Lessons From Iceland for the Occupy Movement
Excerpt of a Guardian article by Birgitta Jónsdóttir, a Member of Parliament of Iceland:
If the 99% want to reclaim our power, our societies, we have to start somewhere. An important first step is to sever the ties between the corporations and the state by making the process of lawmaking more transparent and accessible for everyone who cares to know or contribute.
Many have seen Iceland as the ideal country for experimentation for new solutions in an era of transformation. We had the first revolution after the financial troubles in 2008. Due to a lack of transparency, corruption and nepotism, Iceland had the third largest financial meltdown in human history, and it shook us profoundly. The Icelandic people realized that everything we had put our trust in had failed us.
One of the demands during the protests that followed – and that resulted in getting rid of the government, the central bank manager and the head of the financial authority – was that we would get to rewrite our constitution. “We” meaning the 99%, not the politicians who had failed us. Another demand was that we should have real democratic tools, such as being able to call directly for a national referendum and dissolve parliament.
I helped create a political movement from the various grassroots movements in the wake of the crisis. We had no leaders, but rotating spokespeople; we did not define ourselves as left or right but around an agenda based on democratic reform, transparency and bailing out the people, not the banks. We were just ordinary people who’d had enough and who needed to have power both within the system and outside it. We got 7% of the vote and four of us entered the belly of the beast.
Many great things have occurred in Iceland since our days of shock in 2008. Our constitution has been rewritten by the people for the people. The foundation for the constitution was created by 1,000 people randomly selected from the national registry. The new constitution is now in the parliament. It will be up to the 99% to call for a national vote on it so that we inside the parliament know exactly what the nation wants and will have to follow suit.
Having the tools for direct democracy is not enough though. We have to find ways to inspire the public to participate in co-creating the reality they want to live in. This can only be done by making direct democracy more local. Then people will feel the direct impact of their input. We don’t need bigger systems, we need to downsize them so they can truly serve us and so we can truly shape them.
From conversations I have had with people from Occupy London it is obvious we are all thinking along the same lines. All systems are down: banking, education, health, social, political – the most logical thing would be to start a fresh system.