Will History Repeat Itself? (JB)


julianabjornsdottir_dlHistory goes deeper than skin deep. When we take the time to learn more about history we are drilling further into the wall of knowledge passed from generation to generation.

Humanity thought they’d seen hit rock bottom after WWI and we all found it hard to believe history could ever repeat itself.

The casualties of WWI paralyzed the world. The effect of poisonous gas on men in trenches and the knowledge of bodies literally torn apart by the shells from the artillery almost ruined mankind’s faith in humanity.

Then came WWII and humanity was utterly crushed by the depth of cruelty applied in the name of hatred and nationalism.

Many agree the latter is in part a consequence of WWI. Germany paid a dear price for its part in the Great War, one that unlocked the front door to an extremist voice to be heard.

The world is yet to heal entirely from the atrocities of the war and the conflict in Gaza is proof thereof.

Today, world leaders pay closer attention to extremism in society. This has been the policy of the United Nations, albeit the execution of counteracting those forces is at times questionable.

For Icelanders and countries affected by the recent economic crisis, the direct link between WWI and WWII is one to examine as we proceed into the unforeseeable future.

One delusional man standing on a box became the monster that temporarily destroyed mankind’s faith in humanity, and no country is excluded from the danger of the power of one.

The political situation in Greece following the last election is a primary example of extreme political forces coming to power. After all, in times of economic restrictions, anger and hate plant their seed in society and thrive where hope is dead.

Whether we want to admit it or not, we are all colored by greed and when our world is shaken so hard that our money tree drops its leaves to the ground where paper bills become but dry pigments drifting away in the wind.

The economic crisis of 2008 has bred a rise in disillusion and anger toward the government in Iceland, therefore enabling uncharacteristically conservative views to invade common sense. Political parties like the Progressive Party and its recent increase in nationalistic policies such as a monolithic view of immigration, eternal faith in the ISK and resistance to dissecting religion from government, are danger signs in my mind.

A single bad seed can infect the other roots in the soil with darkness and death.

The party has never expressed a direct hatred toward immigrants; simply fear of excess multiculturalism messing with Icelandic heritage (my interpretation) and leading to over-crowding.

The fear of completing the negotiations with the European Union is to me also a symptom of the fear complex. The leaders, who do not trust the common public to make a decision for the future themselves, want to make sure we make the right decision in their opinion.

The Independence Party even attends Republican meetings, and it scares me. They are among individuals such as Todd Akin, Rick Santorum and Paul Ryan, all of which are men whose views can be construed as a verbal war threatening action against hard-earned women’s rights.

In the aftermath of the 2008 banking crisis, some of our politicians enlisted at the esteemed Icelandic Parliament (Alþingi) have lost their mind and found comfort on the far right or the far left. It seems there is no middle ground anymore.

Our taxes have gone up as was to be expected but the level of welfare has degenerated and reached its all time low in recent years with healthcare budgets unacceptably low. As this occurs, we have the far-right politicians pointing the flaws in the system and pushing forth their own agenda of Iceland’s Americanized healthcare system (my reading and interpretation of individual views). How is that going to help?

Why are we not focusing on the important stuff, that is, how to get back on the horse and find a way to heal the economy unlike before?

The right complains about the Harpa concert hall and conference center. The youth league of the Independence Party has repeatedly spoken out against the arts and all things that are not practical or help them promote a continuation of the pre-2008 years, despite its contribution to the economy (Airwaves, in particular).

The start of the millennium was promising. Gold and silver, diamonds and rubies were promised to the common man and woman. Your first home could be your dream home. Your first car could easily be a BMW rather than a Volvo. It was all about going big. Some fell for it, others simply lived within their means and purchased within those means. These are the people who shouldn’t have to bleed for the sins of a few.

Rumor has it that some of those who made irresponsible decisions have already made it back into heavy debt. Even the media continues to drill into our senses that the economy is failing once more, that the lack of aluminum plants is devastating to our economy, and that all in all, we are screwed.

My husband’s homeland, South Africa, is a country visibly damaged by the puncture wounds of the past. With each year that passes, placing the past further back in the past, the people take another step toward the future and with each step the sun rises higher and higher. There were years (and no doubt there will be a few more), when crime shadowed the sun from view and the country stood still. There have been times when even politics have played an active role in shadowing the sun from view.

But what I love about South Africa is the reign of hope. Hope prevails. We dare to dream of the day when crime is in moderation, when the middle-class is the ruling class (as it is in Iceland) and the past is a reminder of how far we’ve come and how far back we must never return.

I have big hopes for Iceland. Our future lies within eco-tourism and promoting the rich culture of artistry we can be proud of. We could do a ‘Concert and Dinner Package Deal’ at Harpa for travelers, and even include accommodation. We could harness the wind that never goes completely silent. We should charge an environmental tax—a tax travelers and tourists I’ve spoken to are happy to pay.

Basically, we could build the foundation for this new Iceland I hear so much about. It’ll take time and we won’t be rich overnight (unlike with aluminum plants). Our profit will be green energy, clean air and natural wonders, and vivid art.

Is that not worth more than instant profit? Is that not the history of total reconstruction we want future generations to teach future generations?

I will not give my vote to deceitful politicians so they may continue to cause damage. I want a parliament that promotes unity, has faith in the people who vote them into power and learns to take a cue from history.

Júlíana Björnsdóttir – [email protected]

Júlíana is a freelance writer and translator. She was among contributing writers in the Reykjavík edition of World Film Locations and translated Iceland 360°, a photography book by Vilhelm Gunnarsson. She is currently working on her first novel as part of her MA studies and loves to travel when she’s not spending time with her husband and puppy Emma.

Views expressed here are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Iceland Review.