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Unique Experience-LiveIamA former Japanese citizen who lived through World War II AMA!

Oct 23rd 2016 by AznSnstn • 30 Questions • 123 Points

Hi, we are candidates of the Icelandic Pirate party and we have an election coming up on the 29th of October. These are exciting times in Icelandic politics because we are dealing with a post recession economy and the aftermath of the Panama papers leak where the Prime minister had to resign due to his connection with offshore accounts.

The Icelandic Pirate party got 5% in the last congressional election and are currently polling as the largest party at just over 20%. The amazing thing about that is not only that the Pirate party is the largest political party (by a slim margin) but also that the Independence party which has historically been the largest party by far is only polling at around 20%. The political landscape in Iceland has rarely been as exciting and the possibility for change is real.

We have MPs Birgitta Jónsdóttir and Ásta Guðrún Helgadóttir and candidate Smári McCarthy here to answer your questions.

Proof: https://twitter.com/PiratePartyIS/status/789495086170140673

UPDATE: Thanks for all the questions so far! We're signing out for the evening, but we'll monitor the thread tomorrow at least and respond to any new questions. There are a few questions that haven't been responded to yet ─ don't worry, we'll get to them! Thanks again, and more fun soon! - Smári, Ásta and Birgitta.

Q:

I have heard that many Japanese didn't really believe the Emperor surrendered after Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Did you believe it when you first heard the news?

A:

Many say that you score so high in the polls because of young people say that they will vote you because it seems "cool". Then the majority of young voters won't show up for the election day. Any thoughts about that?


Q:

We had been told so many times that we were going to win that when the Emperor announced our surrender I didn't believe it. It took a few days for it to sink in and for me to realize that we lost. I really began to understand once the officers began to leave their posts and return home.

A:

Ásta: Maybe. But we actually have good support in all age groups according to polls. Just that we are polling with around 40% support in the youngest age group, 18-29 years old. And it is true that it's a generation that's unlikely to go and vote. And I think that's concerning that young people are not showing up on election day.


Q:

How did you think of Germany and the Nazis back then? Were you in support of them or did you dislike them? Conversely how do you view them now that what they did was revealed?

A:

Hi fellow pirates!

My name is Martin van Vuuren from the netherlands Candidate House of Representatives for Pirate Party Netherlands electoral list number 34.

How is it going over there? Are you all excited for being the biggest pirate party to date? I am excited to see how it unfolds that this party knows how to change the future for the best. I will be following the election through social media but i do wish you all the best since we are one big party worldwide.

Sincerely,

Martin van Vuuren


Q:

I thought of them as allies, and of course I was in support of them. Our government was always telling us that they were our allies against the Americans. However, I didn't have any strong feelings towards them, and neither did anyone else from what I could see.

When I found out about what they did I was in disbelief. I couldn't believe that they had done that to all those people and couldn't help but wonder why our government had hidden it from us (I found out several years after the war had finished).

A:

Ásta: Hi Martin! Ancilla will be here on Friday I think! It'll be hell of a party ;) Everything is going very well - unbelievably. Much work, talking to all the people, and handing out too many brochures. I think some of the Swedish volunteers will try to stream the election night party so you can watch it unfold live!


Q:

Did you ever have a negative view towards America or the Allies?

A:

I feel a little concerned that, in all this discussion, nobody's mentioning the original anti-intellectual-property stance that was sort of the core of the Pirate philosophy.

I've often heard that many of the awkward parts of intellectual property law are locked in via treaty. In the US, for example, we can't go back to "registration required" copyright, or a 14-year term, for example, without breaking treaties.

How can you handle that issue in a nation like Iceland, that can't just say "we're the biggest/richest/strongest, screw your treaty?"

Also, if you're Icelandic and Pirates, did anyone suggest branding as Vikings? My apologies for the horrible stereotype joke.


Q:

Absolutely. We were repeatedly told that all our troubles were due to the Allies and the bombing raids. As a result I blamed America for our shortages.

