“Choose life” – 1st of May speech by Ole

“Choose life”

Those of you who are my age will recognize these words. I wish they were said more often in Iceland.

Instead we have.

Choose to get rich quick. Choose financial investments.

Choose a fucking big hotel. Choose a new airport. Choose a bank account in Panama.

Choose aluminum smelters, power plants and new roads.

Choose to build an economy on technologies that will destroy nature and the planet. That will destroy life for the future.

Choose an economy build on nothing – on paper money, unbacked loans, and gambling. Choose to live in the bubble that will eventually break and destroy life.

Choose to live in the present and ignore the future.

Choose to set up a business and declare bankruptcy in a year after emptying it for value. Or choose to pass that business around between your friends, each time inflating the price making you all into pretend millionaires. Until the debt has to be paid but then you pass it on to someone else.

Keep blowing up that bubble and pretending it will never burst.

When it bursts, choose to get out before the rest.

Choose to not give a shit about the others. Choose to not care about the future. Choose the present. Choose you.

But don’t. Don’t choose life.

Life is not something that happens in the moment. It is not something you can artificially inflate and then cash in and get out. Life is not a get-rich scheme.

Life is an ongoing process. It requires constant nurture. It requires someone who takes care of it from the beginning. It requires a future. It requires someone who cares. Life is about connection to other people. It depends on other people.

Without those other people life has no future. Without them, there can be no life.

How can we build a society if we don’t nurture life?

How do we think we can build an economy if we don’t start with the most basic foundation: the birth of life and the ongoing process of nurturing it. Without that there is nothing.

In Iceland we know death. We know that nature can be dangerous. We don’t like it. We often get horrified when a tourist dies and it is wonderful how we pool our resources to rescue those who are trapped in the wilderness. We don’t feel comfortable with people dying. I guess it reminds us of our own future death.

I wish we would care as much about people living. About people being born. About life coming to this world. Why do we not pool our resources in this event?

A few weeks ago almost 100 midwifes quit their job because the Icelandic government cares so little about life it wasn’t even willing to give them a contract and pay them a decent salary.


The people who help bring life to this society. What can be more important than that? More real? Without them, life would not happen. Without them, chances would be much greater that it would stop before it ever got started. Without them the beginning of life and the end of it would be much closer to each other.

If life cannot get started, there will be no society, and no economy.

No need for damned power dams, off-shore tax shelters, or bigger tunnels through the mountains for more cars.

It is strange how much we dislike death in Iceland, because we certainly don’t care about life. A society that doesn’t respect the people who bring new life into it, does not respect itself.

But the process of life does not stop after birth. It needs constant care.

So why are our nurses also paid shit? The people who help us stay alive during our lives?

The hospitals in Iceland are overbooked and underfunded, the healthcare is crumbling, and nurses and doctors are looking abroad to find life somewhere else, because it is impossible here.

The same with school teachers and teachers in daycares and kindergartens. The city has outsourced much of the responsibility of providing daycare for young children to individual dagmamas. But it provides them with no infrastructure, no facilities and little support.

All of this is necessary for the nurturing of life. For life to develop and grow. It is necessary for our society to have a future. And it is necessary if we want to have a sustainable economy beyond the bubble of the present.

My oldest child is starting school next year. We have no idea whether there will be an after-school program for him, because the school doesn’t know if it will have the staff. Now if we are forced to pick up our kids when school closes at 1 in the afternoon, then you can imagine how much we can contribute to the economy. If you want a real economically stable society you need to support the fundamental task of caring for life. If nobody takes care of the children, there will be no work.

And why would anyone in their right mind want to work in a school – or a kindergarten or a hospital or as a midwife – when you’re getting paid shit while other parts of the economy are booming and there is real money to be made from hustling tourists?

Not everyone has that attitude, but there is a limit to how long a society can let some people get rich from entertaining tourists while those who actually keep society running and functioning are disrespected and can hardly pay their rent. Eventually people will stop doing the important functions and go where the money is. And then there will be no Icelandic society for the tourists to visit.

The tourist bubble will also burst at some point – just like all the other bubbles that Iceland has built its economy around.

Then we will be left with empty hotels – the giant phallic monuments we are currently building as symbols for our inflated economy and short-sighted policies that puts everything into the latest trend, the latest get-rich scheme, with no concern for what society and the economy will need in the future.

The problem with the future is that it always starts in the past. We cannot deal with it when we come to it. Then it will be too late. The decision will already have been made.

The life that will be the future of Iceland is being born today. And it needs all the care it can get.

All political decisions and debates are irrelevant if we don’t settle this one: That we need help and care when we are born. As a society we must start from that. Our dependency on those who bring us into this world and make us come to life and stay alive.

Support the midwifes. Demand that they get respect and decent contracts. This is where life begins. Without that, nothing else matters.

Choose life.

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