what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Iceland as Inspiration

Iceland is a small country (300,000 people) in the Scandinavian zone of influence whose citizens gave an example of democratic wisdom and power in 2008 when its financial and political elites were exposed as the shysters they were. Unlike the craven people of other countries, its citizens refused to accept the claptrap of the international community. Instead they held a referendum to deny its government the authority to make billions of payments to British banks. They not only sacked the Prime Minister who presided over the financial madness of the previous decade during which Icelandic banks had offered international investors enticing financial products. They also had him prosecuted – and also some of the senior bankers behind the Ponzi schemes. They have fared better as a result than many thought – although it is not true they are free from the sort of social and economic problems being experienced by countries(like the UK) which have swallowed the new austerity.
Having said all that, I fail to understand why they are being held up as offering a new model for those sick of the corrupt and spineless political classes in so many European countries. Sure they have used an open and technically sophisticated process to produce a new Constitution which they have been needing for some time - since they are still operating with one from 1944 (amended 7 times).This I have now read in detail – it seems to me a progressive one but could hardly be argued to be radical or relevant to Bulgarian, Greek or Italian protestors. 

OK the new Icelandic Constitution (still to be approved by its Parliament) does allow for up to 10% of the country’s Parliament to be selected from a separate list of independents - and gives (as many other constitutions do) the power to citizens to draft legislation for parliament to consider. But this is hardly revolutionary!

There is a general sickness with political parties and a ready inclination to support independent mavericks which apparently extends even to Austria where an 80 year-old billionaire has set up his own party(“Team Stronach”) already attracting support
Austria will elect a new National Council, the lower house of parliament, this summer. In addition to reforming the euro zone, the cornerstones of Stronach's platform will include: reducing the number of government officials and stimulating the economy; limiting representatives from his party to no more than two legislative terms; refusing to be part of a coalition; sending randomly selected citizens to the parliament; and promoting healthy nutrition and more exercise facilities for young Austrians.
This reflects a growing feeling that ordinary, independent people need an opportunity to show how they can better represent the public interest than those selected by political parties. After all, the first loyalty of such party hacks is to those parties - most of whose leaders are scared of offending global corporate interests. I understanding they have developed one of the strongest Freedom of Information and protection of journalists Laws - and this seems to me a crucial element which is forgotten about in most of the current debate.

The question is Do more independents make a difference in a council or parliament?
My father was someone who thought so – and served successfully for many years as an independent on the same Scottish municipal council on which I too served  some years later (as a party representative). We don’t actually have a lot of experience of “Parties of Independents”. The recent Pirate Parties which have penetrated German and other Parliaments are presumably one example – but too recent to draw any conclusions from.

The German Greens are perhaps the best (and longest-serving) example of a group of individuals who, even if they had an agenda (and were therefore hardly independent), were aware of the dangers of being coopted by interests in Parliament and therefore devised various mechanisms to try to retain their purity (including shared leadership). This is what I hope to explore in the next post.

In the meantime, I have uploaded most of my collection of Grigor Naidenov aquarelles and oils. Some of them are from the 1920s - most from the 1940s and 1950s. Sadly I have so far been unable to find out anything about his life - just this tantalising self-portrait.

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