International financial news late in the week focused some attention on Iceland. Those Icelanders! They refuse to “play fair”, refuse to “follow the rules,” (as understood by other players also sorting out national economic crises). The UK and Netherlands seem to have been left holding some kind of debt bag. My limited understanding is that the Icelandic government made a loan arrangement, on behalf of the country’s global financial crisis ‘hit’. The UK and Netherlands supplied funds which are to be re-paid. The deal was done. Funds were passed.
It appears this plan was not sufficiently cleared. The people have now voted twice on whether or not they support the plan – and they don’t. Their reason? They strongly reject ‘ordinary citizen responsibility’ in the matter. “The “no” camp said the Icelandic taxpayer was under no legal obligation to pay for a private bank’s losses and that the deal would put a heavy burden on the nation.“ (Each of the two referendums was triggered by ‘built-in’ governance structures that address incomplete ‘sign off’ by government officials. Because key government officials did not sign either Plan A, or the current Plan B, the citizens were called to vote.) Details are available in the BBC article linked above and here. Economic interest news on Iceland is also found elsewhere on the web.
I wonder. Are Icelanders showing the rest of us what it looks like to stand up to financial injustice?
Readers may be more aware of Iceland’s history and modern societal ”ways” than I. My ‘knowledge’ has been limited to visions of volcanoes, excellent thermo-heat and energy technologies, and a sense of “Nordic”. I’ve known only one person from Iceland. I’ve always been grateful at opportunity to ‘hang out with’ people whose origins are from different cultures than mine, and so it was with my one Icelandic friend. But our Canadian socializing was focused on driving children to activities, and discussion of green house gardening, so I didn’t learn much about Iceland!
This morning I wanted to know: “How is the general economic culture of Iceland experienced by the average citizen?” “What is the health care situation for Icelanders?”; “What is Iceland’s poverty situation?”
Here’s what I found:
Iceland’s General history and current governance, culture and economics: multiparty, parliamentary republic and representative democracy. Flat tax! (Wikipedia) (A flat tax system interested me, I see both value and concern in flat tax systems. Iceland may be a model to examine for this! – possible 21st Century modeling.)
Iceland’s Health Care: “Iceland is one of the healthiest countries in the world. It has low pollution, high life expectancy and an extremely low rate of infant mortality. The health service is well-organized, progressive and has more doctors per head of population than any other country. There is no private health sector in Iceland and all citizens regardless of status qualify for healthcare under the state healthcare service.” Thank You, Iceland!! (21st Century Thinking well ahead of its time!)
Iceland’s poverty: Mundi index: percent population of Iceland below poverty line, “NA”! Thank You again, Iceland! Might be clear evidence of 21st Century thinking well ahead of its time!
(Iceland’s poverty – added info: Icelanders haven’t escaped consequences of economies out of control. “The crisis that brought down Iceland’s economy in late 2008 threw thousands of formerly well-off families into poverty, forcing people like Iris to turn to charity to survive. … Each week, up to 550 families (in one community, population 317,000) queue up … to receive free food from the Icelandic Aid to Families organization, three times more than before the crisis.”)
Based on my quick morning review, I hold to the possibility that Iceland may hold ‘seeds of inspiration’ for the rest of us in governance and economic matters.
Readers know by now that I am biased. I’m strongly oriented to ideas and proof that support the vision of humanity’s potential. The vision speaks to our in-born potential to uplift “each and every” person with no exceptions. This ‘shared uplifting’ will demonstrate full welcome and care for each: from birth, through development of unique individual interest and talent, to community-wide contributions that result from nurtured individual interest.
I believe “uplift all” is possible. More deeply, I believe “uplift all” is the only justification for human ‘evolution’ beyond ‘the unthinking physical’. I’m committed to this vision. It serves both as ‘guiding light’, and as “outcomes” test. It serves to measure value of all we ‘concoct’ to ‘improve’ life. Any social or governmental practice or policy – whether new, traditional or established – that does not “line up” with vision outcomes, is, for me, “up for revision or replacement”. Any social or governmental practice that seems to affirm what I believe humanity can achieve is, for me, evidence and model.
I’ve said elsewhere that I’m “Christian backgrounded”, but I suppose, given the influence of Zen and First Nations teachings, “universalist” might better describe “where I’m coming from”. (I don’t use any ‘religious category’ for myself – I had to look up ‘universalism’ to see if it was a reasonable match!) These teachings strongly point to “All is One”. For me, “All is One” teachings support the vision I describe above – a vision very much interested in “common weal”. (I do not claim this is ‘my’ vision; nor do I know its source. It’s my belief the vision ‘arrives with us’, we’re born to ‘dream such a vision’ – all of us. Perhaps its source can be explained by “unique human consciousness” and “the collective unconscious”.)
