Out of thing

It would be interesting to hear what the Icelandic Vikings may have thought of Holacracy, having probably invented it – or something rather like it – back in the early 900’s, when life was a whole lot tougher than the paradigm-proclaiming sanitanarchists see it today.

It was apparently difficult enough in Norway already under the tyranny of Harald Finehair (as the BBC History magazine points out), without trying to colonise a bubbling, inhospitable land barely able to support agriculture, devoid at the time of even a single boutique hotel or natural warm spring bathing weekend special offer, based on two sharing.

Those brave and hardy souls soon realised that their flyaway-locked monarch was too far away and too busy at home to bother trying to subjugate them. As such, they had no need of a central revenue-raising mechanism to fund a defence force. They were free to organise and regulate themselves. They found the place, they could run it.

Forget European feudalism. Iceland (the “varthing” – the whole thing) was overseen by a comfortably-round thirty nine local chiefs, whose authority rested on the loyalty of landowners (each a “thingmann”) whose lands intermingled with lands owned by those loyal to other chiefs. So at any time it was possible for a disillusioned or disheartened thingmann to transfer his loyalty to another, by declaring himself “out of thing” with the existing chief.

That is a phrase worthy of adoption. “I am sorry boss, I am out of thing with you – I am going to transfer my loyalty to the lady who runs marketing, she seems nice.”

It led to the formation of the world’s first parliament, the Althing, in 930 and the foundation of the Icelandic Commonwealth. Like most brave experiments in self-governance it later faltered, as Iceland became oligarchic and riven with civil war until in 1262 they submitted to the rule of the Norwegian king as the lesser of two evils.

Perhaps Holacracy is best suited to islands that are far enough away so as not to be interesting to those from whom it is escaping. Or maybe I am just all out of thing.

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