Wandering Thoughts

March 7, 2009

Iceland Sliding Under the Waves

Filed under: Going Places,Ramblings and Musings — terence @ 12:08 pm

Rain Clouds In Reykjavik

Via Dani Rodrik and the Dim-Post, Michael Lewis writes of Iceland’s unravelling in Vanity Fair.

It’s a good read but it’s central flaw, I think, is the emphasis – verging on sneering at times – on Icelandic culture’s contribution to the country’s demise.

I guess I’m unconvinced because the Icelanders Lewis meets don’t seem much like those I met in my travels there. True, of course, that I wasn’t exactly hobnobbing with investment bankers and politicians but, at the same time, despite being of a eminently barge-able physique I was never shoulder checked by burly Icelandic men. (Something which apparently happened repeatedly to Lewis during his visit). And the much vaunted stubborn Icelandic self-reliance came coupled with a good does of common sense, at least in the people I met.


Reykjavik Graffiti

More than that though, I’m just inclined to believe that if you give enough people incentives, opportunities, and a fairy tale ideology that says it really can be so, they’ll make a mess. Regardless of their own particular cultural milieu. This is a global crisis, after all.


Mostly unrelated: trying to couple a little bit of culture with my geysers and glaciers I carried round Halldor Laxness’ Independent People, reading it by candlelight in empty Icelandic campgrounds at night.

If my memory’s not betraying me here, the protagonist’s undoing, having escaped debt bondage, endured grinding poverty and braved a witch’s curse, is his dogged independence, coupled the bursting bubble of World War One wool prices.


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