Monday, February 17, 2014

The Greatest Countries in the World...The Law of Jante

Let me first say that there is no country on planet earth, that I would apply the word "Great" to. None seems to fit the bill not even Great Britain who is great in name only and is the last country I would apply great to.

I often wonder why people consider America the Greatest country in the world. I guess it depends on how you define greatness and the fact that America loves to blow its own horn and declare its greatness to the world. In my view America is the most powerful country on the planet at this moment in time but it is certainly not the greatest country, not even close.

Great Britain defines its greatness because it once hand a Global Empire. They are great simply because they had to ability to Conquer, to Invade, to Colonize, to Slaughter, to put in place the most profitable system of slavery and the extraction of other peoples wealth resources by force to enrich themselves. If their was a greatness scale Britain would be close to the bottom as the one of the least great countries.

There are no Great Countries on this planet! No country in the history of this planet as ever achieved the status of being Great, it is not possible, not by my definition at least. No country can be great when it is inhabited by human beings. Because humanity defines greatness by their ability to use force, violence, enslavement and mass murder to control others for nothing but greed and power.     

While there are no great countries, we can then say that some countries are better than other countries. A good country is one that provides the vast majority of its inhabitants with a decent standard of living, where their poorest people are defined as middle class in most other countries. Great countries provide education and healthcare to almost all of its citizens and great countries are socially and environmentally responsible because they think and plan ahead for the well-being of their people and the future of the country.

Great countries are not violent war mongering countries with a large prison population. Great countries are inhabited my people who make common sense decisions for the greater good. Great People are not people who are trying to outdo each other with a collections of material goods, instead great people think about the overall greater good of society, when making day to day decisions and are happy and satisfied knowing that the country’s wealth is being used, shared to develop the country on an egalitarian basis. Great people are not greedy or shellfish they are happy to work and share wealth for the greater good of their fellow countrymen.

The problem is, too often we confuse the collection of ostentatious material goods with greatness, a sure sign of ignorance and too often we confuse Power with greatness, a powerful country is not necessarily a great country. A country is not great simply because it has the ability to wipe humanity from the face of the planet, the ability to shock and awe you back into the Stone Age. Greatness is not the ability to end life but to enhance life for all. Great countries redistributes its wealth back into society for the greater good of that society as they put in place the structures required for fundamental development and improved quality of life. I remember during the cold war the USSR had a stockpile of nuclear weapons, could destroy the earth 10 times over, they had rockets to send a man into space but the population had to stand in line to get their weekly quota of toilet paper .... Great? ....Me Think Not!!!

Arne Jacobsen - Egg Chair
One just has to take a look at all the social and economic Human Development Indexes of countries on the planet to quickly realize which countries come close to my definition of Great Countries. America on a whole might have the largest GDP and the biggest military but it is the Scandinavian countries who get the prize for Income equality and distribution, mass education and healthcare for all, plus the highest standard of living among their people at all levels and almost all the Scandinavian countries make up the top 6 list of the world’s happiest countries, people are happy because they feel safe and secure in society. In fact there are so many countries above the United States that come closer to true greatness simply because of their contribution to the development, health and well-being of their citizens with tangible results.

Being a rich country means nothing if the vast majority of your people are suffering, what is the point, if not to better the lives of your people? Declaring how rich you are is meaningless, if that richness does not provide education for all, healthcare for all and raise the standard of living for the people in a structured, well planned, meaningful way. In 2013 India made the top 10 list of the world’s richest country, entering the list at number 10 but India is a country that still receives foreign aid/handout, has huge income, education and social inequalities and a large section of her population live in poverty. It is not the amount of money you have but the Human Development Index that is important which gives a greater indication of how that money is spent/distributed. GDP Per Capita is also very misleading, it is the total GDP, divided by the population size, again this does not tell us how that money is being used, how it is being distributed and how it contributes to the Standard of Living of the people.

Having a huge sky-scraping concrete metropolis does not make your country a great country, being able to build tall buildings certainly does not define greatness. But being able to understand and respect your heritage and define your own unique reality and build on it, to understand what is required in order to increase the standard of living for all, will help a country on its way to greatness. Not because you can build some rubbish means it should be built, the real question is functionality, contribution to society and how it fits in to the mindset of the society. The concept of being First world is not a one size fit all concept, I am actually happy they no longer use the term first world and third world opting for the more correct terminology of developed and developing countries but if your society is lopsided, with poor income distribution and large part of your society uneducated, miserable and in prison then are you really in a developed country? There is a lot of other countries that I would call first developed world over America, Russia and China and not because they can build advance weapons and send man to the moon but because they use the wealth generated by society to take care of their citizens right here on earth.

