The World works a certain way when countries get into debt. The International Monetary Fund turns up, tells them to privatise everything and allow foreign investors to buy it all cheap, and refuses to give out any money for loans if they don’t. (I’m simplifying here, but… wait, no I’m not.) Everyone who is still rich agrees that this is the way to go. If you try something different, you will suffer the wrath of many governments, banks and newspapers.
Iceland said no. In fact, as this excellent article points out, they had a revolution and threw out their government, which is pretty much the gold standard for saying no.
Weeks of protests and riots forced them to hold elections, and the new Government decided not to put the entire population into debt for decades by bailing out the banks. They held a referendum and 93% of the people thought they’d rather have Interpol arrest the bankers responsible instead, please. Oh, and they’re having a new Constitution, written by the public.
“To write the new constitution, the people of Iceland elected twenty-five citizens from among 522 adults not belonging to any political party but recommended by at least thirty citizens. This document was not the work of a handful of politicians, but was written on the internet. The constituents’ meetings are streamed on-line, and citizens can send their comments and suggestions, witnessing the document as it takes shape.”
Did you know any of this? Did you know there’s a country in Europe who threw out their government through the power of protest, elected a left-wing coalition who then asked the public what they wanted, started writing new rules with complete visibility to anyone on the net, and stood up to the banks and IMF? Because I didn’t see the headlines.
As well as being the first openly-gay head of Government in recent times (and one of the first people in Iceland to fully marry her same-sex partner instead of a civil union), Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir is presiding as Prime Minister over one of the gutsiest, brass-badass, openly-defiant movements in the world. A referendum? Putting decisions in the hands of the public? None of that is ever allowed on choices which actually matter. As a friend of mine put it when she read the article: “Iceland, you rockstar “.