Soup for the po­lit­i­cally-minded soul

The Tribune (NZ) - - NEWS - RICHARD MAYS

Bla´ber­jasu´pa, or blue­berry soup, is a re­fresh­ing Ice­landic dessert. Blue­berry Soup is also the ti­tle of a highly rated doc­u­men­tary based on Ice­land’s po­lit­i­cal land­scape.

Di­rected by Amer­i­can film­maker Eileen Jer­rett, and screen­ing in Palmer­ston North this week, the film shows how the pop­u­la­tion of Ice­land rein­vented democ­racy in the wake of the 2008 fi­nan­cial cri­sis.

Massey Univer­sity Pol­i­tics lec­turer Dr Toby Bo­ra­man said the ti­tle was adopted be­cause in Scan­di­navia the an­tiox­i­dant­laden puree is said to cleanse and pu­rify the sys­tem.

That’s be­come a metaphor to de­scribe a ground-break­ing con­sti­tu­tional ex­per­i­ment in Ice­land that saw cit­i­zens crowd-sourc­ing to re­write the coun­try’s con­sti­tu­tion. The con­sti­tu­tional draft was placed on­line, while politi­cians and bankers were ex­cluded from the draft­ing process.

This con­sti­tu­tional ex­er­cise grew out of a ‘‘peo­ple’s move­ment’’, which de­manded swift and fun­da­men­tal change. The film, screened by Massey Univer­sity’s pol­i­tics pro­gramme at Palmer­ston North City Li­brary on Wed­nes­day night, doc­u­ments this rev­o­lu­tion.

‘‘Many peo­ple have been turned off tra­di­tional pol­i­tics in re­cent times, how­ever, the in­ter­net of­fers us a way of in­creas­ing in­volve­ment in pol­i­tics again,’’ Bo­ra­man said.

Some of the im­pe­tus came from com­mu­nity-based sew­ing groups where the par­tic­i­pants started talk­ing pol­i­tics.

‘‘Ice­land might seem far away, but we can learn from this in­no­va­tive use of par­tic­i­pa­tory democ­racy and so­cial me­dia here in New Zealand. It could be used to help ad­dress and per­haps solve lo­cal is­sues such as hous­ing costs, low wages and liv­ing stan­dards, in a more col­lec­tive and en­gag­ing fash­ion.’’

Low voter turnout and lack of en­gage­ment are trends in New Zealand pol­i­tics, along with a cor­re­spond­ing dis­trust by gov­ern­ment agen­cies of what the coun­try’s cit­i­zens think.

‘‘There’s a lot of neg­a­tiv­ity about pol­i­tics. It’s re­flected in­ter­na­tion­ally in volatil­ity over fig­ures like Don­ald Trump and is­sues like Brexit.

‘‘The film shows that some­thing pos­i­tive can come out of a po­lit­i­cal and eco­nomic cri­sis and why it’s im­por­tant to get in­volved... at its broad­est, pol­i­tics is a so­cial and com­mu­nity thing.’’

Peo­ple may not be en­gaged or en­am­oured by pol­i­tics, but Bo­ra­man said it af­fects ev­ery­thing in so­ci­ety.

‘‘Rep­re­sen­ta­tive democ­racy is sup­posed to be a two-way sys­tem, and I think some of this has been lost.’’

PHOTO: WAR­WICK SMITH/FAIRFAX NZ

Massey Univer­sity pol­i­tics lec­turer Dr Toby Bo­ra­man says the Blue­berry Soup film shows some­thing pos­i­tive can come out of po­lit­i­cal cri­sis.

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