BusinessI am Richard, Editor of NewsThump, the UK's second most popular Onion rip-off, ask me anything
Oct 26th 2016 by NewsThump • 29 Questions • 128 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.
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.
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What are some of the most common misconceptions Americans have about Buddhism?
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?
Fuck Simon Williams. If I want his opinion, I'll give him one.
Yes we are friendly with Gimlet, and are big fans of their shows. Agreed, the more the merrier... there are so many people out there who don't even listen to podcasts yet. We need to work together to turn them onto the medium and provide amazing content. So yes listen to it all!
There are quite a few. Firstly I'd like to state that "Buddhism" covers a wide area both geographically and in time, and just like there are a variety of types of Christianity that developed over time, so to are there a large variety of Buddhist traditions, some of which have little connection to each other except for some of the most basic teachings of the Buddha. I will try to be as general as possible in my answer but I do admit to coming from one particular tradition which holds importance on the oldest teachings, so much of my answer may not be 100% accurate across all traditions.
One of the Biggest is regarding the Dalai Lama,whom most westerners, including myself in my pre-buddhist days, viewed as a sort of Buddhist Pope. This is in fact far from the truth as he represents only one school of Tibetan Buddhism which accounts for about 6% of all Buddhists. Like most westerners however the Dalai Lama was my first exposure to Buddhism, and is a respected monastic and public figure.
There is no centralization of power in Buddhism, with the exception of some Buddhist countries like Thailand where government and Religion are so intermeshed that monks hold government ranks and get titles. These powers however hold no sway outside of said countries and have no relation to the actual monastic rules of living passed down for 2600 years. Generally speaking every monastery, and every monk, is a "free agent", so long as they are following the basic vinaya, rules for the monks, and this is essentially done on the honor system. There are no bishops and cardinals and popes, no inquisitions and no excommunications.
Another large one is that Westerners get hung up on rebirth and other things related to the teachings. I think this stems from a judeo-christian upbringing. I myself did 12 years of catholic school, was an altar boy, youth group leader, the whole thing, so when I speak about these things I'm including myself and my own misconceptions as a westerner. In these religions you had to believe, or else you were a sinner, going to hell, etc. I'm a Buddhist monk, and i can't say I 100% believe in rebirth, and thats ok. The Buddha teaches us to question even our most deeply held views and beliefs, like the belief in a soul, a permanent self, let alone something like rebirth. We are called to come and see the truth for ourselves by examining our own experience deeply, and with insight begin to see things as they truly are, not how we wish them to be.
I suggest to many people who are interested in buddhism but get hung up on these kinds of things, that it is ok to shelve them and practice, as you will see the benefits of meditation and living by virtuous principles in the immediacy of your daily life as your mind changes and you become less judgmental, of yourself, and others.
I'll close out by also saying that due to the previously mentioned Judeo-Christian backgrounds, people are looking for something that is "like" a religion, but what you can try to get away with and not call it a religion, but a "philosophy" and things like this. Buddhism has come down to us in Asia through 2600 years and has become a religion, complete with all the trappings of it, rituals and ceremonies etc.
Each person doesn't have to take Buddhism on as a religion, and in deed people can remain whatever religion they were raised and take aspects of Buddhism that help them, this is common.
You also see today in the 6 Billion dollar mindfulness industry that it is also common to take the teachings of the Buddha and make them clinical and scientific. There is a wide range of practice going on, from the religious to the secular to the scientific, all of which stemming from the teachings of a bald headed guy in robes 2600 years ago.
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.
Do you accept contributions from anyone who submits them to you or is it only a select group of writers?
Why would/should all nuns be reprimanded for the greed of another?
We have an open-door policy on submissions, and you can find out more here: http://newsthump.com/writing-for-newsthump/
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 :)
I took a pay cut to do this full-time, and no-one is getting rich writing satire on the Internet (I don't think - well, we aren't). But I do make a living out of it, and it's more fun than my last job (selling software), so I can't complain.
I would also add that there are decent financial rewards if your material is good. We've had writers start with us and go on to get reasonably well-paid gigs elsewhere as a result of their NewsThump writing, creating things for TV and radio.
Also, because of how we pay our writers, sometimes they earn pretty decent amounts for their stories. We've had three articles this year that have earned their respective authors over £1,000. That's for ONE silly satire story on the Internet. Obviously these are the exception, but it does happen when stories go viral.
What are your points of universal basic income and what would be needed to make it fair ?