A:

Ásta: On the Viking, that came up. On the IP law, it's complicated. We are working with Julia Reda Member of European Parliament on the IP issue. But the problem is that we are bound by treaties and respecting those treaties is actually necessary to be part of stuff like, the UN and stuff. No country is an island in a globalized world, not even Iceland which is really an Island. The problem is that IP law is so twisted and that's the reason why we were formed in the first place, to fix it. But as many other IP specialists (Lawrence Lessig) we are moving towards tackling corruption and digital rights, because this is all intertwined. Copyright reform was just the starting point, but from there we have grown and it's awesome!


Q:

How did you reconcile those feelings when you moved here? I imagine they must have already been changed somewhat as you had married an American, but were there still lingering feelings of anger?

A:

What is your position on climate change?


Q:

By the time I moved to America I was perfectly accepting of Americans with no ill will. It was a big help that the ones I met in Japan were helpful and respectful towards us.

A:

Smári: We'd like to stop it from happening. A stable climate is even more important than a stable economy! In short, we'd like to fulfil our obligations under the Paris convention and then go even further than that. According to loftslag.is, an Icelandic website about climate change, the Pirate Party has the best environmental policy of all parties at the moment.


Q:

How did you feel aout Pearl harbour at the time? Did the Japanese government mention it at all? Did they attempt to justify it with the same 'Americans are coming to enslave us rhetoric?

And how were you treated when you first came to America? Was there a lot of anger towards the Japanese?

A:

Hi there! As a citizen of Iceland in my twenties I have a few questions for you. I'd like to start by stating that I like most of what you are doing and what you have stood for so far. I will be voting for you in the coming election, unless something huge happens to sway my opinion.

Now. You guys have a huge following with the young people in Iceland. I'm wondering what you are thinking about doing for us. Life for students has, I think, never been harder than it is right now. The student loan situation is horrible and the Renting Market is in the gutter.

Do you guys have any plans to fix this? What are your thoughts on the renters market and what can be done to make things easier? Is the only option for students in Iceland to flee the country, just to be able to study what they want?

I would love a bit of insight :)


Q:

The government told us that the Americans attacked Pearl Harbor since a large portion of the people there were Japanese. The government made a broadcast claiming that we could not stand by this injustice and had to make the United States pay. I never found out that we attacked Pearl Harbor until the end of the war.

We lived in the country when I came to America and our neighbors were very nice. When they heard that there was a Japanese person living nearby they came over and were amazed that my skin wasn't yellow! I had to ask my husband what that meant and he explained that "yellow skin" was a stereotype of the Japanese.

A:

Ásta: Hi Snojo and thanks for your questions! I agree with you that life for the young has become worse, or at least, it hasn't gotten any better compare to other generations. I was a poor student very recently so I am familiar with the situation. It is necessary to fix some of the problems that we know of in the student loan system, and make part of it into a grant. Also - monthly payments of student loans would make students so much more aware on how much they're spending. AND that income roof that's put on students is absurdly low, it's so easy to just raise that. And just fix the whole attitude in this LÍN institution. I could go on and on and on on that.

We need more rental apartments, and we need the airbnb apartments that are basically just run as a hotel, we need those apartments back on the long term renting market. It's probably around 1000-2000 apartments that are on the airbnb market and noone keeps a home there. Also, we need relax a bit on the building regulations. Not everyone needs to have a car, thus, having a car cellar in every new building should not be a requirement.

Currently, in my opinion, the best bet is to leave Iceland. The only reason I'm in Iceland is because of this amazing opportunity that the Pirate Party has created. We have a chance of fixing so many things that are wrong and make Iceland into the country we want it to be, that I believe we can turn it into. There is hope - the grass is not always greener on the other side - but I seriously feel you and have been there myself!


Q:

Thank you for responding. Did you ever see any of the flyers dropped by the Americans that warned against the coming raids? What did the civilian population in the cities do after so much housing was lost?

A:

What are your points of universal basic income and what would be needed to make it fair ?


Q:

I only ever heard about the Americans dropping flyers, and I never believed it. After the houses were destroyed by the B-29's the government moved the now homeless people into a shelter which, fortunately, was never bombed.

EDIT: My grandson just showed me information about the US dropping leaflets prior to the bombings. That was very nice of them, but I still can't believe that they would inform people of an impending attack!

