Curious list of happiest countries
A NEW study says that the South Pacific island nation of Vanuatu is the "happiest country on Earth," while the United States came in 150th place, behind such happy places as Pakistan, South Africa, India and the ever-cheery drug capital of the world, Colombia.
A British "think tank" called the New Economics Foundation came up with the so-called "Happy Planet Index," but a quick review of some of the top "happy" places would make you wonder what the think-tankers were thinking, or at least smoking.
The happy index supposedly "addresses the relative success or failure of countries giving their citizens a good life" while respecting the environment. I'm not sure how respecting the environment makes one happy, unless petting bunnies and hugging shrubbery makes you ecstatic.
NEVERTHELESS, Vanuatu is a curious country to name the happiest place on Earth, considering that a recent U.S. State Department report on human rights finds Vanuatu citizens enjoy a poor prison system, arrests without warrants, government corruption, a slow judiciary and violence and discrimination against women. Oh, yeah, there's also a lot of malaria and dengue fever. Happy, happy, joy, joy!
Also listed among top happy places were Colombia, Panama and Dominica. Happy citizens of Colombia face guerrilla warfare, roaming militias that use children as soldiers, drug dealers, disappearances and torture. Journalists, labor leaders and human rights monitors are often attacked and threatened, presumably in a happy way. But Colombian farmers are kind to their coca crops, so they get extra environmental sensitivity points there.
The happy countries of Dominica and Panama also are home to violence against women, child labor, public corruption, poor prisons and discrimination against indigenous Indians.
Pakistan is a happier country than the United States apparently because it is home to the giddy Taliban and that happy dude Osama bin Laden. And because it's a dictatorship headed by a general who took office in a coup d'etat. (Gen. Musharraf is a bum but he's OUR bum.)
All in all, the New Economics Foundation's "Happy Planet Index" looks more like a "Happy Horse Pucky Index." The United States should be happy it isn't at the top of this perplexingly sad roster.
, the National Society of Newspaper Columnists' 2004 First Place Award winner for humor writing, appears Sundays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org