The Nordic countries for decades have understood happiness, and if you are a person with average talent and income, this is the place to settle, but if you aspire to a greater purpose, go visit America, the land of the once exceptional.
Your debt has risen to $21.6 trillion, you don’t look after you’re sick, child separation at the border is now official policy and your President doesn’t know when to rise up to condemn acts of medieval.
A US resident and journalist for the Washington Post enters the Saudi Arabian consulate in Istanbul to collect documents to start a new life with his Turkish fiancée, and doesn’t walk out, and if reporting is accurate, suffered at the hands of a 15-member hit squad.
The America I used to know, a beacon of light to be admired if not followed, would fact gather and immediately move to coalition building and collective outrage if reporting proved accurate. Clean up and painting crews with chemicals in hand would not be permitted to enter the consulate before an independent forensic investigation had been completed, and manufactured stories of a rendition gone wrong would not be allowed to be floated to test public opinion without serious pushback.
If the evidence was conclusive, that Jamal Khashoggi was murdered at the hands of the Saudis, then fingers would be pointed, a UN resolution of condemnation would be immediately sought, tariffs imposed, arms sales suspended and international attendees to Davos in the desert would call out shame and stay home, but instead, more than two weeks after the incident, President Trump offers up another of his ‘400-pound man on bed conspiracy theories’.
As the administration attempts to craft a “mutually agreeable explanation” the most derided president ever says, “It could have been a rogue killer”.
Chiropractors must be doing a roaring trade in the US as the Trump administration tries for another story shift, a deflection to get the American people to turn away from truth ‘to distant shiny objects. A healthy perspective can be found to the left and right, but with the murder of a US resident, straight ahead is where your eyes will find compelling facts, and with good conscience understand how the civilized should respond.
A human voice spoke about the inhuman and tyranny of MBS, the ruler of Saudi, and was murdered. North Korea, Russia and others are well practiced in bending independent minds by neutering dissenters and the ill-suited, and while free speech comes with responsibility, a party of 15 flown in on two royal Saudi jets using diplomatic passports including a doctor of forensics carrying a bone saw, as well as a close MBS bodyguard, is not the act of a developing nation moving towards better light and freedom.
Our Scandinavian friends understand the human next door and offer their own version of beacon on the hill. Outcomes of happiness are predicted along with how long people will live without knowing colour, gene pool, zip code or personality, and predictions are possible because of the strength of their social relationships.
Senator Sasse in his new book titled ‘Them: Why We Hate Each Other–and How to Heal’ reminds us of how such relationships among Americans have drifted as we shift towards individualism.
Scandinavians are the happiest and most contented people in the world, and also the most peaceful, tolerant, educated and technologically advantaged. It is a great place to be born, but only if you are averagely talented, have average ambition, average dreams, and then you’ll do just fine, but if you are extraordinary, and have big dreams, great visions, or you are different, the experience will be bruising.
Perfect societies don’t exist, but human ones do, and there is only one place to look for the economic and societal role model of the future, and it is not from the emerging Brazil, Russia or China. The Nordic countries provide an answer to those looking for human, and when they get it wrong, they understand how to move to common understanding without spilling blood.
Their high quality, free education system is just as important as the region’s economic equality and extensive safety nets. So why do more of us not move there? The weather. The Romans didn’t bother because northern Europe remained outside the interest of civilised man, but while they often cannot be told apart, Scandinavian countries are bound together through humour, tolerance, distrust of religious dogma, honesty and social orderliness.
Southern Europe may offer a better diet, exquisite cuisine and elegant tailoring but often comes with Trumpian incontinence, corruption and adolescent temperament.
In the 1860s, a 10th of overall immigrants arriving in the US were from Scandinavia, many ending up in Minnesota where the landscape reminded them of home. Today there are said to be more than five million Norwegian Americans and as many Swedish Americans in the US.
There is much to learn from the Nordic countries: how they live their lives, their priorities and how they handle their wealth. Scandinavian class structures tend to be far more subtle, income and status differences far less marked. Universal free education and their tax systems all ensure they can look each other in the eyes as equals, no matter where they were born or what job they do.
While king maker Trump may see himself as a disruptor and establishment conqueror, a health warning to Americans, pay close attention to his Viking tendencies, his acceptance of violence, immorality and brutal attacks, because the medieval Vikings were not known for their good graces, instead they were ferociously violent, immoral loyalists famed for their brutal rapes and murder.
Multiethnic Denmark is a model of excellence, not to be accepted or rejected, because they are an existing fact of life. They understand that inequality breeds depression, addiction, resignation and premature ageing which affects the entire population. The middle class and rich look after the poor because they understand there is a mutually dependency, and as so many depressant filled Americans understand, living as a richer person among the poor can be very stressful.
Social scientists understand our need for belonging, and recognize that a strong relationship strengthens the immune system, extend life (far more than quitting smoking), speeds recovery from surgery, and reduces the risk of depression and anxiety disorders.
Saudi Arabia is now at a junction in life and America and the rest of the world in their response to murdering critical journalism can offer an open hand towards a better life. Their achievements should be applauded. Women are now permitted to drive and world cinema has reopened in the Kingdom.
America is similarly at a cross road. An ideology of extreme personal freedom can be dangerous because it encourages people to leave homes, jobs, cities and marriages in search of personal and professional fulfilment, breaking relationships that would probably be the best hope for such fulfilment.
You know you are in troubling times when an acknowledgment that the other side might be right about anything is viewed as an act of treason. As humans we are the only creatures on earth whose young are utterly helpless for years and heavily dependent on care for more than a decade and sadly you have a sleepless 72-year-old with bad diet, twitting and wandering around the White House who remains under day care supervision, but the number of adults of standing who can guide and direct this President is rapidly shrinking.
Where is congress and there much needed credibility and oversight? They are nowhere to be seen because Trump and his fellow free riders have no concept of individual sacrifice for the common good and you only need to look to Trumps five bone spur deferments when he was of Vietnam conscript age. While he was out playing tennis and indulging in his father’s millions, others like Senator John McCain, Secretary of State John Kerry and former CIA Director and Special Counsel Bob Mueller were in the trenches making the ultimate sacrifice.
Medieval Viking behavior should be consigned to history, but the below ground Viking version, like Scandinavia today, is a model we can learn from. Beehive and ant colonies understand the need to perform as a single organism where each insect is a cell in a larger body; and like cells in the immune system, ants will sacrifice themselves to protect the colony.
In one species of Malaysian ant, members of the soldier caste store a sticky substance just under their eco-skeletons and in the midst of battle, explode their bodies, turning themselves into suicide bombers to gum up their adversaries.
For ants and bees, the Queen is not the brain, she is the ovary, and the entire hive of a colony can be seen as a body shaped by natural selection. Even during war and genocide, when group interests are most compelling, it is the coward who runs and hides, rather than joining his comrades on the front lines, and it is they who are most likely to pass on their genes to the next generation.
American politics today is cancerous, at times medieval and you would do well to develop better ovaries, better kings and queens because the colony around the world, especially those pursuing tyranny, need a better example of the human next door.