A:

Smári: We see basic income as an interesting prospect to look towards long term, and have proposed a government working group to investigate which options there are for implementation and adoption. Short term, it's difficult to implement, simply because it costs so much, but there are some possibilities for moving in that direction alongside simplifications to the welfare system that would guarantee more people better coverage and fewer people falling between the cracks.


Q:

Thank you for replying. You mentioned in the text that your family disowned you in regards to your marriage. Out of curiosity, what became of your friend and the American soldier she was dating? Was her family supportive in her relationship?

A:

What does your party have to do with pirates?


Q:

They eventually married. I'm not sure what the outcome was but I think that her family accepted the marriage. It probably helped that the soldier was Nissei (second generation Japanese-American).

My family initially disowned me, but upon meeting my husband my father actually became very accepting, even going so far as to meet us at the airport before we left for America to bid the both of us a farewell. (Apologies, I'll put this change in the Bio text).

A:

Ásta: Long story short: Once upon a time in the Kingdom of Sweden there was a bureau, the Anti-Pirate Bureau that was supposed to make sure noone was copying on the World Wide Web and the Internet. Because of ironic seriousness, some people started the Pirate Bureau and from there, someone had the splendid idea to start the Pirate Party. So yes, we have something to do with Pirates, in a digital sense of the word. But since then we have evolved into being a pro-democracy, reformist movement that supports civil and digital rights in any form.


Q:

What do you remember most vividly from the war?

A:

Do you think you get negative light because of the name? Because it feels like the older generation see it like Illegal Download = Pirate Party


Q:

The lack of food! We only had a little bit of rice to eat each day, and if we ate fish we had to go to the ocean to catch them. Meat was very had to get.

A:

Ásta: Well, words only have the meaning we give to them. It hasn't been a problem so far.


Q:

What was it like growing up watching the negative perceptions of the US, by the Japanese people, change to the generally positive view there is today? What factors do you think led to the close relationship the two countries have today?

A:

Do you have any tips for people interested in furthering pirate politics in other countries where the local PP isn't doing so well?


Q:

It was a nice change. The Americans treated us with respect after our surrender, which really changed my view after being told for years that the Americans were going to enslave us and kill us!

A:

Ásta: Engage with new parties, engage with your Pirate Party, try to make them more successful and realize that politics is a lot of work. And it's very much about communication. Communication is difficult but essential in building new sustainable parties or organizations. There are other ways to engage with digital rights issues, European Digital Rights, https://edri.org/, Access Now https://www.accessnow.org/, Electronic frontier foundation, eff.org or other digital and human rights organizations that are protecting your digital rights on daily basis both in the US and in the EU.


Q:

After the war ended, how did most Japanese people view the Emperor? How did you personally feel about him?

A:

What are your personal positions on the Icelandic Krona? Should it be swapped in near-future for a steadier currency (e.g. USD or Euro), should it be pegged to another currency or should we continue to use it?


Q:

A lot of people, including me, didn't like the Emperor after the war. They viewed him as someone who was born into privilege and didn't experience any of the hardships they did during the war. While we were being bombed and going hungry he was able to eat what he wanted and live in relative safety.

A:

Ásta: My personal opinion is that it's not a sustainable future currency as is, that is, we would have to have capital controls in order to keep the króna working as it has the past few years. The króna has always been the black sheep of iceland, yes it helped with recovering from the crisis but it is really expensive to keep. The Króna is the main reason why we have index linked loans with high interest rates and unforeseeable payments, and it's really expensive for the normla Icelander. I don't have much faith in Krónan, but I am willing to work with it since we are a strange country. I think pegging it would be an interesting option, or something similar.

Aesthetically I find the Icelandic króna kinda hillarious. It has fish on it. FISH. That's ridiculous, but quiet ironic as well. The fishing industry is the 'gold' of Iceland, the main export and money making machine. So that's something.


Q:

This is so cool I always wanted to hear comments and discussion of a person surviving this war from a civilians side of the Axis powers. Thank you!

  1. Were you scared of America during the early war or around the time of the attack of Pearl Harbor?

  2. Besides air raids what else scared you during the war?

  3. Did you believe that your country was telling the whole truth about the war or did you believe there were things the government was hiding from the civilians?

