Just returned from Iceland – somewhere I had not thought of going before being asked- it turned out to be one of the most stimulating places I have been to for years – in spite of the volcano, the collapse of the banks and the economy, and a 33% public sector wage cut, people appeared open and positive.
A population of only 300,000 in a country the size of England means that everyone matters. Childcare is free, 90% of women work and 43% of the cabinet are women. No one fits into one job – the woman speaker of the house is also a disc-jockey, the chief of police advertises a blue’s festival and producer designer shops in Reykjavik are places where you meet people.
Of course no where is perfect, the dark winters must be bleak and they say crime is increasing however, this is an egalitarian country of adaptive people who are used to sitting on earthquakes and appear unphased by the volcano that has caused european airlines so much grief. The public are not passive and only 10% has any confidence in politicians, people in Reykjavic have just elected a stand-up comedian as major. The comedian Jon Gnarr and his ‘Best Party’ won 30% of the vote and now have to work out what they can do having parodied Icelandic politics, their influence, which is in essense anarchic, could be interesting given that they will have more seats than either the Social Democrats, The Greens or centre right Party. There is in energy in the politics here – humour and humanity.
Iceland is literally sitting on explosive energy, not just from the volcano, but from constant quakes and bubbling hot geysers which produce hot water and electricity generated by geo-thermal drilling on the Asian and Atlantic plate faultline . The country is literally sitting on explosive energy, not just from the volcano, but from constant quakes and bubbling hot geysers which produce hot water and electricity generated by geo-thermal drilling on the Asian and Atlantic plate faultline .
What I learnt in Iceland was that very small countries demonstrate how a connection to the elements can be as significant as a connnection to place and to people, and that versatility is easier in places where it is essential. In fact the politics in Iceland was very like that of any city administration and the politicians I met were very aware of the fact that they all know another and nepotism is rife. However, it was interesting being somewhere where politicians were honest about their foibles and where they know that ever person matters. Valuing people in larger countries gets lost in both social engineering and free-market economices where the distance between the rich and the poor is increasing. I have never seen an political advertisement before which states” We cannot let anyone become unemployed for long because this will upset them emotionally”.
Connecting the country’s success and revival with the state of the population’s mental health seemed to be accepted here – now that is unusual and an innovative starting point for the new Coalition Government.