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How is it that a relatively small country (population 28 million), with a Gross National Product (GNP) one-fourth that of the United States ($12,000 vs. $47,000 in 2011 figures) could, as measured by Gallup's global survey, surpass the U.S. in the happiness of its citizens?

Denmark, Sweden, Canada, Australia were the top ranked, with Venezuela and Finland tying for fifth place.  The U.S. placed twelfth.  Chad was in last place in the survey.

Gallup found that:
 

Majorities of residents in 19 countries -- mostly in Europe and the Americas -- rated their lives well enough to be classified this way. Denmark, along with Sweden (69%) and Canada (69%), led the list, which is largely dominated by more developed and wealthier nations, as expected given the links between wellbeing and GDP. The U.S. falls somewhat near the middle of the pack, with 59% of Americans thriving.
Writing as an American who has lived in Venezuela for the last five years, I'm not at all surprised by the seeming anomaly that Venezuelans are very happy people.  Having left Hawaii, where it took me over $3,500 a month to meet my mortgage, utilities, healthcare and other basic expenses by working an average of 50 to 60 hours a week in the always grueling and often bellicose profession of trial lawyering, I came to Venezuela to teach English, where I have been living modestly well on less than $500 dollars a month ever since.

I can attest that happiness is not to be found simply in the pursuit of dollars. I am much happier here, freed of the constant awareness of the increasingly brutal police state which the U.S. has become.

Although one of the goals of the U.S. Declaration of Independence was to free its citizens from British domination in order to exercise their "Inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.  After succeeding in their revolution against British rule, our founders established a Constitution in which they gave their new government the tasks to promote justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity. (Preamble to U.S. Constitution.)

The Venezuelan Constitution of 1999 (English translation at http://venezuela-us.org/...), written under the auspices of the newly elected Hugo ChÃvez Friás administration, and passed by an over-whelming majority of Venezuelan voters, gave its government the purposes of:

 

the protection and development of the individual and respect for the dignity of the individual, the democratic exercise of the will of the people, the building of a just and peace-loving society, the furtherance of the prosperity and welfare of the people and the guaranteeing of the Fulfillment of the principles, rights and duties established in this Constitution.  Education and work are the fundamental processes for guaranteeing these
.

Today, in the dark shadow cast by the U.S. Supreme Court's recent decision to permit the wholesale intrusion into the most personal repository of human dignity, our naked bodies, by police, jail and prison officials, routine body cavity searches of our naked bodies for any citizen who wonders into their clutches, however innocently, for such things as leash law violations or broken tail lights, the call of the Venezuelan Constitution for governmental "respect for the dignity of the individual" stands out to me as perhaps the defining characteristic of a free and truly civilized society.

As a child of six or seven years old in the 1950's, I recall how appalled I was to watch documentaries showing hundreds of Nazis prisoners, stripped naked,  being marched into gas chambers in Germany during the Second World War.  Somehow, their nakedness, that evidence of having been stripped of their human dignity, was more appalling to me than the fact they were being marched into the death chambers.  

The U.S. Supreme Court's so casual discarding of the human dignity of potentially millions of innocent Americans had exactly the same affect up me as those German documentaries.  With such disregard for basic human dignity, the U.S. has discarded the very purposes for which our revolution was fought and our Constitution established.

But, aside from the fact that Venezuela does not permit the wholesale stripping of human dignity of their citizens, what else accounts for the fact that Venezuelan citizens report being the 5th happiest in the world?  And how did Gallup's measure their happiness?

Gallup's World Survey used the the Cantril Self-Anchoring Scale, developed by social researcher, Dr. Hadley Cantril.  Its format consists of the following:

Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to 10 at the top.
The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you.
On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time? (ladder-present)
On which step do you think you will stand about five years from now? (ladder-future)
(From "understanding-gallup-uses-cantril-scale".

See also Hart: For a discussion of Gallup's definition of "well-being".)

Respondents were questioned on their work life, social life, financial life, emotional life, physical health and community networks.