A:

Having watched CPG Grey's videos on the pros(?) and cons of commonly used voting systems I am very interested in what your views are on the current voting system in Iceland, and more generally the model it is based on. Also, your views on voting single-person instead of parties! (persónukjör? veit ekki alveg enska orðið)

I personally think it's unrealistic to have a single person vote but I hear people mention it as a solution to the current system.


Q:
  1. In the beginning I wasn't scared of the United States, because I couldn't imagine them making it to our shores.

  2. Once, during a raid, our military shot down one of the bombers and I saw an American jump out and parachute to the ground. He was very close, maybe 300 meters away. I was very scared for him and hoped that he was alright, but I never heard anything about him after that day.

  3. During the war I believed everything I heard from the government. Once the air raids began I started to question the governments claims of victory.

A:

Smári here! There are both pros and cons in the current system, which is very similar to the Swedish and Norwegian systems: d'Hondt's method used to allocate within each constituency, and then a biproportional allocation used to allocate adjustment seats on a national level. The biggest single problem is that d'Hondt's method is less proportionate than, say, the Sainte-Lague method (well, a variant thereof) used in the other Nordic countries. If we could switch to Sainte-Lague, it would be a massive improvement.

By the way, I've written some software that simulates some of these systems, here: https://github.com/smari/voting

That said, there are some bigger things that can and should be done, and one of them is being able to select candidates directly rather than voting for a party list. There are a lot of different ways of doing this, from the (quite odd) Australian method of voting "above the line" (party) or "below the line" (people), to the method used in Finland, which allows for ranking within a party list. I honestly don't favour any specific method above others for use in Iceland (I have a number of ideas though). As long as we can even out the value of the votes between constituencies and increase the ability of people to choose their representatives more directly than they currently can, it's an improvement.


Q:

Wow. Thank you very much for the both of you deciding to talk about this time in history and being so darn quick to respond back to comments about your life. One last question.

What was it like to move to America post-war and how did people treat you? (Don't know if someone already asked this)

A:

Will whaling still continue to be legal if you win ?


Q:

I'm happy to answer it again. We didn't live in the continental US for very long. We briefly lived in the countryside in Pennsylvania where our neighbors were few. The ones we did have were very friendly and expressed amazement that my skin wasn't yellow! I was very confused by this and had to ask my husband what that meant and he told me that was a stereotype of the Japanese during the war.

After Pennsylvania we were mostly moved around US holdings in the Pacific Ocean, so we were in with a lot of mixed groups with varying cultures.

A:

Smári: To be honest, we don't have a policy on it either way. Personally, I'm definitely in favour of protecting ecosystems and the species in it. I'd happily get behind a whaling ban if the data suggested that it'd help the ecosystem, but I've seen data that suggests that the whale population might be threatening other populations in the sea... so I'm totally torn. Ultimately we need to do whatever is best for the environment. In the meantime, I do like a good minke steak, even if I wouldn't be too sad to not be able to have it again.


Q:

Thanks for a truly enlightening AMA. Which Japanese foods do you still regularly eat, and do you prefer American cuisine now?

A:

Does CCP makers of Eve Online play any part in Icelandic politics?


Q:

I prefer American food, especially steaks! I order it every time we go out to eat! I still eat dishes Japanese noodle dishes like soba and udon, but not as often.

A:

Smári: Nope. They are fairly busy running a galaxy, and have no time for our pithy local affairs. :-)


Q:

Did your children encounter any prejudice growing up in the US? What was it like for you as their mother?

A:

I'm really interested in Iceland, but I'm unfamiliar with your political landscape. For starters, why are you called the Pirate Party, and why do you think you are currently favored in the polls?


Q:

As far as I know my children didn't experience any prejudice. My husband was still in the military we moved to a lot of places where the population was very diverse. We also didn't spend much time in the continental US, instead we were mostly moved around the US holdings in the pacific.

Raising them as a mother wasn't stressful. I was fortunate that there were a lot of accepting people around us. Again, I believe it was because we lived in areas with a diverse population of people and cultures.

