Friday, October 9, 2009

Nobel Peace Prizes for All of Us!

In a rather breathtakingly unexpected manner, the Nobel Peace Prize was delivered this morning to our sitting President, Barack Obama. Wow. What could have motivated a body to shift from honoring individual accomplishments to honoring the possibility of future accomplishments? That is what many of us are wondering right now. I have an idea.

Obama has been under relentless, brutal attack by the religious and political right of our country for years (the attacks intensifying even since inauguration), buoyed by the millions of Americans whose opinions they mirror. Maybe the Peace Prize is being used by a progressive, liberal European body as a kind of friendly helping hand. When a person is embattled within the confines of their highly conflictual family of origin, sometimes higher functioning extended family members seek to help out by giving him or her a pep talk, some encouragement as this person must face again and again the challenges that go to the bone.

This Nobel Peace Prize may be akin to a pep talk or encouraging hand on the back for Obama and the rest of us who have supported his efforts to take the United State, like a backwards family where bullies run the show supported by followers of weaker wills but motivated entirely by fear, and make it a nation where respect for the basic dignity of human life is expressed through excellent health care, education systems, and public and private works.

I write again: the challenges that our nation is facing right now go down to the very bones of who we are and how we envision ourselves as a people, as a nation, as an expanded form of family. We are laid bare by our struggles over health care and the seemingly impossible choices to be made in Iraq and Afghanistan. Our people have been bullied by an unseeing industrial elite for decades, perhaps longer. The idea of personal responsibility has been used to club us over the head with exploding costs and reduced quality in our health care, our higher education, and ever-shrinking real wages.

The reality for young families is and has been one of a profoundly diminished quality of life set starkly against the dreams and expectations we developed as children that ours would be a country where an education and work ethic would interface with a basically equitable economy to create stability for our families and hope for our future. But these hopes have been repeatedly dashed by the realities of our profoundly uneven economic playing field. This system has been promoted and protected by people who appear to have utter disregard for basic human dignity. These people are not interested in an equitable, free market system where the best of the best win out. They apparently believe in the use of advantage to manipulate markets and political bodies to protect their vested interest in mediocre performance with outrageous returns.

Many of our political "leaders" have represented the interests of these elite few like dogs chasing a trail of fleshy bits left behind for reward by their masters. Through these dogs, unchecked corporate interests have been allowed open access to our government bodies including military. And millions of us have yelled, protested, read, voted, and written about the injustices. We have used our non-violent, legal forms of protest for years apparently to little avail.

And then Obama showed up on our political scene and he campaigned on exactly what we had lost- hope. Through him we began to allow ourselves to hope that our government could represent the best interests of all of us. We began to imagine, for the first time in a long time, justice for the people who have worked and toiled and benefited the larger system for years.

For us political wonks, we began to imagine a government led by people intelligent enough to recognize that there are environmental, political, economic, and military challenges to our nation right now that are so deep and so wide as to require us to dramatically alter our public and private sector behaviors. Even the very lifestyles of individual families need to significantly change if they are to be a part of the solutions.

With most of our hopes focused on the economic and political dynamics of the immediate family of our nation, Obama surprised many when he put forward an agenda for worldwide nuclear disarmament to the U.N. A world free of nuclear weapons. A world family no longer in any danger of blowing itself up. Over the entirety of my life, that dark, looming possibility of human annihilation has always been. The idea of it not being there anymore, the anvil hanging above our heads plucked and permanently removed as a threat, fills my heart with joy.

Yes, Obama has inspired hope. He is a kind and sane person within the profoundly dysfunctional American family. Forward-thinking people from our extended world family have offered through this Nobel Peace Prize award a kind of "atta boy" to Obama and all of us supporters inside and outside the government.

It feels like they're telling us, yes, you are on the right path. It is no easy thing to transform the dysfunctional meta-human relationships of economies and governments. It is no small hope to hope we can improve the quality of life for our citizens from being far below the quality of life for citizens in other developed nations, to being something comparable. And as far as the rest of the world is concerned, it is no small hope that our international policies are fueled not from power lust, but from a deep, intelligent desire for peace, prosperity and justice for the extended family of our world citizens.

These are our hopes, the hopes of millions of Americans. And perhaps it was in acknowledgment not only of Obama's efforts and dreams, but of our hopes that this Nobel Peace Prize was awarded.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Comparative Shopping

Following are some of the results from the U.N. report released today on worldwide standards of living. This index compared such factors as educational levels, life expectancy rates and GDP.

Anyone still standing in the way of such things as a public health option might want to take a peak at how much better many people in the dreaded "socialist" health care systems are fairing. (Here's a hint: they're doing way, way, better than we are).

2009 report

The 2009 report was released on October 5, 2009. It was titled "Overcoming barriers: Human mobility and development". The following countries were classified under "Very High Human Development":[1]

  1. Norway 0.971 ()
  2. Australia 0.970 ()
  3. Iceland 0.969 ()
  4. Canada 0.966 ()
  5. Ireland 0.965 ()
  6. Netherlands 0.964 ( 1)
  7. Sweden 0.963 ( 1)
  8. France 0.961 ( 3)
  9. Switzerland 0.960 ()
  10. Japan 0.960 ()
  11. Luxembourg 0.960 ( 3)
  12. Finland 0.959 ( 1)
  13. United States 0.956 ( 1)