The numerical results of the, generally, face to face interviews with a 1000 participants in each surveyed country were allocated to the following three categories:

Thriving -- wellbeing that is strong, consistent, and progressing. These respondents have positive views of their present life situation (7+) and have positive views of the next five years (8+). They report significantly fewer health problems, fewer sick days, less worry, stress, sadness, anger, and more happiness, enjoyment, interest, and respect.
Struggling -- wellbeing that is moderate or inconsistent. These respondents have moderate views of their present life situation OR moderate OR negative views of their future. They are either struggling in the present, or expect to struggle in the future. They report more daily stress and worry about money than the "thriving" respondents, and more than double the amount of sick days. They are more likely to smoke, and are less likely to eat healthy.
Suffering -- wellbeing that is at high risk. These respondents have poor ratings of their current life situation (4 and below) AND negative views of the next five years (4 and below). They are more likely to report lacking the basics of food and shelter, more likely to have physical pain, a lot of stress, worry, sadness, and anger. They have less access to health insurance and care, and more than double the disease burden, in comparison to "thriving" respondents.
(See Jim Harter, op.cit.)

Let's look at Venezuela's 5th top score in light of the possible impacts on its respondents from a macro perspective.

The 1999 Venezuelan Constitution provides Venezuelans with the right to health care, the right to adequate housing, the right to adequate food, the right to work and bargain collectively, as well as the right to equality of access to these services, for all citizens, regardless of ethnic background, age, sex or physical mental in-capacities.

The Chavez government has implemented these rights by a massive investment in social programs, called Missions, to insure that it fulfills its constitutional duties to provide them.
Illiteracy which was widespread in the population when President Chavez was first elected in 1998, has virtually been abolished through sending cadres of teachers throughout the country to teach basic reading and writing. Literacy is now at the 98% mark.  But teaching all its citizens to read and write was merely the first step in the government's plan to provide free access to education for its citizens.

The massive literacy program was amplified by additional Missions to provide elementary and high school educations to those who previously hadn't completed that level.  Hundreds of new universities have been established, many having open enrollment policies for non-traditional students, which have allowed millions to access high education at no cost to themselves, while they receive stipends to supplement income lost while attending classes.  Indeed, all public universities are free and all public university students receive those stipends.  

Venezuela now has the second highest enrollment figure in higher education for South and Central America, second only to Cuba.. The average for all South and Central American countries was 29% (2009).

Technical educational programs are available to those wishing to learn basic trade skills.  A new Mission, "Saber and Trabajo" (Knowledge and Work) has enrolled hundreds of thousands of citizens into training programs which will lead to jobs in the agricultural, industrial, educational and public service sectors.

This training program into new jobs will not only improve the skills and living standards of the individual workers involved, but will help to build the new, diversified economy that the country needs to escape reliance solely on its oil production revenues and to provide for all its citizens needs and wants.  New factories for plastic fabrication, generic pharmaceuticals, cars, bicycles and motorcycles and advanced technologies, such as computers and telecommunications equipment are being constructed. (The government recently distributed its new, internet capable, Caima laptop computer to all students from the second grade up.)

The government has created a vast system of low cost "Mercalsâ" which provide basic food necessities are extremely low cost throughout the country, supplemented by government run "Comedors" or low cost public restaurants, where a three course meal can be had for less than a dollar.  These programs are augmented by periodic "food fairs" in local neighborhoods, where special foods such as fish for Easter and the fixings for Christmas dinner are conducted at prices far below the private markets.

After devastating flooding took the homes of many Venezuelans in 2010 and 2011, the government not only paid for temporary accommodations for the homeless, but  commenced a Mission Vivienda or housing mission, initiating the construction of a projected two million new homes for those dispossessed through flooding and for those without otherwise adequate housing.  

Many of those now training in the "Saber y Trabajo" Mission will not only be working to build those homes, but will benefit by being able to live in them, as a result of government-subsidized, low interest loans and outright grants.

The 1999 Constitution provides a right to work, and the existing labor laws are, by statute, to be interpreted in favor of the workers, whose right to unionization and collective bargaining is guaranteed.  A new comprehensive labor law is in the process of being discussed throughout the country, with input and proposals from more than 90,000 workers and workers' groups as well as the private sector employers and organizations.  It is likely that the new law will reduce the working day from eight hours to seven hours.  Workers already have guaranteed vacations of two to four weeks per year, with a Christmas bonus of one month's salary as a national law.

