SUZANNE HARRINGTON: Denmark is one of the all time happiest places on earth. Why? They share nicely.

My favourite ever definition of humanity is “a successful virus clinging to a speck of mud suspended in endless nothing”. 

Thank you, graphic novelist Alan Moore. It was Moore who also gave us 1982’s V for Vendetta, which in turn gave the Anonymous movement their trademark Guy Fawkes masks. These masks continue to make more and more real life appearances on city streets around the world, worn by those protesting about inequality and the misappropriation of resources by something that the rest of us meekly call ‘the system’.

Despite being such intelligent fungus, not all of humanity has got the hang of what all of humanity needs – co-operation. Unlike what we insist our kids do, we do not all share nicely. According to Oxfam, if you put the world’s 85 richest people on a bus (although why a bus rather than a Lear jet or super-yacht remains a mystery, other than the rest of us – the other 7.125 billion – tend to know what a bus looks like, and can therefore reasonably imagine one).

Anyway, Oxfam says just one double decker busload owns more wealth than half the planet. So that’s 85 people owning more than 3.5 billion people. In real terms – because there is no actual bus, not even a diamond encrusted solid gold one, which would be dead uncomfortable anyway, and horribly tacky (a bit like being too rich – did nobody ever tell these people that super-wealth is super-naff?) — in real terms what this end-stage capitalism actually looks like is one fifth of the world’s richest nation is living on food stamps.

Yes, a full 20% of US citizens are so poor they can’t afford food. It says so in a new book, Obama’s Washington, about the presidential challenges of trying to govern a very rich country run not by politicians but by big, unelected business. Of the one fifth of Americans on food stamps, 18% of these food stamps are spent at Walmart. Someone is getting very rich out of lots of people being very poor.

In the UK, the figures to make you angry are 55 and 1 – the poorest 55% own less than the richest 1%. I don’t have the Irish percentages because I gave my researcher the afternoon off, but apparently (according to a social scientist at UCD) we’re not quite as bad as the US. But we are definitely not Denmark. Denmark is one of the all time happiest places on earth, despite a rubbish climate like ours. Why? Income equality. They share nicely. Sharing nicely means greater co-operation, trust, sense of belonging, and – yes – happiness. America is way down the list, both in terms of happiness and personal freedom. All that money chasing has made America miserable, especially the ones on food stamps. We need to change, don’t we? While you’re pondering, here’s a thought from the late Bill Hicks: “We are one consciousness experiencing itself subjectively, there’s no such thing as death, life is only a dream and we are the imagination of ourselves.” You know, in case we take ourselves too seriously.


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