Happiness: Danes vs Americans– A Response to, “Report From the Flatlands of Statistics”

HappyWorld

Photo Courtesy: UN World Happiness Report 2013

Even though the Danes are ranked number one in Happiness, they still suffer the same woes as the rest of us, but with a couple more benefits, according to Mathilde Walter Clark.

As easy as it is to knit pick everyday life, every country has trains that run late, clouds that rain, and of course, not so flattering people. Personally, compared to America, I think the Danes have it pretty good.

But we always want more. We always want what we can’t have–as outplayed as it sounds, it’s true across all societies. Even when you have free education, teachers that get paid $60k/year, and universal healthcare like the Danes do, we can all still find something to complain about.

According to the U.N. “World Happiness Report of 2013” Denmark is the happiness country in the world–a great place to hang your hat, raise a family, go to school, seek medical attention, you name it.

However, in Mathilde Walter Clark’s English translation of “Report From the Flatlands of Statistics,” rather than cherishing her country’s elevated status, she actually takes a jab at it. She peels it apart like an orange to find its pulp.

Throughout her essay you can’t help but sense an undertone of irony running through it like a river– Clark never fully accepting her country’s coveted spot, never fully agreeing that the U.N.’s objective research is reality, though she claims to foil this idea of irony early in her essay. I’m uncertain it ever fully subsides.

After noting her split childhood, spending time between Denmark and America, due to her parents’ separation, she declares that “I am still a divided missionary. I find myself in a state of perpetual provocation: in America by inequality, and in Denmark by conformity. It is the compulsion toward uniformity that pains me most about the Danish spirit.”

Clark argues that sometimes the equality and need to be one community in Denmark actually inhibits the ability to feel unique, to feel special, and subsequently hints that this potential to be unique in America is what makes it so great.

But there is a downfall to this.

Without the community to support one another, each is left to his own woes and consequentially fights alone. Thus coming full circle with Clark’s concern about American inequality.

I argue that the comfort and happiness achieved through a sense of community and stability is far greater than the satisfaction achieved by Americans’ aptness to be unique.

Clark’s says, Danes are always “trying to even out things. It’s in their nature.”

But what’s wrong with that? (I can already hear the socialist comments). But really, would not evening things out create less starvation in the world, create better paying jobs, provide education to those who can’t afford it, medicine to those who need it most? And aren’t these all the reasons why the Danes are on top?

This world is ruthlessly off kilter. I think, “evening things out” a bit would be great.

Country Rankings by Happiness

Country Rankings by Happiness

The perpetual feeling of failure in America if you aren’t going above and beyond and doing more with your time and pushing harder is equally hard to deal with and unsatisfying, especially for those that still aren’t getting ahead. The stressful and hectic consequences that come with living in a society that is almost too ambitious, and quick to declare someone lazy if they aren’t spending their entire day, week, or life running around incessantly, can be deeply unrewarding.

A recent article by Libby Fordham entitled, “So You’re Not Up At 5am To Work? What’s Wrong With That? Nothing” describes the very same problem.

Since when was it expected to wake up before dawn and have answered all your emails, gone to the gym, and wrote two chapters in your next memoir?

The idea of being able to just live and feel alive via the societal norm of community and equality in Denmark sounds like bliss to me as an American. Not because I am lazy and unmotivated, but because I am tired of people running around like robots to their overcommitted responsibilities, trying to undercut each other to get ahead, to be the next big boss, and say “I did more than you!” There is strength in numbers, in unity.

But Clark claims that a classic poster well-known in Denmark of a police man helping a family of ducks cross the road is “a bit disjointed from how things really are…it shows us what we’ve really lost.”

She ultimately argues that an image is separate from its own truth, like a picture of two people smiling on a tropical vacation. You cannot know the truth behind the picture just by looking at it. There is much more under the surface. And thus she surmises that though the idea of Denmark being the happiest place on earth is flattering, it is only a picture, not a story, not a subjective point of view.

I agree with Clark. There’s always more under the surface. But nothing is ever going to be perfect, and here in America, I think we have a lot more work to do on that front than a country like Denmark. We have strayed far from the original intent of the forefathers of this country. Each day I become more convinced that America is just becoming a soulless, empathy-less humming machine with no ability to see outside its own fixed mechanical processes. It’s become merely a mad dash to snatch up as much money as we can, in the process of screwing over the next guy, and then hoping to retire at a decent age (if we make it) and not end up in a nursing home.

That’s it.

So I say, let’s be a little bit more like the Danes. Let’s help each other, let’s establish community, let’s be okay with just being, and stop for a moment.

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Big Oil and the new $35k Tesla–Musk better roll up his sleeves

Photo Courtesy MotorTrend

Last week CNET posted an article mentioning the announcement of new $35,000 Tesla, aptly named the Model 3.

The new ride estimated to debut in 2017 will hang on the ability to make a cheaper battery. CEO of Telsa, Elon Musk, claims the biggest factor in making a more affordable, high-volume-production electric car is battery making capacity. Right now, such capacity does not exist to manufacture Tesla’s on a level equal to that of traditional gas-powered vehicles. But when the ability does exist, Tesla is promising us it will be game on.