The Chavez government has long supported the idea of reducing the working day to six hours to enable the work force to have the time to attend their children's school activities and to, themselves, participate in educational and community activities. This has been widely opposed by many of the private employers and their organizations, the segment that forms the heart of the right-wing opposition to Chavez's socialist government.

The Chavez government has likewise created a new Mission to serve the special needs of senior citizens and those having mental or physical incapacities.  The Mission "En Amor Mayorâ" conducted a national census of the needs of its seniors and those with incapacities and has inaugurated many free programs to meet those needs, including home doctors visits, assisted living facilities, hospice care, and many personal services, such as repair of major household problems, such as leaking roofs and electrical and plumbing defects at government expense.  

These services to seniors and the incapacitated are in addition to the extension of social security payments to those who would not otherwise qualify, through previous formal work credits, for these monthly payments which are equal to the current minimum wage for workers.

Similar monthly payments are provided to single mothers who lack other regular income and to the families of children who have incapacities.

All Venezuelans have the benefit of universal health care services, including dental and optical services, with optical examinations and free glasses provided at least once a year.  All cancer treatment and drugs are free, as are drugs for major chronic problems.

Venezuela has done all this for its people while expanding its citizen's opportunities to participate in the democratic decision-making process, at a neighborhood level with community councils (consejo comunals) , town, state and national level, which allows all to feel that they have a say in the decisions affecting their lives. The Chavez government has created a reliable and auditable electoral system, with numerous safeguards.

While our U.S. Constitution mandates that our government "provide for the general welfare" of our U.S. citizens, the Venezuelan government has put that concept into concrete practice by investing billions of dollars (in the form of its Bolivar currency) into programs which provide its citizens with their basic needs of food, housing, work, health care and education without which no citizen can be free to truly develop his or her skills and creative capacities to pursue either happiness as individuals or as a community of citizens.

Venezuela has provided all these basic preconditions for human freedom for its people while expanding its citizen's opportunities to participate in the democratic decision-making process at the grass-roots level.  While these new programs have not necessarily caused the "happiness" of its citizens, they have created an atmosphere wherein optimism about the present and the future permeate the general spirit.

Venezuela has by no means reached a state of perfection in its socialist goals, but being the fifth happiness country in the world is certainly a measure of progress!  While the U.S. State Department and its puppet media voices would have Americans believe that Venezuela is a nasty, violent country living under a "strong man" dictator in order to deter them from considering this socialist alternative,  the reality is the that Venezuela's peaceful revolution against capitalist inhumanity, exploitation and disrespect for human dignity, is improving the lives of its citizens on a daily basis.  

And this revolution dances!  Joyous salsa music is the ubiquitous backdrop in the streets around my apartment, along with frequent playing of the superb national anthem.  Hear the music at: http://www.youtube.com/....  Read the lyrics, in Spanish and English, at: http://www.kbears.com/...

Originally posted to Anti-Capitalist Meetup on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 03:00 PM PDT.

Also republished by Income Inequality Kos and America Latina.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Justina, thank you for sharing this information. (21+ / 0-)

    I will make sure to check out all the links.  I think it comes down to two different world views about society: one where wealth and power is accumulated by a tiny group of people who are able to manipulate the population into acting against their own interests, and the other where wealth and power is more evenly distributed, aided by policies designed to do so.

    •  One That Is the Overwhelming Historic Norm, (11+ / 0-)

      and a new radically progressive one.

      We were part of establishing that new one in the mid 20th century but quickly dropped it like a hot potato. Our system, in our time, with our demographics, was far too easy for the historic power elite to take over.

      We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

      by Gooserock on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 03:55:36 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  GINI Measurement of Equality/Inequality (10+ / 0-)

      The GINI index measures relative equality/inequality globally on an scale of 0 (meaning equality of income/wealth) to 1.0, meaning absolute inequality of income/wealth among the various countries.

      Venezuela has reduced its GINI score by almost ten points since President Chavez was elected. It has the lowest GINI score in South and Central Americas, meaning it is has the most equality among the citizens of these countries.

