Posted by: martinworster | June 4, 2012

140. THE GREATEST NATION ON EARTH

No nation is the greatest on earth – we’re all just humans living on a small planet

Living in the United States you often hear it quoted that you are living in the ‘greatest nation on earth’. Politicians particularly repeat it, mantra style, often as a foreword to their speeches.  I’ve heard Obama quote it in his address to the nation. Whenever I hear it I feel an intense irritation. Apart from the self-congratulatory smugness, I’m also irked by the fact that it’s not true. Not to say that the USA isn’t a fantastic country. But there are many great countries on this small planet and I don’t see what the point is in trying to compete to see which is the ‘greatest’, like some nationalistic Top of the Pops.

For many American’s the mythological narrative that they are living in the greatest country in the world serves solely to fuel an innate superiority complex amongst it’s citizens over other denizens of the rest of the planet. There is no benefit to this – least of all to Americans. It’s the sort of unabashed nationalism that leads to war and only looks ugly and foolish to the rest of the world.

I often wonder what criteria they are judging it to be the greatest? Military superiority? America wins hands down – they can obliterate the rest of the world into, er, oblivion, multiple times over. Great, that’s a positive. There’s no contest that America has the biggest dick on the block. But is this greatness? What other criteria are there? Quality of life, crime, education, pollution levels, access to healthcare, poverty and wealth divides – on these credentials America isn’t too great.

As the World’s superpower it’s probably expected that a country needs to assert itself like this to justify it’s actions in the wider world to it’s citizens. There’s no point in being imperialists if what we’re exporting isn’t good? For example exports like the democracy myth? In the US, amongst the Christian right heartland of the nation the narrative of ‘greatest on earth’ probably ties in with the religious belief that this position has been chosen by God. The chosen ones – or few. Similarly, when Britain was at the helm of the largest Empire the world has seen, colonial expansion was often justified in terms of innate superiority and religious improvement amongst the indigenous. These Godless, heathen natives are in need of civilizing and, by Jove, for Church and country we’re going to do it! Whilst simultaneously extracting all that countries natural resources – minerals, gold, slaves, spices, wood, rubber etc – for our own greed and financial gain.

I don’t want this to sound like an anti-American rant. I think that most concentrations of supra-national power are generally malevolent despite the stories the general public are told / sold. Bigger forces are at play and it’s hard to control them. Personally, being English there are many dark spots to our country’s history – genocide, piracy, slavery, robbery – that are definitely nothing to be proud off. Although, I do think after World War II Britain coped with it’s transition to a Post-Colonial role quite well. I do have quite a bit of pride in my country but it doesn’t spill over into thinking it’s the best in the world. The benefits of being the World’s Superpower can be quite limiting and not all it’s cracked up to be. Let’s see how China copes when it fully takes the baton. So let’s quit all the ‘best on earth’ nonsense and learn to live with all fellow humans harmoniously on this ever decreasingly small planet.

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