There are approximately 196 countries in the world, and 123 of those are considered democracies. According the to Democracy Index, based on an analysis of 166 sovereign states, the United States ranks 20th, and is right on the edge of the Full Democracy/Flawed Democracy fence.
Our history in the last century, and our current situation, have us going from being the richest country in the world to presently, the ninth richest country in the world. Depending on the source, the United States is ranked anywhere from 14th to 29th for education. At present, whether considering our state of democracy, our wealth status, or our educational ranking, why do so many Americans think we’re currently the greatest country in the world?
Some will say that we’re the melting pot of the world and we allow any American, regardless of ethnicity or religion to enjoy the same freedoms and opportunities, and this is what makes us greatest. Yet, we are no different from any other plot of land in that people tend to be tribal, class-systems develop naturally and not only do cultures segregate, each has an immense amount of pride in its own kind. Regardless of the melting pot, we still endure hate crimes and abuse within, from American to American, within and across cultures.
I understand that Social Identity Theory has some real merit, in that it is human tendency to band together and feel a sense of fulfillment and safety in being associated with social groups made of people who have something in common with one another. So it makes sense that the people of any country will take pride in their own kind, and thus, for that reason alone, we are the greatest country in the world.
For all humans and animals, the primal instinct is that of survival, and animals run in packs for that very reason. The basic difference between animals and human beings is (what has led to human suffering) – we have a choice. We can influence outcomes in our surroundings because we have a conscious, analytical mind, allowing us to act beyond basic instincts. Yet, human beings are a relatively new species on a very old Earth, and they only use 10% of their brain capacity. They can only sense so much, they can only understand so much, it’s limited; and therefore, we have a species that influences outcomes with limited knowledge and innocent ignorance.
Yet, take into consideration – the world. The population has increased exponentially over the last century. There are now about 6.5 billion human beings covering inhabitable areas of planet Earth. There are enough resources to feed the world, yet many starve while many over eat. This is unnatural, but so is warring with neighbors, which has also been around since the dawn of civilization. The United States is a relatively new country. We have advanced technology, yet we still rely on fossil fuels and old ways of doing things. We innately know the different between good morals and bad morals, yet self-gratification takes priority; and it led us to where we’re at today – a country with an expanding wealth gap and a shrinking middle class. We have an angry middle class, an angry poor class, and a very small, prideful upper-class. We’re a country divided and fighting amongst itself. We just don’t seem very happy about what we’ve become. We experience together, the karma of The American Way.
My view is that there is only one race, the human race, and the reasons for flawed governments and flawed societies all around the globe are due to human characteristics. This levels the playing ground tremendously when people are talking “my country,” “your country,” and “the greatest country in the world.” I’m perceiving it in a literal sense and silently asking “Why? Why do you feel like the place where you live is the greatest place in all the world?” Knowing that no person has seen and personally experienced all the other options, makes the question itself maddening. The answers to that question, however, are more maddening for people like me, who don’t resonate with slogans and rhetoric. When I think about the history of the country I was born in, and think about the history of the countries my ancestors were born in, I see the same cycles, the same wars, the same human behaviors; and I realize, this is the human reality. It doesn’t matter where I was born.
The human reality is infused with stories. The story of creation, the story of evolution, the story of the messiah, the story of the fallen one, etc. Each life is a story in an unto itself. Within this human history, there have been very few ‘enlightened’ ones. If life is a game and the ultimate prize enlightenment, it takes going against every instinct – that of self-preservation (the ego’s only goal) – to win. Because being enlightened means being ultimately compassionate, selfless, peaceful and feeling one with all. Conversely, the quality of the fallen angel is self-love, self-cherishing, self-gratification and separatism. The human reality is a realm of ego and self-grasping. (As stories go, this is the story of purgatory.) Over time it becomes a “me me me” situation. With the increase in population, you have an increase in the number of me-monsters running around. This results in increased territoriality & hoarding of resources. Eventually and inevitably, competition between men ensues, fighting for power becomes noble, greed becomes normal, and we have a reality of little Satans running the consciousness into lower and lower levels of spiritual awareness.
Theoretically, the point of purgatory is to purify the soul. In some traditions, you’re purifying for heaven and those in purgatory don’t go to hell. Yet, if you’re always wanting to arrive at the pearly gates and you never get there – then it’s a cycle of suffering, which can feel a lot like a living hell. Heaven, hell, and purgatory are concepts, ideas about the great mystery of life and of the human condition. In an action causes reaction, cause and effect reality, humans are the species that can influence reactions and effects with their choices. Humans are thus creators, and they create their own essence, families, and surroundings along with their own consequences. Due to that element of choice, the perception of heaven on Earth, hell on Earth, or a cycling purgatory is found within the mind of each individual and is the result of the person’s choice about how to perceive life circumstances and what to believe. Some say the definition of insanity is repeating the same choices over and over again and expecting a different outcome; I say that’s the definition of purgatory, history repeats itself, and the only way out is to make different choices, better choices, and to perceive beauty in The Way of things. In The Way of this reality, there will always be both good and bad, both light and dark, love and fear, and physical birth and death – and there will always be the choice to see beauty in all of it.
So no matter which country in the world is really the ‘best,’ it’s still just another realm of the same condition – the human condition.
Create your story. Take advantage of the power to choose and create a heaven on Earth, because if you only have one shot as the writer, producer, and actor in your own movie, you may as well make it epic.