Saturday, October 1, 2016

I am the greatest

When he was known as Cassius Clay, Muhammad Ali would frequently boast “I am the greatest”. Initially, his braggadocio was dismissed by many critics, who considered him to be a loud mouth black kid from Louisville. Eventually, of course, he proved all of them wrong, when he won the Kentucky Golden Glover championship 6 times, then went on to win an Olympic boxing medal in 1960, followed by 4 heavy weight champion awards, as well as numerous other awards.

He came under particularly harsh criticism when he converted to Islam in the early 1960’s, and even more criticism when he refused induction into the Army, His three year suspension from boxing him kept him out of the ring during what would have been his peak boxing years, and by the time his conviction was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1971, he had not fought for nearly 4 years. He subsequently captured the heavy weight boxing title two more times, in 1974 and 1978, before retiring from boxing in 1981. Most of us would agree that it’s good to have self-confidence, but megalomania is a bad thing. Officially, it’s defined as having an inflated sense of self-importance, and no one exhibits this behavior more clearly than Donald Trump, who is far less successful than he thinks he is. Megalomania is also known as a narcisstic personality disorder, and it can’t be cured.

Megalomania can also apply to countries as well. The Nazi belief in Aryan supremacy eventually resulted in the deaths of 6,000,000 Jews, as well as a smaller number of Catholics, gypsies, homosexuals, and others considered not fit.

Quite a few countries have adopted the same attitude over the course of history, going all the way back to the ancient Greeks, and probably even further than that. Closer to home, the attitude is known as “American exceptionalism”, which led to the emergence of the phrase “Make America Great Again”. As actor Jeff Daniels mentioned on an episode of “The Newsroom”, we are NOT the greatest country in the world. As I mentioned in my article of January 25, 2015, our country is ranked #17 when it comes to our public education system (Finland is ranked #1), even though there ARE a number of areas where we are ranked the best in the world.

According to the article listed below, we are ranked #28 in the world when it comes to overall quality of living. As is often the case, the Scandinavian countries usually do pretty well in these types of surveys, but that doesn’t mean that we should all make plans to move to Sweden of Finland.

Lancet study

Before moving to China in 2003, I read a book titled, “Chinese Business Etiquette”, written by Scott Seligman. In the book, Mr. Seligman discusses the concept of guanxi (pronounce gwan she) , which literally means “relationships”. As Hillary Clinton pointed out in her book, “Hard Choices”, it’s critical to maintain respectful relationships with other countries as often as possible, since that is the best possible way to maintain peace in the world. The opposite approach, of course, is the “Bush doctrine”, which caused our relationships with many of our allies to sour. It also cost us over 4000 American lives in needless wars, and will eventually cost us over 6 trillion dollars in direct and indirect expenses.

At the Democratic convention, Michelle Obama said that “America is already great”, and she is absolutely correct. However, it’s also true that we aren’t perfect, and it’s our responsibility to continue to improve our country as well as we can, in spite of the obstacles thrown in our path (some of whom are our elected officials). If we can do that, the next Lancet survey that comes out will place us a lot higher than #28.

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