Being half-Icelandic in background I'd like to believe in intrinsic Norse wisdom but …
- The reason my great grandfather's trade (carpenter) was so revered was because Icelanders deforested their country (like the English).
- Icelanders are worse than Kiwis for being travellers. They are dumping more greenhouse gases into the atmosphere in their constant trips to hot climes.
- They still think its their cultural right to hunt endangered whales.
- I think they are building or have built with big corporate dough a smelter with terrible implications for the atmosphere.
They are a wealthy people, but they pay a big price for that. As Scandinavians, they simply out-work most of the human race. A CBC documentary compared the Newfoundland economy with that of Iceland and really couldn't come up with anything much more than the fact that Celts are lazy drunks and Icelanders are hard working drunks. Work hard, Play Hard. Their hygiene and housekeeping standards reflect that too.
Both Newfoundland and Iceland are big islands dependant on fishery except now the Newfies have oil money to help. But the difference is that the Icelanders know that if they don't work hard, they starve, with no one to bail them out.
Newfies have been able to rely on constant welfare inputs from Ottawa and took on an Aboriginal work ethic. Whole joke books have been published exploiting that character trait. Except it is PC to tell Newfie jokes (the jokes are published in Newfoundland) but First Nations jokes are off-side. With the Alberta oil economy to lure them out, this welfare culture, five decades old, is disappearing.
Now Newfoundland and Iceland are both beginning to resemble each other more, especially in their disregard of the environment.
Other interesting parallels, both cultures, Celtic and Norse, place a huge value on literary accomplishments, writers and poets are highly esteemed and political debate is a pastime. Both societies boast a tradition of feisty women, but Icelandic women are actually more independent because they broke free of the church. They go on strike once a year and shut the whole country down to prove their importance to the economy.
Because it has always been a socialized welfare state with free health, education, employment and child care benefits and total female employment participation, taxes are sky high and inflation as well. This latter fact is something you should reflect upon. Because double-digit inflation discourages savings so much—in fact it makes it nonsensical to put aside anything—people are encouraged to be hyper-consumers.
They run out and buy things and blow everything they have on cars, clothes and trips. Live for today has always been the motto. So being seen in fancy clothes in a smart car and in a well-furnished apartment becomes a cultural requirement. I would be looked upon as a hillbilly. Also the pressure to work long hours at two jobs—not an Icelandic phenomena exclusively obviously—just to get the money to pay the huge rent and grocery bills ($5 for a lettuce) creates the stress that makes young people and everyone turn to alcoholism big time.
Promiscuous sex is also a cultural trademark with all its emotional and physical costs. It is like when socialist Gunnar Myrdal was criticizing the Swedish welfare state. Whatever model of society we design, whatever set of problems we solve, a new set arises with the better model. There are always trade-offs. But somehow the grass is always greener in other countries.
BTW, my mother's cousin, Helgi Seljun was a Communist deputy (Peoples Party) deputy in the Icelandic parliament. There were 7 parties at the time and I think 5 of them were left of centre. Today there would be a very interesting coalition I'm sure. The president I believe is still a woman whom I saw in Vancouver about a decade ago I think.
One positive statement I would like to make about the land of my mother—and obviously don't circulate this—is that they have always pursued true National Socialist#main-fn1">1 objectives. They know they are keepers of a precious culture that is 1200 years old and have no right to let that be absorbed or diluted by the influx of other cultures.
As matter of fact, whenever a foreign word invades the language, a special government commission replaces that word with a Norse neologism. Anyone who becomes an Icelandic citizen through marriage must change his or her name to old Norse names. Thus the language spoken today would have been entirely intelligible to Eric the Red a millenia ago, and he could have read the Icelandic Bible that sits in my living room.
Icelandic libraries are full of Norse sagas, poems, ghost stories and debates. The food they eat is second to none. Fish and lamb and all the deserts my grandmother made for me, and coffee made like no one else did. Only you hold the sugar cubes in your tongue when you drink it. Point being, there is nothing “deficient” in Icelandic culture that needs “enrichment” from the immigration of other cultures that would threaten it and also rob the people of their irreplaceable low-density living.
Tim Murray, 27 Dec 2007
Quadra Island, British Columbia, Canada
See also The Australian's April fool's joke
#main-fn1" id="main-fn1">1.#main-fn1-txt">↑ This means ‘national socialist’ in the earlier sense, which pre-dated the appropriation of that term in the 1920's by Hitler's National Socialist (Nazi) Party.