That’s when Big Oil just might start feeling their mortality.

Big Oil

As the Oil Industry continues to rake in trillions, many of us know, that the real future exists in alternative energy.

Though sales projections on oil consumption gathered and presented by Big Oil claim sales will continue to rise, other research shows that such estimates are inaccurate. Big Oil argues that countries beginning to develop into industrial nations will makeup the majority of the increase as they burn more gas to fuel their economic needs. However, with climate change at the forefront of the world’s problems and environmental standards becoming more stringent, these countries are not likely to consume as recklessly as the world once did despite their growing need for fuel.

This combined with the mounting problem of extracting oil in hostile territories (both politically and geographically) at a high cost is sure to create profit woes for Big Oil. According to The Economist, “Half the supermajors’ long-term capital spending now goes on costly unconventional or deep-water oilfields, largely because production-sharing arrangements and licenses to drill in the NOCs’ backyards are increasingly hard to find. The big NOCs now make up six of the ten largest oil producers in the world.

As a result, oil companies have turned to shale for supplemental revenue, though such an investment can be seen as counterproductive to their central business model–oil. The Economist reports that both Shell and Exxon are achieving more than 40% of their energy production from gas. However, with a potential gas surplus on the horizon being predicted by economists, natural gas prices could fall below that of oil, thus providing far less benefit and more headache to Big Oil’s plans, especially with gas’ high extraction costs.

The Model 3 Tesla could very well be a sign of Big Oil’s impending doom. If Tesla can manage to create an affordable, yet high-powered lithium-ion battery through its relationship with Panasonic and it’s gigafactory idea (yet to be actualized) it could bring volume production of electric automobiles onto the playing field with traditional automakers.

Tesla could change the game.

Tesla Charger

 

Mr. Musk better get his bodyguards ready though, because Big Oil isn’t going to let him go without a fight.

 

Guantanamo Bay–Shut it down

Recent headlines surrounding hunger strikes at Guantanamo Bay have drawn national attention to the controversial facility. Reports have stated that hundreds of prisoners have staged over a two month long hunger strike.

Through mostly an unmotivated legal system and minimal evidence, detainees have been protesting treatment and human rights violations, many of which have been imprisoned indefinitely with no clear hope of ever being released.

What is further concerning is how the US military lied to reporters about the severity of the hungry strike, according to a CBS News source.

While we hear reports of Gitmo closing its doors, we also hear reports of renovations, including chapels and recreation buildings. According to various sources, the United States Pentagon is preparing to sink hundreds of millions of dollars into the facility making it more robust than temporary.

Presently, Gitmo prisoners have surprising comforts such as video games, movies, flat screen tvs in many rooms, and an outdoor recreation field roughly half the size of a football field that prisoners have access to 22hrs a day. While I am all for the humane treatment of prisoners of war (which these men almost are), I am not for the delayed politics barricading the way to getting these men to a timely trial. These prisoners are not on a hunger strike because it makes them feel good. They are on a strike because they are desperate for attention. They are desperate for rights. And being its our money that is being spent to hold them in limbo while they play video games, I think we should listen.

Its time to convict or set free these prisoners. We must remember that even though they are prisoners, they are human. It is neither beneficial for them or to the people of the United States to keep these men in a state of waiting. Force feeding these men bottles of Ensure through feeding tubes inserted into their nostrils to keep them alive during this hunger strike is absurd.

I guess we will just half to see how long the madness lasts before somebody decides to make a needed change.

Nuclear Energy

The nuclear disaster in Japan at the Fukushima Plant is a clear reason why we should not pursue nuclear energy. The potential fatality of such innovations is far more grave than advantageous. The disaster is an example of man overstepping his limits and not realizing when enough is enough. Sometimes less is more. Sometimes our inventions are more harmful than helpful. As humans, we must drop our egos and understand that not all of our creations are the next best thing.

When I saw the pictures of petrified Japanese people standing before men dressed in white suits with masks and radiation scanners, I understood the extent of nuclear energy’s devastating repercussions.

We cannot invest ourselves in technologies that we cannot control. If we cannot guarantee the protection of the people then we do not have the right to develop that specific kind of technology.

The economic effects on Japan could be staggering seeing as various exports will likely diminish for fear of radioactive contamination.

Truly the turmoil in Japan is a result of the earthquake that tore through the land and the subsequent tsunami that disseminated everything in its path. However, the added stress that has been placed on Japan is not because of a natural disaster, but because of the decisions of men to develop something beyond their control and capacity.

This is not an accusation brought against Japan, but a calling to the architects of nuclear energy across the world to take heed of this dire warning given to us within the wake of this terrible catastrophe. The dangers of a nuclear energy driven world are tremendous and far greater than it’s bittersweet advantages.

Let us all support the rebuilding of Japan and give them our aid as we would hope for theirs in our time of need.