I came across this comment in the Jamaica Gleaner... regarding the super bowl... and I quote:

"Jamaica has always been an americanized society, especially uptown and nothing is wrong with that in my opinion, i think the more we think of ourselves as a first world country the more realistic it will be for us to become first world, im not saying thinking/behaving like a first world country will make us one, but whats the point of holding onto the third world mentality and image. and the future generation which i'm currently apart of is even waaay more americanized so trust me you guys aint see nothing yet.".....

This statement is wrong on so many levels and define what is essentially wrong with the Jamaican society… To love the Super Bowl, Thanksgiving, Halloween, World Series is to think first world and to think first world is to be first world, this concept is very prevalent around Jamaica today. This person and many others, believes we must adopt the American culture which to them is regarded as superior and first world and we as Jamaicans should let go of our own culture which is regarded as a third world mentality, something to be discarded. Clearly this person have no respect for his heritage and culture or who we are as a people, him and many others like him suffer from a advance stage of self loathing. So how can we to build a nation state with minds like these…? ...Who are we? Where are we going and how are we going to get there? These are questions that cannot be answered without a strong sense of self!

We need to redefine the definition of First/Developed world because as I said it is not one size fits all, mimicking America’s development is not the answer because what works for the United States will not work for a country like Jamaica, after a while it becomes apparent that like a dog we are just chasing our tail, as my granny use to say… dog and puss, no have the same luck.  So to me a developed/first world country is a country where the needs of the people are being met. Where the people understands their own unique reality and its limitations, where greed and selfishness is replaced with understanding, commonsense and caring about our fellow man and country.

Switzerland could soon have the highest minimum wage in the world (2014), almost £15 per hour ($24).

These are the 2013 top 10 minimum wage by country.
  • Netherlands – $23,029 per year
  • Luxembourg – $19,426 per year
  • Ireland – $18,965 per year
  • Belgium – $18,813 per year
  • United Kingdom – $18,428.24 per year
  • France – $17,108 per year
  • Canada – $16,710 per year
  • New Zealand – $16,462 per year
  • San Marino – $15,707 per year
  • Switzerland – $15,457 per year

I am genuinely impressed by the Scandinavian Model, I envy them and I respect their outlook on life. I recently watched a documentary about an oil rich town in Norway that looks no different today than it did 200 years ago. The money earned from Nordic sea oil, was not use by the population or the country to “blingify” the town or themselves but redistributed for the greater good of their society. I am impressed by the outlook of the people, who take pride in consuming local goods and services. I was impressed when during the interview a woman declared that the tax rate was over 50% but she does not mind and gladly pay because the level of services she gets back from the state was well worth it, she was safe, secure, everyone well educated and healthy. They interviewed a group of men who took one year off from work with full pay and benefits after their wife had a baby and after their wife had taken her year off from work for having the baby. The society understands that men also need time to bond with their new child and allocates both time and money for this. I mentioned in a previous blog that ... "The United States remains alone as the only rich nation without legally mandated vacations for employees and with no requirement that official holidays come with extra pay and a compensating day off.".. (Working your fingers to bone and early Grave)

One oil worker declared that for every two weeks he worked he gets four weeks off to spend with his family and friends. The wealth of their society is not snatched up by the 1% but redistributed for the greater good, to improve the quality of life. They do not need tacky material things to define them, they are not that shallow. What they have must be functional and that is what impress me most about Scandinavia, they are functional, practical people who seem to take the time to engineer a society that service everyone not just the few.

In Denmark their is a school called Efterskole, a boarding school where the teenagers spend a year being taught how to be better citizens.

The average prison in Norway looks like a resort, some a seaside resort, where life means 21 years and everything is geared towards rehabilitation. The re-offending rate is Norway is only 16% meanwhile the re-offending rate in Great Britain is 50% and in America, prison is regarded to have a revolving door, where re-offending rates are as much as 78% - 80%. Where prison is a money making private enterprise and some judges are paid to sentence young offenders to maximum term because they get a kick back from corporations who own the prisons and need a steady supply of souls.

The Law of Jante – The Underlying Rules of Norwegian Society, where “us” meaning the collective population.

Surly if I am going to measure countries on a Greatness scale, then countries with happier, healthy and educated people living in a more egalitarian society with little or no violence contributing to the greater good would be higher on the list than most other countries.

