented at least 50% of the government.
Too good to be true? Well, there is the small fact that, in the eyes of the wider economic community at least, Iceland fell horribly on it’s arse.
It lost it’s triple A credit rating and other countries either stopped or reduced their trading with them.
Bugger – oh well, power to the people…
There are a lot of folk in the blogosphere who argue that the Iceland revolution wasn’t all that appeared…
However…if you take a look at the HDI…
The Human Development Index – this is essentially a measurement of how good a country is to the people within it…
It takes into account things like the health, wealth, education, environment and the employment prospects of the masses.
Now, it would be libellous of me to suggest that Iceland didn’t take a bit of a knock here – it plummeted to 9th in the world…
The UK are 28th.
Which brings me to the difference between economy and economy.
The word ‘economy’ is from the Greek and referred to how folk look after their homes…
The word ‘economy’ has come to mean ‘oh my god, I hope we’ve kept our triple A rating – I mean, it would be terrible to look like we’re floundering in the eyes of the world…’
Which is a bit like only painting the wards in the hospital that the queen is likely to visit, or….inviting people into your beautifully presented front room while the rest if your house is decomposing around you…
A facade that doesn’t acknowledge the state that it’s people are in.
With more women at the helm, the government of Iceland has recognised that its PEOPLE and not it’s capital are it’s most valuable asset.
But we’ve kept our triple A rating I hear (some of you) cry.
But at what cost?
We have 2 main parties that are almost indistinguishable from each other, with a a new, ‘let’s blame Europe for all our problems’ party coming up fast on the rails.
In a recent poll by the BBC, the people of the UK believe that over 50% of people claiming benefits are scroungers.
The government’s propaganda machine has done well, hasn’t it?
In direct contrast to what went on in Iceland, we have either kept our bankers in their position of power or allowed them to stand down with the mother and father of all severance packages.
And all the time we’re told that our country is weakened by those benefits scroungers and their feelings of entitlement.
So, if what went on in Iceland was so good, why didn’t we hear about it?
Personally, I’m astonished at the media blackout placed on this wonderful tale of people power.
The BBC has been dazzlingly silent regarding the whole affair as has most of our free media – except for the Independent who claimed that the revolution in Iceland was almost entirely due to the voice of women being heard. Who knows, they might be right?
Well, it wouldn’t work here, would it?
Helping people instead of the banks? Surely that’s unheard of – I mean, it might work in a small country like Iceland, but here, in the United States of Kingdom…?
Well there’s the thing – the International Monetary Fund (IMF) have, just recently, started to praise Iceland for the way they’ve dealt with their finances…
They have suggested that western governments should consider state funded ‘debt forgiveness’ to help stimulate economic growth.
This means that governments should intervene to reduce the cost of debt to it’s citizens.
Just like they did in Iceland…
And in the United States in 1933 in the midst of the Great Depression…
Sorry, they did what??
Under the Homeowners Refinancing Act of 1933, President Roosevelt arranged for the American Government to provide mortgage assistance to home owners or would-be home owners by giving then money or refinancing their mortgages.
By the middle if the 1930’s the American government had helped nearly a fifth if its citizens to pay for their homes.
Although Iceland only have a triple B rating in the world markets, they have managed to support their people in ways that the UK government could only dream of.
This means that over the last 5 years Iceland has looked after its people and, in doing so, is now seen as one of the great emerging economies of the world.
In the past 5 years we’ve bailed out the bankers to the tune of £Billions to give us the right to carry on paying our huge debts and mortgages; we’ve rewarded their greed and blamed those with the least power in our society because the media hasn’t offered alternatives – because the media has been active in the generation of prejudice against people with disabilities and the poor.
We have failed to criminalise the bankers for their dodgy dealings because their sleight of hand has made it difficult for the Government to legislate against.
In Iceland the approach appeared to be more…’if it looks like a crime, feels like a crime and smells like a crime, then it’s a crime…’
In Iceland they gave more financial power to the people – here we tried quantitative easing….
This means the Bank of England printed more money and gave it to the banks – so they could lend us more money and er, kickstart the economy.
If we could borrow more, we could spend more…
So the banks could lend more money? Only they didn’t – they’d been bitten by that before…
How about a bit more quantitive easing…?
Well, they began to lend a bit more…
Cue quantitative easing 3, ‘The Bankers Strike Back’…
Yes, they’re lending more money – but it’s through payday loans with APR’s of 1000% or more.
What would have happened if the Bank of England had given the money directly to the public?
I bet they’d spend it?
REVOLUTION is the only way…isn’t it?
The people if the UK are angry…at the Government…at those scrounging bastards and, to a lesser extent, those tax-dodgers…
So what do we do?
A lot if us stop taking any notice of current affairs…it’s too depressing…life’s hard enough…
We punish the government with apathy at the elections, with poor voter turnout…
If only there was a ‘I’m not voting for any of these tossers’ box on the voting form…
Still though, there are thousands of us who want to shout out against the system, and there’s the problem…
Take a look on the Internet – see how many groups there are out there shouting ‘fuck the government/ the bankers/ corporate greed etc’
There are hundreds – they lack cohesion – although they have common goals and beliefs they lack direction…
It’s all a bit like herding cats…nailing jelly to a gate…
It’s time to change – we could work together – we could respect each other – we could put people first and beat the bastards at their own game.
Walk a mile in my shoes,
And I’ll walk several in yours