On the recommendation of a friend, I ended up watching a YouTube video recently featuring a couple of conservative speakers on a college campus addressing a room full of less than friendly 20 somethings.
It was an hour-long video that I didn’t foresee myself viewing in its entirety but once I started in, I couldn’t turn away.
A sobering look at today’s argue more, listen less world, talking points were hammered and progress wasn’t made. It was pretty much all political business as usual until one soft-spoken young man – who I will refer to from here on in as “Cat Marley” based on the t-shirt he was wearing - got up and asked one of the people on stage why he believed America was the greatest country in the world.
The man on stage didn’t hesitate to offer this response: “It’s the most generous, the most benevolent, the most productive, the most forward thinking, the most accepting, the most entrepreneurial country ever to exist,” he said.
To which Cat Marley – who obviously didn’t listen because he was eager to drop his truth bomb, responded: “Well, the United Nations could give you about 17 reasons why we’re not the greatest country in the world, according to their Happiness Report.”
Hold on, I muttered out loud (seriously I said it out loud as I often talk to myself). Did he just say the Happiness Report?
I hit pause and backed the video up a bit.
Yup, he said the Happiness Report.
And here I thought the United Nations was a completely useless organization. Little did I know they were involved with such groundbreaking work like measuring the happiness of people living in countries around the world.
I immediately started searching out details about the study and found that there have actually been seven versions of the World Happiness Report. The first was released in April 2012, according to WHR literature, in support of a UN High level meeting on “Wellbeing and Happiness: Defining a New Economic Paradigm.”
The report ranks 156 countries by how happy their inhabitants perceive themselves to be. The most recent version focused on happiness and community and how happiness has evolved over the past dozen years, with a focus on the technologies, social norms, conflicts and government policies that have driven those changes.
A little more research showed that Cat Marley was actually wrong when he said the United States ranked 18th in the last report. We were actually 19th - one notch below Belgium and just ahead of the Czech Republic.
And not just in 2018 but for the years 2016 through 2018.
In case you’re wondering where you’d be most happy, it’s in Finland.
Ranked No. 1 in the world.
Linda Tyssen must be so proud.
Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands, round out the top five.
The five most unhappy countries in the world according to the report are Rwanda, Tanzania, Afghanistan, Central African Republic and South Sudan.
That last one seems strange to me because I’ve been to Soudan – and Tower for that matter – many times and everyone there seems very friendly and I’ve always been greeted with a smile.
Oh wait, upon further review it would seem they are two different places, spelled two different ways.
You have to forgive me, the closest I’ve come to traveling the world is playing Civilization on my computer.
Regardless, I don’t believe you can measure happiness in any comparable way. The variables alone make the task simply unrealistic.
What makes one person happy will definitely differ from what makes another person happy, even if in general it’s the same thing.
And while it would seem fairly obvious that many people living in a peaceful place like Finland are probably happier than those who live in war-torn South Sudan, I would think it would be much more difficult to measure that feeling in a country as diverse as the United States.
I tried to dig deeper into the report and find out what exactly the researchers based their results on but the very explanation of it was so convoluted and the words so above my pay grade that my eyes glazed-over and I fell out of my desk chair, bumped my head and started weeping silently.
It all made me very unhappy.
In the end, I think anyone who bases their ideology on the results of a happiness study – or thinks the grasser is greener somewhere else - should probably just go live somewhere else.
Really, if you’re that unhappy – if the thought of Donald Trump or Nancy Pelosi makes you that upset than go. Have fun in Finland. Smile year round and enjoy everything that country has to offer.
Be like Cat Marley. He plans on leaving the U.S.
That’s what he told the speakers in the video.
Just not yet. He needs to finish college in America first.
Until then, he will be studying his options and looking for the best country in the world to move to: One that offers safe spaces and cry closets so he can decompress after a long day of triggers.