World Health Report 2000: The 36 Countries That Have Better Healthcare Systems Than The US
1 - France
2 - Italy
3 - San Marino
4 - Andorra
5 - Malta
6 - Singapore
7 - Spain
8 - Oman
9 - Austria
10 - Japan
11 - Norway
12 - Portugal
13 - Monaco
14 - Greece
15 - Iceland
16 - Luxembourg
17 - Netherlands
18 - United Kingdom
19 - Ireland
20 - Switzerland
21 - Belgium
22 - Colombia
23 - Sweden
24 - Cyprus
25 - Germany
26 - Saudi Arabia
27 - United Arab Emirates
28 - Israel
29 - Morocco
30 - Canada
31 - Finland
32 - Australia
33 - Chile
34 - Denmark
35 - Dominica
36 - Costa Rica
37 - United States of America
The Top 25 Best Countries To Be A Woman - The Global Gender Gap Report 2013 - The World Economic Forum
1. Iceland
2. Finland
3. Norway
4. Sweden
5. Philippines
6. Ireland
7. New Zealand
8. Denmark
9. Switzerland
10. Nicaragua
11. Belgium
12. Latvia
13. Netherlands
14. Germany
15. Cuba
16. Lesotho
17. South Africa
18. United Kingdom
19. Austria
20. Canada
21. Luxembourg
22. Burundi
23. United States
24. Australia
25. Ecuador

The Happiest Countries in the World
The Better Life Index study, published annually by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), reported that United States failed to crack the top 10 for the fourth consecutive year, while neighbors Mexico and Canada did.

11. Sweden
Life satisfaction score: 7.4 (tied for 7th)
Self-reported good health: 80% (8th highest)
Employees working long hours: 1.1% (3rd lowest)
Disposable income: $27,546 (11th highest)
Life expectancy: 81.9 years (8th highest)

10. Netherlands
Life satisfaction score: 7.4 (tied for 7th)
Self-reported good health: 76% (11th highest)
Employees working long hours: 0.6% (2nd lowest)
Disposable income: $25,697 (14th highest)
Life expectancy: 81.3 years (11th highest)

9. Mexico
Life satisfaction score: 7.4 (tied for 7th)
Self-reported good health: 66% (14th lowest)
Employees working long hours: 28.8% (2nd highest)
Disposable income: $12,850 (2nd lowest)
Life expectancy: 74.4 years (3rd lowest)

8. Finland
Life satisfaction score: 7.4 (tied for 7th)
Self-reported good health: 69% (tied-17th lowest)
Employees working long hours: 3.7% (9th lowest)
Disposable income: $26,904 (12th highest)
Life expectancy: 80.6 years (15th lowest)

7. Australia
Life satisfaction score: 7.4 (tied for 7th)
Self-reported good health: 85% (4th highest)
Employees working long hours: 14.2% (7th highest)
Disposable income: $31,197 (4th highest)
Life expectancy: 82.0 years (7th highest)

6. Iceland
Life satisfaction score: 7.5 (tied for 5th)
Self-reported good health: 78% (9th highest)
Employees working long hours: 13.7% (8th highest)
Disposable income: $22,415 (17th lowest)
Life expectancy: 82.4 years (4th highest)

5. Austria
Life satisfaction score: 7.5 (tied for 5th)
Self-reported good health: 69% (tied-17th lowest)
Employees working long hours: 8.6% (15th highest)
Disposable income: $29,256 (9th highest)
Life expectancy: 81.1 years (13th highest)

4. Denmark
Life satisfaction score: 7.6 (tied for 3rd)
Self-reported good health: 71% (17th highest)
Employees working long hours: 2.1% (4th lowest)
Disposable income: $25,172 (15th highest)
Life expectancy: 79.9 years (12th lowest)

3. Canada
Life satisfaction score: 7.6 (tied for 3rd)
Self-reported good health: 88% (3rd highest)
Employees working long hours: 4.0% (11th lowest)
Disposable income: $30,212 (7th highest)
Life expectancy: 81.0 years (17th highest)

2. Norway
Life satisfaction score: 7.7
Self-reported good health: 73% (15th highest)
Employees working long hours: 3.1% (6th lowest)
Disposable income: $32,093 (3rd highest)
Life expectancy: 81.4 years (10th highest)

1. Switzerland
Life satisfaction score: 7.8
Self-reported good health: 81% (7th highest)
Employees working long hours: 7.3% (17th highest)
Disposable income: $30,745 (5th highest)
Life expectancy: 82.8 years (the highest)

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