Finland: The World’s Happiest Country?

By Dr. Harold A. Black

Do you pay attention to lists? Obviously, some people do or else no one would be compiling them. I occasionally will look for the best mystery or best science fiction novels of the year or best historical fiction of the year. One list that caught my eye was the list of the happiest countries. I could envision folks dancing in the streets, strewing flowers while singing kumbaya. BTW, did you know that kumbaya is of African origin? Isn’t that counterintuitive that slaves would be singing kumbaya? Well, the country that is deemed the happiest in the whole world is Finland (the US is number 15). Personally, I can’t see how anyone would be happy living near the Arctic Circle with over 100 days of winter in the south, 200 days of winter in the north and 51 days where the sun does not get above the horizon.

That Finland is the happiest only applies to native white Finns for Finland is one of the most racist countries in the world. Indeed, polls have shown that most Finns themselves consider Finland to be a racist country. So how the researchers determine that racism somehow equates to happiness is beyond me. Read James Thompson’s novels featuring detective Kari Vaara: Snow Angels, Lucifer’s Tears and Helsinki White. They feature a Finnish detective and are perhaps the most racist novels I have ever read. The Finns are not exactly a welcoming people if you are a non-white Finn. Those who are gypsies, Arab-speaking, Jews, of Russian descent and from Somalia suffer discrimination. These Finns I guess are happily suffering from discrimination in employment, religion, abuse in schools, in housing and police harassment. Many are also denied access to banking services. Also, the Finns have not greeted transgenders with open arms. Finland requires mandatory sterilization as a condition for sex change identity. Transgenders often are targeted for violence. Even the original Finns, the Sami (the Lapps) have been forced to move to the northernmost part of the country to herd their reindeer and fish. I guess this is the Finnish equivalent of our Indian reservations. Are the Sami happy?

How is happiness consistent with racism? One reference stated that there was growing violence and abuse against immigrants and non-Finnish Finns. There was even a George Floyd type of incident involving a black youth and the Finnish police. However, the reaction in Finland was to basically ignore the incident while in erstwhile racist America, the reaction was just the opposite with police being put in jail and George Floyd accorded sainthood. What makes the Finns happy? They are happy because of the country’s welfare system. However, the same Finns resent those who are different from availing themselves to the same welfare system with its generous unemployment benefits and “free” healthcare. Just think how much happier the Finns would be if they just could eliminate all of those pesky blacks, Arabs, Jews, Russians and gypsies!

What about the unhappiest countries in the world? The top five are Afghanistan, Lebanon, Sierra Leone, Zimbabwe, Congo and Botswana. Actually, for reasons that I have listed before, I would have thought Congo would be number one given its history of brutality by the Belgians and exploitation of its natural resources by the Europeans and the Chinese. I was surprised that Botswana was on the unhappiest list. Perhaps I have been overly influenced by Alexander McCall Smith’s novels on the No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency. But Botswana is Africa’s most stable country, is democratic and is relatively free of corruption. It is the world’s largest producer of diamonds and has a healthy safari-based tourist trade. It is a middle-income nation – a rarity on the African subcontinent. It even has given gay rights legal recognition. Botswana’s unhappiness is attributed to familial trauma and abuse from both men and women. One source even suggested that “The government of Botswana must integrate happiness as one of the pillars of good governance.”

Well good luck with that. I guess the ultimate question is “Would you rather be happy in Finland or unhappy in Botswana?”