Published February 4, 2013
Icelanders breathed a collective sigh of relief this week when EFTA ruled in its favour in the long-disputed Icesave case. Congratulations flew this way and that and Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir even did a little victory shake to show how happy she was to hear the news.
The Icesave dispute between Iceland and the UK and the Netherlands was one of those post-crash topics that came up ad nauseam for the last four years, refusing to go away not once, but three times. Now we’re finally looking at the possibility of never having to talk about it again, the possibility of finally being able to get on with our lives and brighter future.
But haven’t we also been talking about a “better” and “brighter” Iceland for the last four years? Of course “The Best Party” started as a joke, but it now runs the capital city and makes use of an e-democracy platform called “Better Reykjavík.” And then we’ve seen parties spring up with names like “Solidarity” (Samstatða), “Dawn” (Dögun), and “Optimism” (Bjartsýnisflokkurinn). Not to mention, “Bright Future,” which polls suggest is the third largest party running for parliament this spring.
What’s more, these parties are literally fighting each other for the rights to these New Age names. Shortly after Bright Future settled on its name last fall, a political group called New Future tried to get them to change it, albeit unsuccessfully. “We do not intend to change our name,” party leader Guðmundur Steingrímsson said, “and we wish New Future a bright future.”
So what exactly is this “New Iceland”? There’s been all of this talk of it since the crash, but what exactly is it supposed to be, has it arrived, and if so, is it any different from the old Iceland? And why call it New Iceland when a New Iceland was already created in Canada more than one hundred years ago?
To be fair, it’s not all just empty discourse, and regardless of how many slip-ups there have been, the radical effort being made to write a new Constitution pitting “New Iceland” ideas against the old money/establishment, is proof of that. Some of the businessmen that drove the country into the ground are being prosecuted, and despite the resurgence of the Independence Party, which laid the groundwork for the financial crash, the success of these new parties is a sign that people are still fed up with the old.
Now we can certainly all get together, fill our glasses halfway full and skál to a new day, to a better and brighter future, the best even, but let’s be sure that it’s not Kool-Aid that we’re sipping on.