      Unfortunately, the CIA, the source of these figures, does not seem to have current figures for many countries, but here is a sample of some of those countries which rated in the top 19 in "Happiness" scores in the Gallup survey:

      Venezuela  39 (2011), 49.5 (1998)

      United Kingdom  34 (2005), 36.8 (1999)

      United States 45 (2007), 40.8 (1997)

      Denmark   24.8 (2011 est.) 24.7 (1992)

      Canada  32.1 (2005), 31.5 (1994)

      Finland  26.8 (2008), 25.6 (1991)

      Norway 25 (2008), 25.8 (1995)

      Sweden 23 (2005), 25 (1992)

      (From: the CIA)

      Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

      by Justina on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 04:00:55 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for this Justina, not only the discussion (16+ / 0-)

    of the happiness scale (which, the UK gov't stopped talking about soon after taking power unsurprisingly given its construction) and a discussion of why the US for all its wealth and power is not producing happy citizens under an examination of happiness most certainly constructed for those purposes. oops ...

    quite honestly chasing the dollar to constantly cover your existence, having no job security, no housing security does not make for happy people ... we want more to life ... we only live once honestly! Thank for this great discussion!

    "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

    by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 03:23:00 PM PDT

    •  First UK results published February!! (4+ / 0-)

      Far from it being forgotten, the UK government had commissioned the Office of National Statistics to devise measurements of wellbeing. The results of a preliminarty trial survey were published in February this year which interestingly showed those over 65 to have the greatest life satisfaction and being "happy yesterday"

      Fight poverty, oppression, hunger, ignorance, disease and aggression wherever they occur.

      by Lib Dem FoP on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 03:55:35 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Interesting, I have not heard them talking about (3+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        TPau, Justina, pdx kirk

        it on the bbc recently and I listen to it all the time; wonder how happy those over 65 will be feeling due to the granny tax that this government is putting in? I know that the disabled elderly are not particularly happy as carer services are being cut all over London and those in care homes are in quite a mess.

        I can assure you that once the rest of the austerity measures put in by this gov't come into play (and I believe that was a few days ago) that the happiness scale for the UK will be dropping like a hot potato; unless of course they fudge the stats ... having spent quite some time talking to people in the east end of London, we are not looking at a secure population and that is before the majority of the measures bite.

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 04:03:13 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Nice summary. I was recently watching a program (14+ / 0-)

    About Venezuela and it expressed exactly this information. It talked about the differences in how activities are reported in the US vs. everywhere else. The people's love of Chavez. Interviewed a few 1%ers who, amazingly, we're pissed that they didn't have even more of the wealth and one who was saying it was time to leave the country. It reminded me of exiled Cubans.

    It didn't paint a utopia but a system of progress and general contentment.

  •  Great post... (10+ / 0-)

    This really is the heart of the issue isn't it? If the US government is not producing happiness, if it is just producing more and more oppression, should we continue to support such a government?

    De air is de air. What can be done?

    by TPau on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 03:28:41 PM PDT

  •  Thanks for posting this. (12+ / 0-)

    Even in the UK, the portrayal of Venezuela is negative. I am sure that some will mention the oil money that funds a lot of Chavez's initiatives, but many other countries are also rich in resources and, as far as I know, only Venezuela has shared the wealth to any extent.
    As to the U.S. being a police state. I can speak to that personally: my now retired printmaking professor was recently stopped in Texas for turning right on red when he didn't notice a contraindicating sign. A cop stopped him. Despite his HP tags, he was forced to get out of the car without his crutches and fell down. Meanwhile two other cop cars had pulled in behind the first one, and the personnel helped the first beat the crud out of the poor man. The eighty four year old disabled man then had to spend the night in jail for resisting arrest!
    I mentioned this to friend in Kansas and, by g*d, the same thing had happened to a friend of his who was likewise disabled. In the six years since I have left the States, it has turned into some place that is unrecognisable.
    I'm sorry to rant, and possibly considered a thread hijacker, but I have seen many other diaries about the good qualities of  Venezuela ignored because it is a "police state". People in glass houses should not throw stones.

    "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

    by northsylvania on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 03:31:00 PM PDT

    •  Wrt the UK, finding non-right-wing media is (9+ / 0-)

      almost impossible these days; even the Guardian is not as good as it used to be and that was one of the few good things here. I honestly do not expect coherent reporting of anything in Latin America and the Caribbean which contradicts US perspectives and interests. It is much easier to support the "special relationship" rather than address US gov't failings on human rights and international humanitarian law even when they themselves are compromised by US gov't actions such as the international torture network.