A:

Smári: In short, there are 12 parties running in the current elections, polling from virtually nothing to around 22%. We're called the Pirate Party in reference to a global movement of Pirate Parties that popped up over the last decade. Despite our name, we're taken fairly seriously in Iceland, in particular because of our very aggressive anti-corruption stance, our pro-transparency work, and our general push in the direction of a more information-driven society with strong civil liberties.


Q:

What kind of jobs were available for civilian women/children or anyone else who couldn't help with the frontline war effort?

A:

Yeah, so if you pass a law, it's got to be called the Buccaneer Bill right?


Q:

It was entirely a war economy. Anything that could be used to kill the enemy was made. I myself participated in this war production, although I was never told what I was making would be used for. It was a long, flat piece of rubber about a foot wide and required 2 people to carry it because it was so heavy. I thought it was a part of a tank.

A:

Ásta: Lol. Yes.


Q:

Do you regret leaving behind your birth country at all?

A:

Have you considered pirating Donald Trump's words and ideas? I hear they are the best words.


Q:

Initially I was nervous, but now I am happy with where I am.

A:

Ásta: I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense, OK?


Q:

Thanks for doing this AMA. I would like to know your opinion on the release of remaining Japanese war crimes prisoners in the late 1950's. Do you feel it was just? Was support for the amnesty movement mainly spurred by the bombing of Japans civilian population? Thanks again.

A:

I have a chunk of pork in my mouth and I'm not planning on chewing it or swallowing it. Do you have any idea if it's possible for my saliva to dissolve the chunk and, if it is possible, can you say how long it will take for my saliva to dissolve the piece of pork?


Q:

I think some of the releases were just. After reading some books about the war crimes and those responsible, I feel that some of those imprisoned were used as scape-goats.

A:

Smári: It is very hard to say. There are various important factors. Is it smoked or cured, cooked, or what?


Q:

What did you do during Japan's "golden age" (after its post WWII recession) when it transitioned to a democracy?

Because that question wasn't very good, a follow up question.

What was the hardest part for you about going through the war?

A:

That is an excellent question, and one which none of the people I have put this particular question to have bothered to ask. I suppose, for the sake of this question, we should assume that the chunk of pork is uncooked but nonetheless free of parasites.

I am from the United States of America, and this is a question that is traditionally asked of our leaders at the highest levels. I would not assume that the same is necessarily true of Icelandic politicians, but I think that it is at least possible that the voters in your country would be interested in hearing your response as well.


Q:

I only lived in Japan until 1960, afterwards I moved to America with my husband. During my remaining time there I worked in a department store.

The hardest part about going through the war was seeing the men be drafted for the military. I remember the son of one of our neighbors went to Manchuria and disappeared. They didn't find his body.

A:

Uncooked, hm. I simply do not know. But as a Pirate, and having an endless thirst for knowledge, I suggest that we conduct some scientific research into this and get to the bottom of it.

In Iceland, the questions traditionally asked of politicians are, "would you like beer to be sold in grocery stores?" and "what do you think about the airport in Reykjavík?"


Q:

When did you move to America, and since it wasn't during the war, why did you move?

A:

It won't break down with just your saliva. Carbohydrates will break down with just saliva, but not the proteins in meat.


Q:

I moved to America in 1960, a year after marrying my husband. I left Japan because my husband was being brought back to America by the US Military.

A:

Birgitta: One person's Utopia could be another person's hell or at least that is the conclusion I reached after reading the The Dispossessed by Ursula K. Le Guin. My personal utopia could only become real if I could dream it up with others. :) But I guess the poem Imagine is a good start.

Neither cats or dogs: I love wombats.


Q:

Can I emigrate easily as a British citizen ?

A:

Ásta: As long as you stay in the EEA. Brexit, wtf?


Q:

Birgitta. Every time a foreign media outlet interviews you, you are portrayed as potentially being the next PM of Iceland. Last time this happened was on Friday, when the Washington Post named you "possibly the country’s next leader". When you are asked by the Icelandic media if you want to be the next PM, you always say no. Why is that? Are the foreign reporters misunderstanding the situation? Have you ever tried to correct them?

A:

Birgitta: I tell them this is not what I am seeking and that we have horizontal structure. They want juicy headlines. Just like the Icelandic media play it out as if Katrin Jakobsdóttir will be the next PM, even if she has never said she wants it. You can have a look at my faq at my web page if you dont believe me :) http://birgitta.is/92-2/


Q:

On a lighter note, what are you going to do for the puffins? The world needs to know your stance.

