A Grapevine service announcement Pay attention: Holuhraun, still spewing lava. Bárðarbunga, still sinking.

Does It Matter

Published April 3, 2009

In the film Frost/Nixon, former President Richard Nixon wonders if his legacy will be an entire generation of Americans losing faith in the political system. The fact that Nixon was forced to resign was itself proof that the system, in fact, worked. However, the shock of seeing the President exposed as corrupt led to people abandoning faith in the very system that at that point was proving that no one was above it.
We all know the story from there. Reagan, Bush, a brief Clintonian intermission, followed by even more Bush. All that is needed for evil to prosper, as the oft-quoted Burke once said, is for good men to do nothing. In the aftermath of Watergate, it seemed that good men took a collective step away from politics. For nearly 30 years between Carter and Obama, they were to do very little at all. Many even stopped voting, and the fewer people that took a stand, the better the Republicans did.
In many ways, Iceland now stands at a similar turning point to the one the US faced in the 1970’s. Instead of Vietnam, we have the banking crisis. Instead of Watergate we have, well, the banking crisis. It seems that every evening, Icelanders are bombarded with still more news of corruption within both the private and public sectors. Small wonder that many consider the country to be hopelessly corrupt, even beyond help.
But saying that all politicians are the same is really saying that politics don’t matter. They do matter; they matter a great deal. For those that would say that the Left-Greens are just as corrupt as other parties, the simple fact is that they have never been in government before, and, hence, have not been able to become corrupt to the same extent, if at all. Beating them with the same stick as a party that has excelled at corruption the past 18 years is as unfair as it is inaccurate.
Major changes in Iceland are needed, but these will not come overnight. By turning their backs on the system, by not voting at all or voting for parties with little hope of entering government, those that want the system to change the most will lead to it changing the least.
In fact, it is hard to see any fundamental differences between the platforms of the newly formed Borgaraflokkurinn and the present government. It is often those with the most in common who argue most with one another. In the recent University of Iceland student elections, the Anarchist Party Öskra asked people not to vote for any of the above, instead of the lefty Röskva. Many did not vote and the party the far right of the spectrum, Vaka, won. Hopefully this will not be a template for the elections this April. At the very least, politics are a question of choosing the lesser of two evils. When people forget this, the greater evil prevails.  



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So What’s This Support For Scottish Independence I Keep Hearing About?

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A number of prominent Icelanders cheered on the Scottish independence movement during the run-up to the September 18 referendum deciding whether Scotland should leave the United Kingdom. Among notable Icelanders who expressed support for the Yes movement were comedian and former Reykjavík mayor Jón Gnarr, the band Sigur Rós, and a smattering of politicians, including both the President and the Prime Minister. None of them caused deep ripples, unlike when, on the eve of the election, Scottish independence received the endorsement of the most famous Icelander of them all: Eyjafjallajökull. How can a volcano support anything? Did it ash out

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‘You’ve Got To Be Firm With These People’

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Against Container-Prejudices Eygló Harðardóttir, Welfare Minister on behalf of the Progressive party, wrote a blog post last week, titled ‘Container-prejudices’. Whereas the title might seem to involve an elaborate new metaphor, leading an optimist reader to hope that the Minister might finally publicly counter the xenophobic agenda of other party members, that is not the case. The title is quite literal: the post is about alleged prejudices against containers as a housing solution. Containers are already used as homeless shelters in Reykjavík and more will soon be placed at Landspítali, the National University Hospital of Iceland’s premises, accommodating new offices

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Hello! I Must Be Going!

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To forge a synthesis: Last week, as evident in what follows, citizens of the volcano-plagued republic seem to have mainly wondered which things should be allowed entrance into their country and which should rather be kept out: should meat-products from elsewhere be allowed? How about people from elsewhere? How about only the best people from elsewhere? If locally produced people are supposed to stay, then who is supposed to accommodate them? How can the country attract all the best people and still get rid of all the ‘good people’? Should books stay or go? Last but not least: is there

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Letter To UNESCO

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Dear UNESCO, It was a great honour when Reykjavik became a UNESCO City of Literature in 2011 and we Icelanders are very proud to be counted as one amongst seven amazing cities carrying this title. Realising this is not a temporary title, but a title for keeps which carries a certain recognition and prestige, we have become apprehensive about it and would therefore like to bring a few points to your attention. In a new budget proposal, the present Icelandic government has proposed to raise the sales tax (VAT) on books from 7% up to 12%. The immediate and obvious

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Everything Counts

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Statistics Iceland (SI) raised a few eyebrows when the institution announced that it would as of September include estimates of various illegal activities when calculating Iceland’s GDP and balance of payments. Drug trafficking, smuggling and prostitution are now included among the more “traditional” industries in the state’s official GPD calculations, a move that SI claims will increase Iceland’s GDP by 0.47%. Understandably, the institution’s announcement generated a loud “whaaat!?!?” across social media, as people attempted to make sense of this unexpected addition to the Icelandic economy. It just made no sense! Why would the statistics bureau be interested in boosting

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So What’s This Faroese Ship I Keep Hearing About?

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The Faroese trawler ‘Næraberg’ was fishing for mackerel in Greenlandic waters when its engine suffered a malfunction. As the Icelandic Coast Guard was best situated to help, it sent a plane out to the trawler with spare engine parts, which it dropped in a parachute. The Faroese crew retrieved them in a dinghy and went to work repairing the engine. Another lovely story of cooperation in the North Atlantic Ocean, where hard men with soft hearts help each other survive. After the attempted repairs, the engine could only produce a fraction of normal power. The ship set course for Iceland.

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