Iceland shows Wales what happens when you choose independence
Neil McEvoy AM
I went to Iceland over the holidays and I couldn’t help but feel inspired. There is a confidence to the whole country that derives from their sovereignty.
One day, the tour guide stated that under Danish rule Iceland had been so poor that some people dwelled in caves in the nearby mountains right up until 1935.
But independence in 1944 changed everything, she said with pride. With a government implementing policies in the Icelandic national interest for the first time, the country was transformed and is now one of the richest sovereign nations in the world.
Wow! In the space of less than a single lifetime, a country with its own language and culture had completely changed the life prospects of future generations.
Like me, the guide wouldn’t have described herself as a nationalist. She was a normal Icelandic woman but could see that a country running its own affairs was just common sense.
Iceland generates one hundred percent of its energy through sustainable means. Heating is so cheap, that in temperatures of minus 5, the preference is to open the windows, instead of turning off the heating.
The air is clean. The people are proud of their Viking and Celtic heritage. The Icelandic people are grounded with the knowledge of their own history.
They don’t learn about Danish kings and queens, they learn about the history of their own island. Icelandic history is shown off like the jewel that it is.
I was riveted with the details and felt disbelief that we are unable to do this in Wales.
A lot of people don’t go to Iceland because of the price. And I have to confess that things were quite expensive. Following the happy hours is good advice for any tourist.
But every time I paid, I would look around at the nonchalance of the locals as they settled their bills.
A quick googling of OECD figures showed that on average, people in Iceland earn three times the amount we do in Wales.
Factor in the weak pound since Brexit and I could easily appreciate the relaxed atmosphere to most things. Crime is negligible, with wealth is spread surprisingly evenly amongst the population.
When I think about those Icelandic people who were living in caves only a generation ago, Plato’s Allegory of the Cave comes to mind in his best-known work, “Republic.”
In the book, Plato describes a cave where people are chained with a fire burning behind them. They don’t see the fire, because they cannot turn their heads.
Unchained people walk between the fire and the chained people, which casts shadows on the wall in front of them. The people in chains believe the shadows to be reality; they are ignorant of the real world.
A freed prisoner who escapes the cave, Plato argues, would soon see that there is a better world beyond the cave. And the true philosopher, he argues, is the person who returns to the cave to tell everyone to free themselves.
In the story, Socrates understands this won’t be easy, arguing that some people in the cave would stop at nothing to prevent them being taken from the only way of living they have ever known.
So when people insist that Wales can’t be a sovereign nation, we all need to be Plato’s philosophers. There are places beyond the cave.
We should tell them about countries like Iceland and point them in the direction of Yes Cymru because it’s the duty of us all to build on the popular enthusiasm ignited by this young and vibrant movement.
Some people will fight to keep things the way they are, but the movement of people demanding sovereignty is able to see that there is a better way of living for our country.
2018 can be the year we not only dare to dream but where we put in place a pragmatic plan to get on and achieve a sovereign Wales.
I want our children and their children to have the opportunity to live in a Wales we know we can create.
No more living in caves. Let’s get it done. #LGID