Torch Column: Reverendly Yours

27 March 2017

Reverendly Yours (Rev. Tom Goldsmith)

Oh the burden of being the “greatest” nation on earth. We Americans hear that brag so often although it seems to rely on alternative facts. We tell ourselves we’re the best in education worldwide although that’s patently false. We tell ourselves we have the best medical care in the world while our infant mortality rates soar pretty high. The only true category where we’re legitimately on top is military might. A lot of good that has done us over the years.

But there’s a whole different category for measuring nations that centers on “happiness.” It’s a curious distinction between being the greatest nation on earth or the happiest. I’d opt for happy every time.

While the U.S. has been on a trend of getting sadder over the past decade as it is becoming richer, Norway has emerged on the top rung of the happiness ladder. The U.S. is fourteenth. Norway’s secret to happiness may surprise many Americans: It’s about community. The schools, health care, police, in fact all of the nation’s bureaucracies treat people with respect, which makes everyone feel as part of the same community. That’s a concept that doesn’t even register with Americans. It’s about trustworthy relationships among people. Our level of distrust has become commonplace. It is our nightmare. We are not a happy people.

The top five happiest nations are: Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, and Finland. They offer free education and free health care, which allows for a much saner work-life balance. These nations offer a safety net for the poor instead of America’s current perversion of creating more tax cuts for the wealthy. America’s poor are neglected, even blamed for their plight.

The happiest nations, and Canada is ranked seventh, excel at Democratic Socialism. They have perfected Bernie Sander’s campaign platform. I guess all Bernie wanted to do was make America happy again.

I don’t think anybody knows what to do with this kind of information. For many of us, I imagine, happiness is not one of the categories we’d consider for measuring a nation’s success. But basically, is there anything more important for instilling pride in one’s nation? It’s like looking at a mirror. The reflection doesn’t show stock portfolios, bank accounts, or financial planning. But a mirror does reveal worry lines, sadness, as well as a joyful countenance and contentment. A mirror shows whether or not you’re happy. It’s tough to hide.

The happiness statistics make clear that we reflect neither trust nor gladness. We still claim being the greatest nation on earth although it’s becoming increasingly unclear what that means. Happiness on the other hand makes it clear that the people are actually enjoying life. When was the last time we even thought about the American population enjoying life? It’s not even on our radar. We have a long way to go to be a nation of happy people. Don’t let the simplicity of the concept fool you. It may be the most important factor to consider. TRG