Politics and Culture

BBC Radio 4 Women’s Hour: News Politics and Culture
May 18th, 2012

Interview with Birgitta Yonsdottir, Member of Parliament with “the Movement” in Iceland.
Birgitta claims that the 21st century will belong to the common people- “right now is the time when we have to realize that things will not improve unless each and everyone of us take responsibility in our societies. There is a general understanding that the systems have become so big that they no longer serve us but are serving themselves.
Only hope is for us to not run out of planet is -to get involved.
“The Movement” is a “hit and run party”- go in get the change done and then dissolve. We are primarily focusing on democratic reform, coalition of very different people with one aspiration to make sure we never make the same mistakes and never have the same level of distrust between all our institutions and the general public because of how badly everything turned out. We were the most developed country according to the UN in 2007 and in one year we had the world’ s third largest economic meltdown.

Why did it hit Iceland?
I think it hit because we allowed ourselves to stop interfering in politics, stopped being concerned about how our system is run, allowed deregulation. I don’t think having more women is the solution- the solution is how we serve as women- we can’t allow ourselves to get into the good old boys games. There has been some analyzing on what went wrong in the banks- does not explain what went wrong in society, how could the media, how could academia, how could our financial institutions all fail? Boy’s games involve risk elements, attributed to masculine culture and it is difficult for women to get involved in top seats. Women evaluate and think longer about their decision making, they are aware it will impact their family and lives-analyze everything- women think like a library look in all the rooms – men are better at focusing on one thing at a time. It is not about women and men being empowered it is about how do we handle power- do we understand as people in politics that we are there to serve and if you are in there too long- you are assimilated into the system and that is why I feel the system failed us. We have to change the system; we also have to change the spirit of how we see ourselves

She is a former volunteer with Wikileaks.
How has Wikileaks impacted politics? It was an icebreaker – and paved the way for discussion for policies that are in favour of true freedom of information. They blew open a discussion that had to take place.
I am concerned about America’s National Defense Authorization Act because it basically means that the military has been given the power to arrest anyone, anywhere on suspicion of terrorism, put you in prison forever without access to a court or lawyer. She is under investigation now. It is serious that another government can hack into someone’s private social media without them knowing. I campaign against any interference with on-line privacy. We are not solving the problem of porn by taking away people’s privacy

Can this vision translate into a much bigger country?
“The Key is the people have to take the words of John Lennon, who said when he was starting his campaign. War is over when you want it- he points to the fact that people always see government as this father figure separated from them and when something goes wrong they can point their finger at it.
People have to realize that Government is you- you are the system, when people realize this they have to claim ownership of the good, bad and the ugly of government.

We have been doing some experiments in Iceland when it comes to direct democracy; we have rewritten our constitution, “by the people for the people”. I think this is one of the most important things we have done in our history because a constitution is really the social agreement on what sort of society you want to live in.

How similar do you see what is happening in Greece and what happened in Iceland?
It is very different- In Greece you had so much corruption at the top level that everyone knew that only a small fraction of his or her taxes would go into building infrastructure. There is a long inherited distrust between the people and the people in charge of the budget. It is very difficult to explain how the black-market functions if you don’t live in Greece. It is such a tragedy that we look at the Greek people as if they are responsible for the corruption.