Friday, February 19, 2010

Ireland could learn from Iceland

The difference between the two countries is much greater than just one letter in their spelling. Both have suffered devastating economic collapse. Both are islands.

But the response of the people and governments to the crisis of today is quite different.
Ireland is still trying to emulate the US style of business and to boost itself with the same strategy that gave birth to the Celtic Tiger: attracting foreign direct investment (jobs from foreign multinationals). Apparently, the leaders have not learned what Einstein said: One cannot fix a problem with the same thinking that created the problem.

Ireland is still hot to attract those major corporate employers to save the country. It is difficult to understand how so many do not notice that most of Ireland's skyrocketing unemployment is the direct result of reliance on foreign corporations (who now find Irish workers too expensive).
Iceland, which suffered a much greater economic collapse is using another strategy: to reinvent itself. As someone once said, 'Insanity is not doing something entirely strange: it is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results'.

Iceland is forging ahead with a government that is now much more responsive to the people of Iceland - of course they did have to overthrow it to accomplish this, but then, that is the way of history.
Iceland is going to make itself the global center of internet freedom of expression with the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative. The plan is brilliant: it not only supports the values of the people but promises to stimulate the economy and make Iceland a unique haven in the world.
"The Icelandic Modern Media Initiative addresses the key issues for free expression in the digital age, and may yet be the catalyst for the kind of legislative reforms that all 21st Century democracies will need." —Index on Censorship

"I am proud to advise the Icelandic Modern Media Initiative's proposal to create a global safe haven for investigative journalism. I believe this proposal is a strong way of encouraging integrity and responsive government around the world, including in Iceland. In my work investigating corruption I have seen how important it is to have have robust mechanisms to get information out to the public. Iceland, with its fresh perspectives and courageous, independent people seems to be the perfect place to initiate such an effort towards global transparency and justice." —Eva Joly MEP
I urge you to glance through the link above. The entire idea inspires hope in an age of darkness and demonstrates that people must demand their governments implement legislation which reflects the will of the people.

To my mind, this is not the case in Ireland.
People are frightened here; and that fear of loss of the 'good life' or perhaps even a 'decent life' clouds their anger toward a government which has become entrenched in Jurassic age economic thinking - following the USA down the rosy path. People are grasping at straws and not yet damaged enough to say, 'Enough is enough!'

In only the past week, three high government officials left office; two because of the grinding mechanisms of the current political culture and another resignation due to perjury in the High Court. Yet it's only a bit of gossip. Public sector employees demonstrated against paycuts in the last budget. But these are the same people who voted to give away our fiscal power to Brussels by voting 'yes' on Lisbon. In essence, they voted themselves their own paycuts - and they didn't even know it. They followed Fianna Fail's party position without really looking at the issues the 'no' side was questioning. Now, they are clueless.

Had the Irish government listened to its own public sector employees protesting, it would have gotten the same treatment the EU is now giving Greece: austery cuts in public services mandated in Brussels.
Ireland could re-invent itself as Iceland is doing.

The country has much to offer as a leader in the world. Ireland could brand itself the capital of organic farming and cuisine. It could market its unique history and scenic green hills to China. It could imitate the Swedish system of social welfare and medical care. I am sure there are many other ideas for Ireland to use its unique assets to create employment and economic growth.

But it won't happen. Because, unlike the Icelanders, the Irish are afraid to take their government to task for the purpose it was created: to serve the citizens. Things are not bad enough here - people will not rebel until they must. The major parties here are filled with the equivalent of American 'good ole boys'. They are a blast from the past...and intend to keep things that way.

I am thinking Iceland looks pretty good. It will not be long until Ireland is simply a dancing puppet on the EU stage chasing the specter of the glory days of the Celtic Tiger. But the people voted this in - isn't democracy great!

We the people, wherever we are, will not get a better shake until we demand it. This is the real lesson from Iceland. I admire the courage of the people there and wish them the best in this new endeavour. And I hope we Irish learn something from them.

No comments:


All blogs are really just small snapshots of a person's mind, heart and soul as they evolve together through life....

Small bits of the thread of life we weave together into the fabric of ourselves, in the hope we will make sense of our existence, individual and collective.

On this page, is the cloak I have fashioned from my fabric to warm myself in a universe which often makes little sense.

Inside my cloak, it is warm enough to face the blistering cold winds of the insane world in which I find myself.

If you find some a bit of 'the good stuff' here, it has been my pleasure.