The best complaints are the ones that say they hope we get cancer and die, definitely. Like this one: https://business.facebook.com/NewsThump/photos/a.167782276585545.35542.157809760916130/1080795431950887/?type=3&permPage=1
Responded earlier about the only time we removed a post after publishing it, only happened once... (not sure how to link to a previous answer, sorry!)
How not very different it is from lay life. People often expect that when they escape to a monastery in the woods they are leaving the world behind, but this is far from the case. Everything you find in the outside world you will find in a monastery, because you bring your own baggage and issues to it like everyone else. You can go out to the woods and be in a nice, silent, peaceful place, yet your mind is chaos, a war zone.
Everyone, everywhere, has what Buddhists call the defilements of greed, hatred, and delusion in our mind, this causes us to not see clearly and not do the most skillful actions in our quest for happiness and peace. This means that there is no place on earth you can escape to and escape greed, hatred, and delusion, even if you are the only living thing within 100 miles, you are still with yourself.
people also tend to think that monks do nothing but sit around and meditate all day, where as we do hours of work on a daily basis and have responsibilities and chores like washing dishes, chopping and managing wood, fixing buildings, etc. Now there may be some places in the world where the monks DO do nothing but meditate all day, but they are in the minority and quite rare.
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.
does the pirateparty have any policy regarding taking harder action against parents that alienate their children from one parent ?
More than none, less than too much. Unless this is our gf's throwaway, in which case: the perfect amount, sweetheart.
Correct - we're basing that purely on Facebook fans. I've no idea how popular they are in terms of actual readers. I think the Mash is the most popular, but I believe Newsbiscuit was the first in the Uk (happy to be corrected on that)
not really a term I see used, but in the context of the early buddhist texts that word could probably be connected with nibbana/nirvana. Once you have attained awakening you have cut off all future births, you are no longer subject to being born again in samsara, and therefore since you are no longer to be born, you will no longer die, which is also why Nibbana is sometimes called " the deathless.
Ásta: Well, words only have the meaning we give to them. It hasn't been a problem so far.
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?
It's a format many have tried to mimic in the UK, so far without success. Maybe because our public figures weren't as outrageous as those in the US, maybe because the UK public doesn't respond well to that style of show - who knows. I hope they keep trying.
Does CCP makers of Eve Online play any part in Icelandic politics?
Smári: Nope. They are fairly busy running a galaxy, and have no time for our pithy local affairs. :-)
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?
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.
Have you considered pirating Donald Trump's words and ideas? I hear they are the best words.
Ásta: I will tell you at the time. I’ll keep you in suspense, OK?
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?
Smári: It is very hard to say. There are various important factors. Is it smoked or cured, cooked, or what?
Ásta: The first bill we put forward in 2013 was on granting Snowden asylum: http://www.althingi.is/altext/142/s/0078.html But he technically needs to apply for it first though. So, it's up to him.
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?
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/
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?
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/
On a lighter note, what are you going to do for the puffins? The world needs to know your stance.
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.
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!)
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.
What's your opinion of the British and Norwegian fishing industry near Iceland and do you plan on raiding it?
Smári: We've won three cod wars against Britain. They had warships, we had awesome fishermen. Nuff' said. :-)
If you had to pick one Icelandic town you'd have to give back to Denmark, which one would you pick?
Birgitta: That would be the notorious town of Fosshöfn, who is to blame for the gigantic sinkhole east east west of nowhere.
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?
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.
What's your policy on renewable energy - how does it distinguish you from other parties, and what do you think other European nations should be doing with renewable energy that they are not?
Thanks, and good luck!
Smári: Right now, Iceland's energy for electricity production and heating is almost entirely renewable. There are a few places where emergency generators are still used on occasion, but that'll presumably go away with improvements to the power grid in those parts of the country that have that problem. The remainder of non-renewable energy is fossil fuels used for cars, ships, planes and the like.
Current projections (PDF) suggest that with increased use of electric cars, we can reduce our use of fossil fuels substantially. The Pirate Party therefore has a policy to try to build out the infrastructure for EV's quite fast, so that by 2025 we can stop importing new non-electric cars.
What distinguishes us from other parties here is mostly the speed at which we wish to achieve the Paris agreement goals, but to be fair, there are other parties that have quite radical environmental policies too.
As for Europe, my personal (if heretical) opinion is stop shutting down nuclear in favour of natural gas. Nuclear is problematic in various ways as everybody knows, but right now natural gas (not to mention coal) is a much bigger problem that needs to be addressed immediately. Eventually nuclear should also go away in favour of renewables, in particular solar power and grid stabilization of various kinds ─ probably some mixture of batteries, molten salt, and other solutions.