On the surface, the state of affairs in Iceland is almost peachy.
The economy seems to be balanced and unemployment is down. Summer is upon us and tourism blossoms like never before. So, really all is well on the surface.
But underneath the surface, the prospects are very different. High school teachers went on strike for a few weeks to get the pay raise they so deserved and elementary and junior-high school teachers, a grade level known as “grunnskóli”, are threatening to strike as well.
Not to mention the situation in Day Care. In my opinion, day care teachers are likely to take action at some point and strike to get decent wages in accordance to their five years of academic studies. They have been unsatisfied for years now and nothing has changed.
The strike to worry about the most is the one organized by the staff members of Isavia, the Icelandic Civil Aviation Administration. They too are asking for decent wages.
Everybody wants better salary. So, obviously the surface is no indication of the present state of affairs. But why is there so much dissatisfaction in our society?
For one, food prices are still excessive and the cost of rent for non-property owners is a heavy burden for many. The cost of petrol continues to be high and for families with children, the cost of leisure activities, day care and sports for their children is far from cheap. I know there are many who struggle to make ends meet.
One of the main issues for Icelanders is currency. We do not all agree which way to go, that is, whether we should join the European Union and take the euro as our currency, or if the USD, CAD, NOK, or other, would be a more appropriate choice.
Our current government and some of their supporters seem to be opposed to the idea of abandoning their beloved ISK. It’s a touchy subject and a solution is nowhere in sight for the time being.
In my opinion, Icelandic society is in a strange place. There is so much space for improvement but the road to a better quality of life seems to be the one not taken so far.
Another sad situation is how poorly Icelandic authorities threat asylum seekers. It’s hard not to interpret their disposition as hostile to the cause.
I am not a lawyer so I will not comment on whether the Dublin regulation is being misinterpreted by the authorities when refugees are deported on the basis of the regulation.
I do however find it strange that refugees who have a case worth granting them asylum are repeatedly refused it.
The latest case involves a young man who left his country of origin, Afghanistan, and has been in Iceland for two years, waiting to find out if he will be granted asylum or not. All he asks is that the appropriate authorities look into his case and give him a fair assessment. He is currently on hunger strike to protest his seemingly unjust deportation.
Another thing is the constant talk of “bringing our people back from abroad”. Members of Parliament, union leaders and those involved in the employment market want the people who study overseas and those who left for better jobs somewhere else in the world to come back.
They are always referring to Icelandic people, of course. Rarely is it mentioned that it is just as important to get people from all over world to bring their special skills to this little market of ours and bring fresh ideas to the table, and that that includes refugees.
Iceland is a beautiful country in terms of landscape and is perfect in that way. But the imperfections are hard to dismiss to some degree and sometimes troublesome.
Racism, sexism, xenophobia, and other forms of prejudice are all societal problems hidden under the surface and too easily dismissed.
Iceland is a country full of potential when operating as a united front with other nations to make this world better.
No country is an island at heart, despite its geographical peculiarities.
Iceland is a member country in the unofficial - and too often unacknowledged - union of countries worldwide. It’s not the only country guilty of looking inwards at the expense of fellow human beings’ wellbeing.
But it’s a country that needs to take responsibility for its part in global warming and the global political state of affairs.
Until we realize that, and come to a conclusion on how best to work with others and how best to make a decent life for all of us, in Iceland and everywhere else, we shouldn’t expect great changes.
At the end of the day, we are all linked to one another.
Júlíana Björnsdóttir – [email protected]