Ignorance is bliss. Maybe that’s why we ranked 11th on the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Solution Network’s (UNSDSN) recent happiness report. And a lot of people here were satisfied with that result. But I call them losers. There’s no such thing as 11th place. There’s only the tenth non-winner. Stop selling yourself short Israelis. We could be the happiest people on the planet. We have amazing beaches, beautiful rolling hills, divine desert terrain and even (one) snow capped (kinda) mountain. What more could you want, right? OK, I know what you’re saying. We got a few issues with our cousins (both within our jurisdiction and without) but the way I see it, we can’t truly love others until we learn to love ourselves. So here are some of my suggestions on how we could climb that ladder and finally kick those stinking Danes (there’s something rotten in your kingdom, fools) out of the top spot.
1. Australia is one spot ahead of us at number ten so I thought about combining a Bar/Bat Mitzvah with a rite of passage the Aborigines call a “Walkabout”. Essentially, an adolescent is left to roam the wilderness for up to six months. If he/she manages to survive the difficult conditions and “rough it” as Mark Twain would say they will have earned their place in society. Now, in our case, we would drop them off in the Negev desert somewhere near the Arava road with no IPhone, IPad or Waze. No packed sandwiches with Nutella spread and certainly no bag of “Shoco” (chocolate milk). No nothing. If they make it back we rent a reception hall and invite all their friends (and a DJ) and throw one helluva party. Let me tell you, after seeing this, I think a walk-about-mitzvah idea would make every single Israeli teen appreciate his country and its heritage even more. It would also make us, the parents, extremely happy. Finally six whole months of peace and quiet. We could go out to dinner every night. Start working out again. Maybe even have sex.
2. Free stuff makes us happy. So you can imagine how many places we must have ascended in the ranking when the new law passed providing free education from the age of three (as opposed to four). But I say why stop there? Let’s make college and/or university education free. A few years ago I applied to Tel Aviv’s university’s Master’s program in Film Production. Granted, I was rejected (bastards!) but even had I been accepted, there’s no way I could have afforded it. I’m still not done paying off my student loans (Obama was a senator before he finished paying his off eight years ago) for my undergraduate degree. If you look at the top three countries on that list, Denmark, Norway and Switzerland, university education is free there.
3. Legalize marijuana and decriminalize drug use in general. Switzerland does a wonderful job of trying to provide drug addicts the help and support they need to overcome a terrible disease rather than throw their asses in jail. Marijuana is legal in The Netherlands and they’re ranked fourth. Besides, can you imagine how effing happy we’d be if we could all just go down to the local coffee shop and buy a joint? I wouldn’t have to feign interest in my pot-dealer’s eczema problems or her ramblings about how much she hates her boss. We’d be a lot less stressed out, that’s for sure. And parents with children wouldn’t be doing this – trying to smuggle hash while on vacation in the Sinai.
4. We need a king people. I’m not talking Larry, Don or Kong. I’m talking straight up constitutional monarchy. Four out of the top ten happiest countries in the world have monarchs; Denmark, Sweden, The Netherlands and Norway. So maybe they know something that we don’t. OK, so we’ve had some bum kings in our past. Like that dude Ahab. But maybe it’s time we reconsider the whole issue. Now, I know what you’re thinking. Silly blogger, we already have a king. Bibi. And queen Sarah, ruler of the land of Haagen Dazs. But they ain’t the real McCoy. Will the press and the Israeli paparazzi wait for Yair Netanyahu and his future wife to have their child like they did with Will and Kate? Doubt it. No y’all. We need us some blue-blooded royalty. Who do I have in mind? Well, let’s see. How about the musical Banai family? Or Shlomo Artzi? Maybe Queen Bar?
5. Culturally speaking, it appears that there is one common thing in almost all of the happiest countries. According to the World Economic Forum’s global gender gap report for 2012, the best place in the world to be a woman is Iceland. Finland is next, followed by Norway and Sweden. All four of these countries are ranked in the top ten happiest places in the world and the whole thing makes sense. If M. is happy, you bet your ass I’m happy. In fact, as readers of this blog know I spend a great deal of effort in trying to repair all the damage I do by simply opening my mouth. So where do we rank on that list? A pathetic 56th. The most dismal disparities can be found in terms of political empowerment with a ratio of one woman to every four men in the 19th Knesset (which, incidentally, is the highest it’s ever been in Israel). More troubling however is the ratio of women to men in wage equality for performing the same job which is less than half (0.47). In Iceland, by comparison, the ratio for women in ministerial positions is equally split between men and women. So it’s quite obvious what we need to do in order to be happy. We need to empower women. We need to give women equal pay for performing equal tasks (I can’t believe that it’s 2013 and I still need to write this). Most importantly it’s about time we had a woman running things around here (you ready, Shelly…err, Tzipi?) Let’s face it people, that’s the way it already is. I mean just ask Trade Minister Bennett who calls the shots in the Netanyahu kingdom and who he had to apologize to before he could join the coalition. That’s right people. The ice cream queen.
We Israelis love it when our country wins stuff. We do. I still remember the celebrations that took place here in the early 90’s when Yael Arad won Israel’s first ever Olympic medal in Judo (it was bronze people). But as we strive to climb the ladder and become (rightfully, I might add even though I complain all the time…) the happiest place on earth, we would be wise to heed the warnings from winning a much more dubious honor – according to the OECD we’re number one in the developed world in poverty. One in five Israelis and one in three children live in poverty. We have a staggering 21 percent poverty rate.
Woohooo!! We’re number one!