SIC Report: What The Locals Think - The Reykjavik Grapevine

SIC Report: What The Locals Think

SIC Report: What The Locals Think

Published May 12, 2010


Vigdís M. Sveinbjörnsdóttir
Farmer, Egilsstaðir
Has the economic crash changed your day-to-day life?

No, no change in my life. Our debts have gone up a bit, but it’s not affecting our day-to-day life.
How do you feel about the report’s findings?
It was no surprise. I think the findings were things most people knew beforehand. It’s been talked about. We knew who those people were who were running the banks and who were wading in all that money.
So you weren’t surprised?
It was just a confirmation of the things most people knew. But the things I heard about the conversation the committee was having with those people, what surprised me was how those bankers and those who had access to the money—how they talked. What they said and the language they were speaking. They used poor language and they are not expressing themselves well. That’s the only thing that really surprised me.
Do you believe the people named in it should be prosecuted and held accountable?
Yeah, I think so. The bankers, and those who had all the access to all this money in the banks. That was nothing but fraud they were engaging in.
Who is to blame?
Those people, saying that that everyone was to blame, everyone was participating, I don’t think that’s right. It wasn’t everyone. Most people [in Iceland] were just going about their business as usual.
Are there lessons to be learned from the report? Is there one major one?
It’s a lesson that people seem to have to learn every once in a while. That greed doesn’t pay. I think people have to be reminded over and over about this.
If you could vote anyone off the island, who would it be?
Those who were in the front of this business. I don’t want them anywhere near business in Iceland. I don’t want to shop in their shops; I don’t want to use their telephones. I want to know that when I’m living my life in Iceland I’m not paying money to these men.
– SO

Helgi Hákon Jónsson
Ex-Real Estate Agent
Has the economic crash changed your day-to-day life? If so, how?

It most certainly has. Before the crash I was an authorised real estate agent and I could easily choose from agencies to work for. Now the real estate market is dead.
Have you read any of the report itself? How do you feel about its findings?
I have not read any of the report myself.  Everything in the report has been constantly in the news since October 6, 2008.
Do you think there’s a culprit? Do you believe the people named in it should be prosecuted and held accountable?
Yes, there are culprits. There are many of them at that, in both politics and business. Of course they should be prosecuted and held responsible.
Are we all to blame?
We may be responsible for electing unable politicians, but did we have a choice of voting for any more able ones?!?
What do you feel are the biggest lessons to be learned from the report?
Honesty.
What surprised you most about the report?
As I said, this has all been in the news for the last two years. I didn’t find many surprises. Only confirmation.
If you could vote anyone off the island, who would it be?
There are simply just too many people.   
 – AA

Jóhannes Kjartansson
Graphic Designer
Has the economic crash changed your day-to-day life? If so how?

I don’t have a house or a car anymore. But I didn’t really before either, so I’m OK.
Have you read any of the report itself? How do you feel about its findings?
No, but I’ve looked at the cover photographs and layout. It’s quite pretty. I’ve been monitoring all the news spawning from it though, from day one up until the volcano eruption. After that I kind of lost the thread. I feel angry and frustrated. It’s unbelievable how much corruption was going on under the giant umbrella created by our very own government. It turns out the umbrella was leaking like a sieve. I especially love how all this commotion in Iceland creates new possibilities for metaphors.
Do you think there’s a culprit? Do you believe the people named in it should be prosecuted and held accountable?
For sure. Negligence is just as bad as wrongdoings. The people in charge are the ones that created this environment in the first place. I feel that the entrepreneurs and “vikings” shouldn’t be getting so much heat, since many of them were just working within this environment and under the umbrella. The politicians are to blame first and foremost in my opinion.
Are we all to blame?
Partly. The Icelandic “Þetta reddast”-way of thinking (“Þetta reddast” is a common Icelandic expression that translates to ‘Everything will work itself out’) got us into this mess. You can’t just “buy” a car for 3 million ISK and a house for 22 million ISK with a foreign loan while living like a king, hoping everything will just work out eventually. I travelled a lot myself, and never really could afford it. So I just took loans. And some more loans. And then loans for my loans. I thought I was behaving irresponsibly but it turned out even my banks were doing the exact same thing! If the emperor is naked, by all means, shout it out loud!
If you could vote anyone off the island, who would it be?
Davíð Oddsson. He’s the best and worst thing that has happened to this country. Had he quit in 2002 he’d be a living legend. But now he’s a different kind of legend. By being driven by his personal vendetta and being impossible to work with he managed to devastate this country more than any volcano could.
– RL

Þorsteinn Másson
Fisherman and student
Has the crash changed your day-to-day life?