A:

Ásta: I bet Smári wants to eat all the puffins since he was brought up in Vestmannaeyjar. I just want to cuddle them and make sure they are happy.


Q:

I took a picture of these puffins, and they say thank you.

A:

Smári: I don't want to eat all the puffins. Just a few. Sustainability in puffin hunting is important too!


Q:

How do yiu typically handle people who assume your party is a joke?

How do you go about explaining what the Pirate Party really stands for?

A:

Birgitta: We don't come across many people that assume that we are a joke, it might have been an issue when we were being formed, but it is not really something we experience now.

We are a party that focuses on human rights in the digital era, with special focus on direct democracy. You can read more about our core policy, all our policy had to be based on the principles found there. http://piratar.is/en/core-policy/

You can also find more info here: https://newint.org/features/2015/01/01/democracy-digital-era-keynote/ and here: http://grapevine.is/mag/feature/2015/11/19/hacking-politics/


Q:

Heyo! I'm an anthropologist and filmmaker in Iceland and have talked with Ásta about this before (sup Ásta) but would love to know what inspired each of you to join the Pirate Party and what you want to see for the future of Iceland. Also, based on my interviews with Icelanders all over the country the last year the consensus is that the next economic crisis is around the corner (folks say to count the construction cranes in the sky) - Do you think the next crisis in inevitable and what will the Pirates do to address the problem at the root? (I'm giving a paper on the Panama Papers, Pirates and Utopic narratives in Iceland on Friday at the University of Iceland so this is for SCIENCE!)

A:

Ásta: Sup Jen! Wanna hang out tonight? What inspired me to join the Pirate Party and actively do politics is after my stay in Iran in 2011. Iran being an authoritarian theocracy made me realize how privileged I am. Participating in a democratic society is not a right, it is a privilege and being a young woman, being able to participate in my democratic society and influence it.

On the construction cranes, the difference between this boom is that it is actually better financed than the previous construction crane invasion in Reykjavík. So hopefully this will not go bad. I believe another global crisis is inevitable, but I don't think it's going to hit Iceland as hard as the 2008 one.


Q:

What's your opinion of the British and Norwegian fishing industry near Iceland and do you plan on raiding it?

A:

Smári: We've won three cod wars against Britain. They had warships, we had awesome fishermen. Nuff' said. :-)


Q:

Hey guys, if you get to form a left-wing government, will you launch a new referendum on continuing European Union accession talks? If yes, will you recommend to continue or stop talks? Best of luck next Saturday!

A:

Ásta:

Pirate Party is not a left wing party, and it doesn't exactly fit on the traditional scale of left and right. Even though we are exploring the possibility on working with some parties that are on the traditional left, I'd not say that it'd be a left wing government, rather a reformist government focusing on systemic changes and anti-corruption measures.

We want to have a referrendum on whether we should continue the accession process with the EU. We don't have any specific stance on if they should continue or not, but personally I'm a EuroPhile. I like the EU, but that's my personal stance.

Thanks!


Q:

If you had to pick one Icelandic town you'd have to give back to Denmark, which one would you pick?

A:

Birgitta: That would be the notorious town of Fosshöfn, who is to blame for the gigantic sinkhole east east west of nowhere.


Q:

Will the pirate party be a non authoritarian form of government?

I'am a diligent endorser of the original endorsement of participant controlled governance. Wouldn't it be more simple to reduce power of state government and hand it to local government to be able to shorten the distance between voters and their representatives?

A:

Ásta: Well, the mission is to make a more non-authoritarian form of government, so, yes. In Iceland the distance between voters and local government on one hand and national government on the other hand isn't the same as you'd get in larger, more populous countries. But I generally agree with the notion of bringing the power back to the people.


Q:

Why are you doing this AMA in English? Aren't Icelandic speaking redditors your potential voters?

A:

Smári: Just for fun. The idea came up because we were getting a lot of attention from foreign media, and thought there might be more interest among people who don't speak Icelandic. Also, virtually everybody in Iceland speaks really good English.