An Italian radio program’s story about Iceland’s on-going revolution is a stunning example of how little our media tells us about the rest of the world. Americans may remember that at the start of the 2008 financial crisis, Iceland literally went bankrupt. The reasons were mentioned only in passing, and since then, this little-known member of the European Union fell back into oblivion.
As one European country after another fails or risks failing, imperiling the Euro, with repercussions for the entire world, the last thing the powers that be want is for Iceland to become an example. Here’s why:
Five years of a pure neo-liberal regime had made Iceland, (population 320 thousand, no army), one of the richest countries in the world. In 2003 all the country’s banks were privatized, and in an effort to attract foreign investors, they offered on-line banking whose minimal costs allowed them to offer relatively high rates of return. The accounts, called IceSave, attracted many English and Dutch small investors. But as investments grew, so did the banks’ foreign debt. In 2003 Iceland’s debt was equal to 200 times its GNP, but in 2007, it was 900 percent. The 2008 world financial crisis was the coup de grace. The three main Icelandic banks, Landbanki, Kapthing and Glitnir, went belly up and were nationalized, while the Kroner lost 85% of its value with respect to the Euro. At the end of the year Iceland declared bankruptcy…
What happened next was extraordinary. The belief that citizens had to pay for the mistakes of a financial monopoly, that an entire nation must be taxed to pay off private debts was shattered, transforming the relationship between citizens and their political institutions and eventually driving Iceland’s leaders to the side of their constituents. The Head of State, Olafur Ragnar Grimsson, refused to ratify the law that would have made Iceland’s citizens responsible for its bankers’ debts, and accepted calls for a referendum.
Of course the international community only increased the pressure on Iceland. Great Britain and Holland threatened dire reprisals that would isolate the country…
In the March 2010 referendum, 93% voted against repayment of the debt. The IMF immediately froze its loan. But the revolution (though not televised in the United States), would not be intimidated. With the support of a furious citizenry, the government launched civil and penal investigations into those responsible for the financial crisis. Interpol put out an international arrest warrant for the ex-president of Kaupthing, Sigurdur Einarsson, as the other bankers implicated in the crash fled the country.
But Icelanders didn’t stop there: they decided to draft a new constitution that would free the country from the exaggerated power of international finance and virtual money.
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.
Refusing to bow to foreign interests, that small country stated loud and clear that the people are sovereign.
My first knowledge of a change in media was the VHS VCR placed atop my grandparent’s Betamax recorder in the late 80’s- In my schooling years, I witnessed the slide projector, filmstrip projector, 16mm and Super 8mm film, video tape, and now video discs of all kinds come to pass in favor of on-demand dissemination (youtube, torrenting, netflix, etc..) Dealing with a change in formats used to mean a whole new set of physical playback devices for these new formats; now, little more than a software upgrade is needed to deal with a new video or audio codec.
Throughout my youth, a surplus of old media could be readily expected when we changed over from Beta to VHS, VHS to DVD, DVD to Blu-Ray (not to mention the migration of personal audio)… but when content exists only as a copy occupying on a massive personal storage device (computer, home networking drive, mp3/portable media player) I wonder what it will mean for the understanding of media consumption. By the very nature of our current media, it’s near impossible to lend a copy of something to a friend, save for an outright copy of the file in question.
Like Franzen, I’m charmed by the inevitable clunkiness of old technology as it appears next to its successor, and I hope the current transport mode of our media leads toward concepts of freedom instead of captivity.
Franzen on his love of outdated technology, old stereos, clunky 70s TVs, cassettes and VCR, and how novel-writing is going the way of blacksmithing and swiss watchmaking, and how he dreads it but sort of loves it too:
The image of my decrepit but still-functional Amdek typewriter is also, for…
Congratulations! You’re in the Cash Crab. You have to answer three questions about aquatic life on your journey through the ocean. If you get all three right, you win a bag of synthetic ‘krab,’ or you can go for broke and double your winnings with the fisherman’s video question. Losers are immediately pinched.
“And yet in modern American culture, sex is practically the only sin there is. When’s the last time a Christian kid got thrown out of the house because they coveted others’ possessions or they made fun of a homeless person? When’s the last time a Christian lawmaker made hyperbolic, slightly-unhinged-sounding promises to a church group to fight the sin of avarice? When’s the last time churches protested a movie because it depicted violence?”—The Pervocracy: When did “sin” become synonymous with sex? (via sexisnottheenemy)