Icelanders in Revolt, Again
The sign was just one of many but it captured I think, the entire spirit of not only thousands of Icelanders in revolt again, but of many of us in our sad world. “Hættið að fokka í okkur”, that is, “Stop fucking with us!”
It is entirely possible that a majority of Icelanders just might, at this point, vote against European Union membership if a yes-no vote were held today. But they are nevertheless furious that the current government unilaterally decided to pull out of talks before a final set of proposals was finished and the results sent to the people in a referendum. Almost 82% of Icelanders according to the most recent poll on the issue have said they want to vote on the proposal rather than have the government decide to pull out of these talks. 40,000 of them, 12.5% of the entire population (the equivalent of over 40 million in the US), have signed a petition demanding such, and these numbers are growing.
In other words, the people of Iceland are once more at the edge of forcing out yet another government because it has shown its contempt for the democratic principles Icelanders still hold dear. And with all else going on in Iceland and the world, we should pause a moment to consider what this could mean.
A sense of democratic entitlement, a sense that we ought to be making decisions about our water, our wars, our future, is the essence of the current situation in Iceland. Recovering that sense in the US is essential if any headway is going to be made on the various crises faced by USAmericans. Unfortunately, this sense of being aggrieved and demanding a redress of those grievances is not limited to a Left interpretation of events:
It fuels the faux-populism of the Tea Party as well as the street-level excitement behind Kshama Sawant´s recent win. It nourishes the mixed bag of national pride and fascist resurgence, as well as the bourgeois drive to limit democracy to the well heeled in Thailand and the Ukraine. It gives courage to the street protests in Mexico and throughout Latin America, as well as providing the opening for movements on all political sides in the Middle East and North Africa. In the US, a frustrated and benumbed public already subject to headlines of constant spying, increasing loss of civil liberties, police brutality, corporate malfeasance and the insane expansion of corporate drilling into the very underground water reservoirs which we all depend upon, appears overwhelmed by the entirety of what they face. But either we conclude with some semblance of unity that we too, will no longer be ignored, and that we will re-engage our democratic responsibilities to dissent and force a dramatic change of course, or we are toast.
We are witnessing levels of disgust and sullen disengagement more typically seen in exhausted totalitarian societies. We do not see on the horizon resistance and hope, the promise of a real people´s democracy (a redundancy perhaps but one we need to revive) whereby we refuse to be treated as combatants in a war between the armies of the wealthy and the rest of us. And we have to resist the urge to further divide ourselves by facile definitions of differences and seek the commonalities which, if only we support, will restore a measure of control over the structures which now overwhelmingly permeate every aspect of our lives and universally oppress us: the faceless technocratic global corporate Masters who make no pretense of requiring our consent on anything anymore.
Either we unite and begin the laborious process of disassembling the behemoth of capitalism which infects the very soul of our humanity while destroying the essence of Life itself-the trees, the oceans, the air we breathe-and instead, devise newer, more human friendly scaled enterprises of social comity, or we are lost to the dark forces of selfishness, the love of “power” and “order” and the rule by the rapacious. We must do this together as a people, as one people, “democratically” as “rule of the people” means. Our hearts have been appealed to on such issues before and we have responded. The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. reminded us many times that the endless path of war glorification instead of peace edification will suck the marrow of the shaky frame of democracy we so fervently declare our love for but too readily surrender our control of. This must end, or we will be lost to the confident and regrouping forces of fascist apologists.
And, while the people in Iceland are yet again growing weary of promise after promise of change, they at least remain on a level of political empowerment which their leaders rightly fear. It is time we made our politicians dread our unity of purpose. It´s time they stopped fucking with us, as well.
José M. Tirado is a Puertorican poet and political writer living in Hafnarfjorður, Iceland, known for its elves, “hidden people” and lava fields. His articles and poetry have been featured in CounterPunch, Cyrano´s Journal, The Galway Review, Dissident Voice, Former People: A Journal of Bangs and Whimpers, North Star, Hollywood Progressive and Op-Ed News, among others. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.