On being number 11

I’m working from my phone, just got to South Carolina, haven’t got internet, so forgive any wonky formatting.

I just read a piece by Thomas L. Friedman about a “Newsweek” article that ranks the US as the eleventh best country to live. I wonder sometimes if the rest of the world gets bored of us always trying to be first. Some people would say something like well done america for being so high on the list or that’s impressive considering some of the great other countries in the world.

He argues that the reason america sucks (being eleventh would probably lead us to kill ourselves if we had japan’s sense of honor) is because our students aren’t motivated and everyone wants to get rich quick – he seems to think this is an american problem not a human one, for some reason. And he argues that the greatest generation was better, and they were better because they had a better attitude and wanted to make sacrifices.  Obsession with being the greatest and number one in everything doesn’t make his ranking of things americans do that are bloody stupid for some reason.

According to Newsweek, it looks like we lag further behind on health and quality of life than we do on education, in absolute terms if not in ranking. Five years difference in average healthy life span isn’t small potatoes. And I call bullshit that the greatest generation had better attitudes. They had a very specific set of circumstances to deal with, and we have a much different one, but anyone arguing that they had better quality of life, healthcare, lifespan, or education is just being ridiculous.

Look at the other top countries and tell me how a country that values independence, freedom, diversity and size can compete with little, rich, homogenous countries? I think we should be amazed that a country with so many immigrants from countries that are much lower on the list is even competing at all.

I’m not saying that there aren’t things, particularly within education and healthcare, that need to be fixed, but I think blaming it on the wrong attitude is a completely shallow and curmugeonly way of looking at what is in fact a very complicated problem because of economy, scale, and a varied population. If he’s got a problem with selfish attitudes destroying america, I’d love to see any evidence that that is true.