Iceland, 2008

Iceland is an island with half a million or so Vikings
Mostly known for volcanoes, hot springs and fishing
Known for its welfare state, for being good and socialistic
Certainly not known for being corrupt or nepotistic
But in the USA and Europe when they were deregulating banks
Iceland’s politicians took bribes and joined their ranks
Soon you had a situation, one would think just couldn’t be
A bank whose debt was worth ten times the country’s GDP

When Wall Street imploded, sure enough it spread
Banks all over the world were floating in the red
All over the world, governments made the plan
To cut spending and raise taxes on the working woman and working man
The banks were bailed out while the people had to pay
But in Iceland people thought there must be a better way
And the Earth stood still a moment, fear was struck in every toff

When Iceland told the bankers
When Iceland told the bankers
When Iceland told the bankers to fuck off

Folks were in the streets in Reykjavik and just couldn’t be ignored
They said this is a debt we Icelanders can’t afford
Let’s guarantee deposits of all our people, yes indeed
But as for all the speculators motivated by their greed
To make really dumb investments, to them Iceland said good luck
Sorry for your losses but we don’t really give a fuck
The 1% all trembled when they took away the trough


The UK called them terrorists, said we cannot let this stand
Who do these peacenik blonds think they are in Iceland
They threatened isolation, an economy in flames
But the Icelanders said sorry, but the banks can settle their own claims
Though that might be harder for them now that they’re under house arrest
Or else they fled the country, as they were most unwelcome guests
And now Reykjavik’s recovery just makes the fatcats sputter and cough


If you haven’t heard of this example, perhaps there’s a reason why
The owners of the world don’t want this kind of shit to fly
They say we all must pay up in this shakedown by the mob
If we can’t afford to pay the rent ’cause we don’t have a job
They say it’s not their problem if we’re forever shackled by their debt
We must save the 1% from the fate they should have met
But there is an alternative, though it makes the fatcats scoff


Sheet music:
Iceland, 2008

“Iceland, 2008” originally appeared on the Bandcamp album, Spies Are Reading My Blog (2013).

I wrote this song while sitting in a cafe in Melbourne, Australia around the corner from Les Thomas’s house, after reading a really good article summarizing the bank failures in Iceland in 2008, and the various responses to them — of the governments of Great Britain, the Netherlands and Iceland, among others.  And of course most impressively the response of the people of Iceland, which was to protest in large numbers on a daily basis, a la Argentina eight years earlier, and at least for a little while to bring to power a more progressive government that embraced the idea of becoming “the Cuba of the north” if the alternative was to become “the Haiti of the north.”  (References to the US-led embargo on Cuba, and the possibility of Iceland being treated similarly for refusing to go along with the program of the big banks and their political allies in Europe and North America, and to the extremely impoverished condition of Haiti, a consequence of centuries of enforced indebtedness on the part of France, the US and other imperialist countries.)