Iceland: Exemplary Nation in a Troubled World

A small land situated between the North Atlantic and the Arctic Ocean, Iceland minds her own business and minds it very well. I was so impressed by what I saw and learned in a recent and first visit there with my family that I decided to write this short piece as a tribute to her people and their history and as a lesson that needs to be learned and practiced by the greatest troublemaking nation of all time during only 240 years of her existence, namely, America, a nation forever at odds with herself, constantly preparing for and engaging in war, and a nation that world opinion tells us is the greatest threat to peace in the world.

Iceland and America: Some Stark Differences

The two nations are mostly at the opposite ends of the important dimensions of life, Iceland at the positive end, America at the negative end.

In my book, America’s Oldest Professions: Warring and Spying I coined the term “sadtistics” as a summary for America’s mostly negative standings on those dimensions.  For this article I am coining another term, “gladtistics,” as a summary of Iceland’s positive standings. What follows is a very brief side by side summary of the two nations’ standings.

Socioeconomics. Iceland stands very positively on income equality, employment, poverty level, and homelessness. America doesn’t.

Health and Health Care Services. Iceland has universal single payer health insurance. America doesn’t and, furthermore, has the most expensive health care system providing substandard health care. Icelanders live longer than Americans. Iceland’s infant mortality rate is much lower than America’s.

Environmental. Iceland, thanks partly to its geothermal energy supply, is the least polluted of all nations. Not so, America. She caters to the fossil fuel industry and its captivated politicians.

Crime and Domestic Violence. America has the highest and Iceland among the lowest of nations in total crime rate per capita. America ranks high among nations in intentional homicides. Iceland ranks almost “dead” last.

Law Enforcement. Iceland jails it scofflaw bankers. America bails them out. Iceland abolished capital punishment in 1928 but hasn’t executed anyone since 1830. America still uses capital punishment. Icelanders grieved after police shot and killed a suspect for the first time ever in 2014. It’s a common occurrence in America, where her police kill citizens over 70 times the rate of other first-world nations.

Military and Foreign Relations. Iceland has no standing army and her military budget is miniscule. America’s budget is larger than the next seven countries combined and has over one million uniformed personnel in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air force. Other than the “cod wars” with the UK over fishing rights, Iceland has never been at real war in modern times. America was born in the womb of war and has been addicted to that habit ever since.

Happiness. This may just be the most important dimension of life. Who wants to be unhappy? Iceland is the second happiest nation in the world. Americans are much less happy.

Reasons Why

Those differences aren’t happenstance. There are reasons why they exist, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know what they are.

In the Beginning. A good start, which Iceland had, is better than a bad start, which America had. Archaeologists now think, contrary to the mythical Viking warrior landing on shore, that Iceland was first inhabited between 770 and 880 AD as a temporary outpost from Scandinavia, Northern Europe or the British Isles, and used by the inhabitants to gather sea life resources. It was a peaceful beginning, in other words. America’s first inhabitants were peaceful indigenous people. They were soon slaughtered and their land confiscated by settlers from countries well accustomed to slaughtering and land grabbing.

The Place. People make the place, but it also makes the people. I’ll give you just three examples. Iceland is a small, un-crowded nation. America is large and crowded. Psychologists have shown that crowded rats in an experiment become aggressive and vicious. Secondly, malevolent leaders know how to keep a large crowd divided and conquered. Thirdly, America is a “sociopathic society” claims Charles Derber, a sociology professor at Boston College, not because of its people, he says, but because of America’s “values and rules of conduct.”  I would add that those rules and values were created and promoted by the corpocracy (see below) for its own benefit.

Form of Governing. Iceland is a democracy. America is a corpocracy, which I call the “Devil’s Marriage” between large corrupting corporations and corruptible politicians. I wrote a whole book explaining how her corpocracy is turning America into a “ruination.” Furthermore, the nature of American politics and her rigged elections have prevented the American people from electing presidents who are not psychopathological (a condition confirmed by many experts on the subject).

Guns and Ammunition. Icelanders aren’t permitted to carry handguns. In America there are about as many guns as there are Americans thanks to the pressure from the gun and ammunition industries, their trade hawkers, the National Rifle Association and the captive US Supreme Court’s biased reading of the 2nd Amendment.

Accentuating the Positive, Eliminating the Negative

The nearly 324 million Americans aren’t all malevolent, just the 5000 some members of America’s power elite, made up of corporate, political, and military leaders, the unelected “shadow” government (e.g., the CIA), and their ideological advisors who preach America’s ”manifest destiny” as an excuse for ousting democratically elected leaders of other countries and for bombing countries that don’t yield.

The urgent question if Americans are to be good ancestors of the future is how to unite and mobilize millions upon millions of good Americans to establish a government for them, not for the power elite. Armed revolution is absolutely not the way to end malevolent regimes. They have the power to crush armed people. Moreover, the only good path to peace is peace itself.

In Closing

At the age of 81 I am doing what I can through my writings to urge America to change course before it’s too late.  After visiting Iceland, I ask Americans to follow her example. I wish Iceland continued well being and for America I wish all Americans well being in the future.

Gary Brumback, PhD, is a retired psychologist and Fellow of both the American Psychological Association and the Association for Psychological Science. Read other articles by Gary.