I wondered, near the end of my Iceland research, “What spiritual or religious concepts might be in the minds/hearts of a people who appear to actively support common weal?” Wikipedia information is not a huge surprise. Out of Norse practices, the country has, in time, been “Christianized”. Many other faiths, including neo-paganism, are followed in modern Iceland. “Officially, the nation is religiously homogeneous. Nearly all Icelandic religious followers are Christian, and vast majority of these are Lutheran. Church attendance, however, remains low. …”.
It then occurred to me: “What’s it like to be an elder in Iceland?” Consistent with all other evidence of common weal practice, Icelanders haven’t neglected needs of elderly. The title of a (2006) article suggests procedures allow elderly “voice-power”: “Elderly Reach An Agreement With Government”.
I repeat my above statement: “Based on my quick morning review, I hold to the possibility that Iceland may hold ‘seeds of inspiration’ for the rest of us in governance and economic matters.”
Please notice: I do not say “Iceland’s got my vision covered, it’s done!” I’ve discovered “visionary seeds” in Iceland. A consistent pattern of “common weal support”. Clearly, Icelanders became entangled in excesses of economic ‘manipulations’ for ‘big material gain’, in the last decade or more. If they had not, they’d not be involved in our global economic crises. (See link above in ‘addendum item on poverty’ to glimpse mind-sets of many who’ve lost gains made.)
Icelander’s, like the rest of us, don’t have “it all” figured out – neither current crises nor overall humanitarian issues.
One distinctly possible “seed of inspiration” that’s different in Iceland’s response to national debt in this global crisis, compared to other citizen bodies, has two parts. The first is a built-in self-governance procedure that triggers the referendum, (We could have done with one of those in the United States on ‘bail out’ issues!) The second is citizen active interest in “who’s most responsible for” crisis repair (bail out) costs. Voter turn-out is very high, 93% for first referendum, final count on second referendum wasn’t in when reference article was posted. The two are inter-meshed. It’s easier to be interested when a mechanism exists to allow a say in how things turn out.
It’s Iceland’s ordinary citizen “posture” and response to what’s being asked of them that started me on this blog’s research/share adventure. I “see” the spark of William Tell in what Icelanders have done with their referendum votes. The rest of us have been dragged, with some very loud kicking and screaming, to “do as we’re told”. Our pundits lack rich vision of “All is One”. They greatly fear collapse of well-established, machine-like power, of “modern profit-driven economics”.
Our economic pundits are hugely resistant; they’re unable to imagine a shift to something more visionary. They prefer to manipulate ‘ordinary citizen’ opportunity; wherein we are told to ‘go here, do this’, or ‘go there, do that’. (More commonly these days we’re told “try harder”, “bend farther backwards”, “the economic machine makes the rules” – “trust us – we’re the economic priesthood – we have superior understanding”.)
In the end, our fearful pundits convinced us to join them in fear. They’ve convinced us there’s no way out but for the most ordinary of citizens to bail out the financial schemers, whose lives scarcely change, while we experience greatly diminished promise.
There’s an aspect of “school-yard bully” and/or “mafia thinking” in the pundit fear-mongering. Like any child in the school-yard, threat to survival makes it pretty hard to stand up to the bully. Like anyone running a commercial operation in an environment organized on “mafia-type” hierarchical power differences, threat to ones own commercial survival tends to encourage “cooperation with whom-so-ever holds the power.”
William Tell, legend or not, refused to be bullied by power. He rejected being told his person, his autonomy, his “essence of self”, his vision, should be “fear driven” to “cooperate with power that lacked justice”. William Tell affirmed the deepest principles of life – by choosing not to act in cowardice for the sake of prolonging life! (Contrast American fear-as-driver continued support of for-profit health care!!) (Little is known of Tell, but there’s also evidence he was committed to “common weal”; he’s said in some stories to have died when he lept into waters to save a drowning village child.)
Icelanders voted ‘no’ on Plan B, the second referendum, by a much more narrow margin than their overwhelming rejection of Plan A. Who knows how this will turn out.
However it turns out, many thanks and much gratitude is due the people of Iceland for standing firm for as long as they have. Their action definitely meets my criteria of human behavior that demonstrates belief in our greater promise – far from realized to date.
My Best!! –MaggieAnn