No, not really. My company that owns the boat, its loan went up a bit, but it was all manageable. But you know, prices of imported goods have gone up, so it’s more expensive to buy food. I think the crash didn’t affect us hillbillies as much as it did the city folks.
How do you feel about the report’s findings?
Most of the things that are said in the report have come up before as rumours, speculation. It surprised me how much of them turned out to be true. I was kind of worried that the report would not judge anybody or come up with any real conclusions, so I’m really happy with the report. It was more than I expected.
Do you think there’s a culprit? Is there more than one person to blame, even society as a whole?
If we could blame somebody, it would be the owners of the bank, and the political people—the people who were in charge at the time. It’s sad that now these people who are most to blame, they’re pointing at each other. What I would really like to see is somebody who said, “Yes, I fucked up.”
What do you think is preventing them from doing that?
I’m not sure, but it’s tradition in Iceland that you never admit your mistakes. Looking at how many members of Parliament, you can count it by your left hand how many have resigned when they’ve fucked something up. They find it so hard to come out and say it. We’re always taking sides with this company or this political party. Like, “I’m an Independent Party person.” And people live their whole lives based on that faulty theory.
Why is that a bad thing?
You can’t let the political party run almost every aspect of your life. Some people, they defended their party leader to the death. So I think people should just be more, like, think for yourself, make your own decisions. Don’t let the party make decisions for you. And I think that’s what I’m hoping will happen with this report and this crash.
– SO

Nanna Árnadóttir
Student, University of Iceland
Has the economic crash changed your day-to-day life? If so how?

When the economy crashed I lived in London. It made me so homesick, and when the riots started I felt like I was missing out on a big part of my nation’s history. So I quit my job and moved back home. Since I’ve spent basically my entire life abroad I feel like I’ve reconnected with home, and I’m getting a real twisted kick out of being here to observe it all unravel.
Have you read any of the report itself? How do you feel about its findings?
I’ve read chapters, but not the whole thing. It’s the length of a Victor Hugo brain-fart. I watched the press conference on the morning that it came out and I watched the 3-hour live special on TV and of course read about it extensively so I got the Cliff Notes so far. I feel shame. Deep, unabashed embarrassment at those bankers’ actions and how it reflects on all of us. Right after the crash everyone at my work back in London called me FT for six months. FT was short for “Financial Terrorist”.
Do you think there’s a culprit? Do you believe the people named in it should be prosecuted and held accountable?
I don’t think there is one puppet master behind it all. I think a lot of people got a little greedy and made bad calls to benefit themselves until it all added up. I think everyone who was named should be held accountable. If they aren’t I’ll be even more humiliated because it means we’ll have failed each other by not demanding accountability.
Are we all to blame?
We all bought into it. Everyone binged on that consumer crack pipe like Nasty McMethface. Of course there are limits to how accountable the Icelandic Joe Shmoe can be when our government, our banks and the news media all told there was nothing to worry about.
What do you feel are the biggest lessons to be learned from the report?
Always question authority and embrace moderation.
What surprised you most about the report?
That the commission had the balls to name any names at all.
If you could vote anyone off the island, who would it be?
I always said Davíð Oddsson, but the way Geir Haarde reacted to the report it just put me off. I became so enraged I threw a yoghurt at the TV during his RÚV interview the night of the report – well OK I threatened to hurl the yoghurt, but I was eating it and he wasn’t worth the yoghurt.
– AA

Sigurbjörg Jóhannesdóttir
Software Developer
How has the economic crash changed your day-to-day life?

Icelanders are required to pay a percentage of their salary into a pension fund. My pension fund was controlled by Landsbanki, and it took a huge dive in the crash. I was a bit worried at first that I could lose my job, as people were doing all over the place, but that hasn’t happened, so it has not changed very much for me.
How do you feel about the report’s findings?
It did surprise me a bit when they’re quoting from the interviews they conducted with the people like the bankers and politicians and ministers and all that. And sometimes they don’t sound very bright.
Do you feel that some people acted maliciously and with complete knowledge of the bad things that they were doing?
Yes. It looks like some people did, but it also looks like some people were just trying to control things they didn’t understand. I find that in government there is lack of protocol. So when they have meetings there’s not anything written down.
There are no minutes?
No. It says so in the report. Most big decisions are made over the phone or in casual meetings.
    [She holds the report, paraphrasing from it.] They’re talking about a meeting here in the National Treasury [Seðlabanki]. And there is this meeting, and they’re talking about when the government took over the first bank, Glitnir, and the business minister is not there. The Minister of Industry is there instead. He just sat there, blew his nose, and said, “I know nothing about banks.” And they are talking about a major decision to take over the bank Glitnir that started the whole process of collapse. It was a huge decision and they made it in what seems like a two-hour meeting, with no plan of action, and there’s nothing written down. I find it just … it’s incredible. I’m just shocked.
If you could vote one person off the island, who would it be?
Wow. I think it would be Davið Oddson. I think he sometimes acted like he was a dictator of this country. He would never admit that. Never.
– SO


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