Mag
Opinion
Where Is The Icelandic Gandhi?

Where Is The Icelandic Gandhi?

Published June 9, 2009

At first sight, Iceland and India have a lot in common. For one thing, they both start with the letter “I”. And while one may be the world’s largest democracy and the other one of the smallest, neither really supports equal rights for its citizens.
In India, the Congress Party is played a major part in the country’s struggle for independence, and has since then been the dominant party in politics. It’s almost as if people are afraid to vote for anyone else, as if that might bring the Brits back. The party itself has been dominated by the same Gandhi family, not actually descended from Mahatma Gandhi but which took his name in his honour. They are currently led by their forth Gandhi, a widow of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.
    Much the same applied to the Independence Party here, which actually took its name from an older party that had rather more to do with Iceland’s independence. Nevertheless, ever since full Independence in 1944, it has been the dominant party. It took an economic collapse and a peaceful revolution to finally get people to seriously consider other options.
    For all of the flaws of India’s democracy, its greatest structural problem is the Caste system. While opposed by Gandhi and the government of independent India, it still remains in place under the surface and ensures that many can never rise above the station they are born to.
 How Icelandic of them
    In Iceland, corruption is everywhere. This goes beyond the healthy corruption of hiring your own relatives to do jobs they are not qualified for to hiring the relatives of your friends to do jobs they are not qualified for. It even goes beyond to hiring the relatives of people you don’t even know, the rationale being that if they have ancestors who practice a craft, then they themselves must have some talent in that field.
    In Iceland, people always start from the supposition that ability is inherited. In any field, take writing for example, the first question you will always encounter is: “Are you the son of…” And if, as it turns out, you are nobody’s son, then you have a long and difficult road ahead.
    Corruption is everywhere. It is not only politicians who, say, appoint their offspring as Supreme Court judges or give them fat government contracts. The leading actors in the economic collapse were companies run by father and son, and this goes all the way down to the factory floors. University professors have been known to hire their children as assistant teachers, even if they are studying in a different department. The media plays along, trumpeting every new generation of artists who “have it in their blood,” while ignoring others.
Sons and daughters
    In fact, it can be said that everyone benefits from this system in some way. Most Icelanders get their first summer job through their parents or uncles of friends thereof. Of course, what kind of job you get depends on their social standing, rather than your own ability. And so this rigid caste system remains in place. Not only is this system unfair to the individuals who are passed over in favour of young princes, but it also leads to society as a whole being less well run than it should be. We all know the consequences.
    Great strides have been made in recent years regarding women’s opportunity to seek employment. But a system where people hire their sons and daughters, rather than just their sons, is a marginal improvement at best.
    One of the demands of the January revolution was that competent professionals be instated as ministers as a reflex against the old cronyism. Some were. If the same criteria were applied everywhere, there is little doubt we would have a far better functioning society. But perhaps we need a new revolution for that. Or at least an Icelandic Gandhi.



Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

Down To The Dog Den

by

Anyone familiar with the vertical structure of just about all workplaces—from old school industries and services to the arts, to the innovation and public sectors—understands the universal logic of The Boss. No matter how pleasant it might feel to fulfil one’s working tasks and hours; irrelevant of how invisible the allegedly inherent antagonism between the social hierarchy’s different layers might seem; no matter how much one might actually doubt the current relevance of an analysis based on the concept of hierarchy—or even the very existence of the phenomenon itself; at the end of the day there’s no question about the

Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

What If Sunday is on the Phone to Monday?

by

Nothing like a country that every day walks further down the path of its own inexorable decline. Nothing better than an ever more provincial country run by a rotating crew of the same incompetents, dishonest, corrupted by their support of a permanently and totally corrupt regime. What is better than living in a land where justice is a bazaar? What artist wouldn’t dream of such a nation? —Said filmmaker Jean-Luc Godard in the 1980′s, regarding France. Mutatis mutandis … we are not there yet. Iceland seems corrupt yes, at times fundamentally so. And yet the work may not be completed.

Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

The Best Place In The World To Be A Woman?

by

Women are reportedly more equal to men in Iceland than any other place in the world. But does this mean that we have reached the goal of gender equality? In international media and discourse, Iceland is often portrayed as the best place to be a woman. We certainly use it to market ourselves to tourists and boast of it in our own media. This is in large part due to the recognition we have received from the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Index. For four years in a row now, Iceland has been ranked as number one on the

Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

So What’s This I Hear About Iceland Being The 17th Best Country In The World?

by

Something called The Good Country Index was published recently. It is a list of 125 countries ranked according how much good they do in the world, from Ireland at the top to Libya at 125th. As a marketing stunt, it was brilliant, generating a few hundred thousand news articles around the globe. It was, predictably enough, conceived by a marketing guy who, even more predictably enough, paid someone else to do all the hard work. You can take a wild guess at which one got most of the media attention. The guy who did all the work? No. But let

Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

Ask Not on Whom the Sun Shines

by

If the State Prosecutor decides to take the Interior Ministry to court, for breach of confidentiality, slander, and abuse of public office against two asylum seekers, the Capital Area Police will in all likelihood handle the criminal investigation, as it has until now. Since the police is subordinate to the Interior Ministry, the police thereby investigates its own superiors. There seems to exist little, if any, protocol for that, which calls for some improvisation. Which is the best way forward? Which way towards a convincing, ethical code of conduct? Should the Minister resign? —No, you are confusing Iceland with some

Mag
Opinion
<?php the_title(); ?>

Ungoo

by

[Continued from Ungoo: Part IX] Earlier this year, a free-trade agreement between Iceland and China took effect. Iceland is the first, and so far the only, European country to make such an arrangement with the People’s Republic of. No one knows what that means. Literally no one. Perhaps some politicians, administrative staff or business managers think they do: they probably have some rough estimates about the agreement’s effects on our GDP, and at some point may have read an article or two about whether or not China has any imperial ambitions in the arctic. By and large, they would seem

Show Me More!