Iceland warms up to frugality

Marketplace’s Stephen Beard reported on April 3 that “On the brink of financial collapse last year, Iceland is now trying to recover and its citizens are embracing a culture of conservative spending.”

He interviewed Sissa, an Icelander whose house halved in value with their crash. She seemed to welcome the country’s swift decline into bankruptcy. “It has been good for Iceland,” she said. When the reporter said with surprise, “The collapse?” she said, “Yes, in a way. Because the greed of the people. There was so much greed. But now people are more caring. We’re coming more human again. And that’s what I like. And if I lose my house for that, that’s a good cause.”

Here it is again: the link between frugality and community, and while the former may at first pinch, the latter revives a longed for sense of belonging.  I’ll be blogging a lot on this theme of the opportunity in this recession. We get to to ponder those deeper questions drowned out by the fast pace of life, like “what matters most?” “who and what do I love?” and “why am I here?” We get to stay in with friends and cook and converse. We get to save tons of time by not shopping as a habit or a sport.  It’s as though the consumer culture projected itself on a giant movie screen, holding us hostage to the enticing images. With the crash, we get to go behind this thin curtain to the very human and vulnerable Wizard of US.  It’s a bit like the Matrix – red pill you live in a sanitized and safe world, blue pill you live in something much grittier, realer, unpredictable and alive. The recession can be a collective cultural  “blue pill” – but we here in America still have a choice of staying asleep or waking up. Awake and naked of illusions – that’s when we discover one another not as competitors in a lonely world but as allies helping one another live.

Next installment is new thinking I’ve been doing – inspired by many sources and probably you – about the reemergence of community.


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