Saturday, September 13, 2008

What countries DO I like?

Awhile back I wrote a post about the best country to live in. I danced around the question, came up with subjective and objective measurements and in the end decided to go on vacation. Then the other day I was asked by someone who had enough of my US (and Canada) bashing and asked me what country I admire and why. Pause. Hmmm. Well, it's hard to give an see, um, there's lots of countries, uh, good and, well, er... So, without further ado, here's tonight's top ten list of countries I admire.

#10. Spain - Easy choice. They've done a little of everything in the past. From repressors to repressed, conquerors to conquered and all points in between. You gotta love the country responsible for financing Columbus' voyages to America, even if he didn't discover anything. Dominated by the muslims for 700 years, the reconquista, empire, Spanish Armada, Napoleon took his shots too. Don't forget the Spanish Civil War and the ensuing nearly 50 years of fascism under Franco. Now, we see the past and present being blended in a way unimaginable in the past, with South Americans flooding back in reverse colonialism.

#9. Denmark - Can't say too much about the place, only visited for a couple of weeks, and it was COLD, around Christmas time. It did come out as number one on the world map of happiness and Copenhagen is a beautful city, plus, good or bad, everyone speaks English. They've given us Hans Christian Anderson and Kierkegaard along with Kronborg Castle, dramatized as Elsinore in Shakespeare's Hamlet, "Something is rotten in the state of Denmark": Not anymore, with universal health care, low poverty and crime rates. They're also the world's largest producer of power-generating windmills.

#8. Poland - Gotta have them on my list, I do live here you know. Lovely cities such as Krakow, Wroclaw and Gdansk. Home of Solidarity and the prettiest girls on Earth. For centuries they've been the buffer between powers and at one time we're the largest country in Europe. They were wiped off the map for 123 years only to come back for the interwar period only to be dominated once again, this time by communism. They've shrugged off the bleak, grey image of those years and are working hard to get onto the world stage.

#7. Chile - First, take a look at the world map, Chile looks pretty cool down the Pacific coast all the way at the bottom, even has claim on some of Antartica. It'll be home to the world's early warning meteor device if Bill Gates has anything to say about it. They make some tasty wine. They've managed to move forward despite Pinochet, the CIA and Milton Friedman's 'economic miracle', building a fine democracy and even managed to sneak into the top 20 on the global peace index. This 'pais de poetas' has also produced Pablo Neruda and Gabriala Mistral.
Chile ranks high regionally in freedom of the press, human development and democratic development. It holds the status as the region's richest country in terms of gross domestic product per capita.

#6. Canada - The Great White North has only been around for 141 years but they've given us more than maple syrop and me. Somehow managed to carve out a seperate identity from their southern neighbour (by keeping some Britishness like the 'our' ending to words like neighbour and we've still got the Queen). Could also be the sense of humour, you need it when its so cold. Good standard of living, universal'ish' health care (the slow move towards privatization) and Pamela Anderson.

#5. Norway - Probably should rank higher, they seem to have it all. Natural resources, which they use responsibly, saving for the future have created one of the world's largest sovereign wealth funds. In 2007 they were at the top of the global peace index, 3rd for 2008. High taxes, but look at the quality of life.

#4. USA - Rock and roll, Hollywood, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Levi's, Microsoft and Google. You might think I'm trying to say something about evil corporations but I'm not! Really, where would we be without all these things? Hypocritical, maybe, but I eat Big Macs and drink Coke while railing against American hegemony because I can, which is partially due to the freedom I enjoy thanks to the USA.

#3. Czech Republic - It appears on many of the lists here as a country with high literacy rates and as one of the most secular countries, coincidence, hmmm. Great beers, great writers and great film directors. Again, coincidence? Kundera, Hrabel, are just so Czech, there must be something great about the culture.

#2. Iceland - One word, Bjork! Really, that girl is wacky. The entire nation in powered by geothermal energy, now that's thinking out of the box. They are the happiest people in the world too according to some surveys. Why? Again, the Scandinavian socialist system just seems to work despite those evil high taxes taking away everyones motivation to work (wink, wink, nudge). They replaced Norway at #1 in the global peace index for 2008.

Before you look down at number one, I'd like you to take a second a go back over the previous nine. Some pretty good arguments, but I'm sure you can think of a couple countries that are missing and why. So, after reading number one, be sure to click on the comment tab below and tell me what country or countries are missing and why, heck, give me your own top ten if you'd like. Now, without further ado...

#1. Mauritius - It has no standing army and was the only natural habitat of the dodo bird. Period.

Now, post your comments, tell me what countries you respect, admire or love and why, go on.


Michal said...

What about Bhutan? It's virtually the complete opposite of "the rat race" . Plus they have no commercials! Anywhere!

Anonymous said...

That was very interesting commentary. I really enjoyed the read. And I say WTG to Iceland and the Czech Republic! I feel organized religion imposes more of a danger to society than most people think!

So, you are living in Poland now? I thought I read that somewhere else too.

And thanks for the link to me.

Shane said...

Yeah, Michal, Bhutan should've been there too, but they're slipping into the race I hear, besides, they featured in my previous post like this.
Virgomonkey, the Czech secular tie in with literacy was my favourite nugget. And yeah, I'm back in Poland, where the winter is already rearing it's ugly head! Aaargh!

Michal said...

well, they have no sea anyway.

Hey, I bet the winter's worse in Canada!:P

Troy said...

As a man, my vote goes for Saudi Arabia. Where else can you have 4 sex slaves (read:wives that can't read and legally don't have souls), countless servants, a seemingly endless supply of oil money and not have to worry about being the next target on the American's march to freedom!

Woohoo...and if you're looking for a piss up you can always hop over to Jordan or Bahrain!

Long live Faisal! Upps, it's Abdullah now isn't it?

Eu said...

Get informed... Iceland is dying due to its characteristics.

A cross-related blood disease is killing them all... lots have gone out of the island and the remaining ones only have family to couple with.

and by the way the weather is as shitty as can be.

Shane said...

Michal, I think we know that Poland is colder than everywhere, so obviously weather doesn't matter to us! Troy, you don't think that Saudi is already an American state? EU, hadn't heard about the blood disease, do you have any links? And yeah, I'm Canadian, living in Poland, the weather is a non-factor it seems.

Matthew said...

How about the Netherlands? Decriminalization, bike paths, wind energy anybody?

Michal said...

yeah, wind energy, how about streets filled with marijuana junkies?;/

Shane said...

I can live with the weed, it's the smack junkies I hate walking the streets of Amsterdam. However the lack of cars more than makes up for that, I agree with Matthew, Holland deserves to make the list.