Oct 202021

No doubt about it: There is more domestic violence (“Intimate Partner Violence” or IPV) in the Nordic countries and the UK than in, for instance, Spain, Italy and Ireland. In spite of greater gender parity!

Allow me to draw your attention to an Icelandic TV series, “The Flatey Enigma”. This is to all appearances a fairly ordinary crime story, true enough from the 70s., with a vibrant female heroin and a dull and ugly scoundrel who happens to be the investigating police officer.

However, there is nothing ordinary about the series. Just as the heroin has to revert (in 1971) to blackmail to have a particularly interesting article published in an academic journal – because she is only a woman, after all – the director of this series has had to use a “crime device” to demonstrate that Icelandic women were battered in the 1970s.

I watched the four-part series with growing dismay. I had known that conditions were hard for everyone in Iceland back then, and that women rarely had reason to laugh or even smile, but I did not know they were battered. I decided to look into the issue.

In the seventies, some very few women were fortunate or brave enough to go abroad to work and/or study. They had no trouble finding work throughout Scandinavia, because they had a reputation of being extremely hard-working. While abroad, they learned that women need not defer to men, and they learned to talk back. In 1975, back in Iceland, they were able to organise the most remarkable demonstration of female power I have ever heard of: They persuaded the country’s entire female population to go on strike for one day. How they managed, I cannot imagine! But they did.

It was a stunning affair. The country was absolutely paralysed for a whole day. No food on the tables, schools and childcare centres closed. Male doctors had to nurse hospitalised patients, daddies had to change toddlers’ nappies, planes were grounded…

After that, things changed. Everything changed, and very quickly. Vigdis Finbogadottir became president, and Iceland evolved from a miserable backwater where many people still lived in turf huts into a truly modern country. (I hasten to add that the greedy bastards who drove Iceland to the brink of extinction in 2008 were not women. Mind you, women can be greedy bastards too.)

No, Icelandic women need not bow to any man in public. BUT, in private, alas, things are still not well. An article in Foreign Policy notes:

One theory to explain the Nordic paradox is that increased gender equality fuels male resentment, creating frustrations that are channeled into physical violence—a mode of action where men can easily still dominate. Violent outbursts of this sort, fueled by feelings of injured masculine status, are so deeply psychologically motivated that they can be difficult for governments to counteract.

In the same article a link takes us to the abstract of a study carried out by the National Hospital.

Aims: The purpose of this study was to analyse the prevalence of hospital visits and nature of injuries caused by intimate partner violence (IPV) against women and associated costs. All visits to Landspitali National University Hospital by women 18 years or older subjected to IPV, inflicted by a current or former male partner during 2005–2014, were observed and analysed
…. punching (29.7%), shoving (17.8%), kicking (10.5%) and attempted strangulation (9.8%) were the most common types of aetiology. Repeated new visits were 37.8%.

I repeat: There are few Muslim immigrants in Iceland, so it’s no use blaming them.

If asked to pick one of the suggested causes of the Nordic Paradox, I would vote for “backlash”. If you impose norms on a recalcitrant group, it seems intuitively obvious to me that there will be resistance. Some will protest loudly. Others will just take private action.

Female emancipation dethrones the male. Many men have absolutely no wish to sit on a throne and be “boss”, and for them female emancipation is liberating. For many others, however, it is perceived as socially castrating and as a violation of what they consider their birth rights.

There are lessons to be learnt here for countries where female emancipation is still a matter of the future (e.g. Afghanistan). Action will have to be taken to help the male population come to terms with a new and disconcerting (for them) reality.

Apr 042016

I knew, of course, that this is done, and I knew, roughly, how; how some of the rich and powerful, as opposed to most of us, manage to pay little or no taxes. (Hear for instance BBC’s “file on 4”, “Dirty Money UK” of 11 October 2015).

The problem is that more often than not, these people (some of the rich and powerful) are able to avoid paying taxes without breaking the law. Hence the fine verbal distinction between tax evasion, which is a criminal act, and tax avoidance, which is not.

They find loopholes. And the loopholes don’t get closed because the greedy bastards (excuse my French) have contacts in important places (or bribed flunkies in various countries’ civil services, including  – I have no doubt –  our own) and because the tax avoidance schemes are so complex that even the most adamant prosecutors can’t crack them (cf. my post “Speaking of Crime” a while back).

If an honest prosecutor can’t unravel these cases, how is the general public supposed to? So, to my grief, the general public in each country has until now, at least, been mute about the monumental siphoning off of what should have been tax money. While the lower and middle classes pay for the upkeep of their countries – and the penal sanctions for not doing so are very harsh, indeed – some (I really must insist on this some) of the filthy rich do not. No penal sanctions, no public outcry, no nothing.

Mind you, not only tax money! Once you have obtained a secret little series of PO Box companies in distant lands (or more probably, on islands) to which you can divert the proceeds of your business – and why on earth should you bother to do that, unless the purpose is to cheat your compatriots – you can very easily embark on a criminal career in a big way, all the while apearing devout and well-meaning back home.

But now… Oooo, what an exquisite moment I have just enjoyed! In the wake of the monumental release of the “Panama Papers“, I have been watching an Icelandic Prime Minister trying to explain that he was absolutely innocent of cheating the taxman – and besides, he did not know anything about it – and making such a blessed fool of himself that finally his long-suffering countrymen have been vindicated a little bit:

First Iceland was raped by the country’s bankers, bankers’ friends, and bankers’ government flunkies, and the country more or less collapsed in 2008. (The crooked bankers had victims abroad as well, as many Britons will bitterly remember.)  Iceland had to accept gigantic loans to pay for the running of the country, a debt that its citizens are paying dearly, to this day. Most of the funds that had been siphoned off by the crooked bankers and their friends have not been recovered. They had been sucked into a great black hole. They had been vamoosed.

Next, Iceland was bamboozled by a political party which had in effect nurtured the crooked coterie that brought the country to its knees. In the run-up to the last election, that party (the so-called Progressive Party) lied so outrageously and effectively to the voters that it actually regained the power it had lost after the collapse. (Democracy definitely has its weaknesses!)

The Progressive Party’s leader has now been undressed and humiliated. For the record I express the futile hope that he and his like stay away from Icelandic politics for ever.

More importantly, in a global perspective, the Panama papers are documentation of what we knew but couldn’t prove:  A very considerable part of the planet’s wealth is unaccounted for, stashed away in secret places, vamoosed into black holes.

The Panamanian law firm, Mossack Fonseca  is merely one of many that provide similar services to greedy people.

There is no end to easily accessible statistical material illustating how an infinitessimal proportion of the world’s rich owns and earns far more than the vast majority of the rest of all of us humans added together. I will not bore you with such figures, though they are truly quite stark.

Consider, though, that an unknown but undoubtedly enormous proportion of the world’s wealth is not visible to economists, social scientists, financial researchers, etc, and is not subject to tax. An unknown but undoubtedly enormous proportion of the world’s wealth has vanished down a black hole, has been vamoosed.

Can the planet feed all its inhabitants? If not, why?