      US gov't interference in countries like Haiti is never reported and the discussions on Haiti here never addressed the fact that Aristide was prevented from returning to Haiti by the US, that his party was prevented from participating in elections and that the aid for rebuilding the country has been mostly withheld and that allowed has been absurdly managed by Bill Clinton who thought that building luxury hotels rather than rebuilding people's housing was a priority or that the US opposed raising the minimum wage in Haiti. So we need to ask ourselves who are the evil dictators? The gov't that is using oil and natural mineral revenue to make things better for its population or the one that ensures wealth and income inequality as that is more important for the capitalist system? The one that represents a majority or the one who serves the interests of a small minority?

      I am so sorry about your friend, this is appalling. I know that disabled people are treated as 3rd class citizens, but abusing them in this manner?! omg! Not a thread jack, this fits in well in the discussion!

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 03:40:39 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  This is going to create a great deal of (8+ / 0-)

      consternation and hand-wringing among the critics of the Venezuelan revolution, including some here at DK. If you listen closely you may even here a few heads exploding.

      A proud member of the Professional Left since 1967.

      by slatsg on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 03:41:46 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Justina always causes some heads to explode. (4+ / 0-)

        LoL :-). The heads which can't handle the truth that a lowly third world country oppressed and constantly targeted by our government does so well in serving its neediest.  And of course some heads get buried in the sand that is the propaganda of our lamestream media.

        "The word bipartisan means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out”. - George Carlin

        by Funkygal on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:55:53 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

      •  open-minded skeptic here (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        northsylvania

        Skeptical about most things, per scientific method and its variants.

        But it does appear that Venezuela is doing a remarkable job meeting peoples' needs and bringing about a strong sense of national community.  

        And it seems to me that the question of the purpose of an individual's life is crucial:

        = Are you working to enrich a handful of sociopathic bullies?

        = Or, are you working to build a national community for all, whose values are irreducible and intrinsic, sane, humane, and sustainable?

        "Minus two votes for the Democrat" equals "plus one vote for the Republican." Arithmetic doesn't care about your feelings.

        by G2geek on Tue Apr 10, 2012 at 01:03:20 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

    •  Re US police state glass house: Amen! (4+ / 0-)

      De air is de air. What can be done?

      by TPau on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 03:51:43 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  was your former professor (5+ / 0-)

      guilty of driving while less than lily white? There's a lot of that going around these day.

      Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." -- Isaac Asimov

      by Mnemosyne on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 04:00:27 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Nope (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Justina

        just old and eccentric.
        Justina: How did you get involved teaching English in Venezuela? Are you a native Spanish speaker?

        "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

        by northsylvania on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 01:28:09 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Visited VE Initially Via Global Exchange Tour. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          northsylvania, Brecht

          In 2006, I joined a Global Exchange tour to Venezuela which took us first to Caracas and then to Mérida, a city in the Andes, for Spanish lessons.  (Oh, how I wish I were a native Spanish speaker, but no.)

          We visited working cooperatives and had lectures from knowledgeable Venezuelan professors and journalists about Venezuela's history and political developments.  It was fascinating, as were many of the members of our 14 person tour group.

          Returned to Hawaii to shut down my law practice, take courses in Teaching English as a Second Language, and returned to Merida to teach English and write about life here.

          I continue to be favorably impressed with the great strides the Bolivarian socialist revolution is making here, despite the obstacles constantly put in its path by the U.S. supported right wing opposition groups.

          From my observations, President Chavez is a rare leader who really cares about improving the lives of the people.  He is also a very well-read visionary intellectual who understands the importance of extensively educating the whole population.  

          Because President Chavez himself comes from a poor, partly indigenous family, he  can frame complicated ideas  and programs in words familiar to the majority of the people.

          The people understand that he is striving to create a truly humane socialist society.  That is why they love him and support him so fiercely.  

          A biography of Chavez called "Chavez Nuestro" ("Our Chavez") by Elizalde and Báez can be downloaded free from here. Amazon has the English translation available  in paperback here.  It is a great read!

          Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

          by Justina on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 06:22:22 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

          •  Your posts (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            Justina

            from there are excellent and give a real flavour of what living there must be like. I am impressed by the courage it took to move a place where you had to undertake learning a new language from scratch.

            "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

            by northsylvania on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 09:14:40 AM PDT

            [ Parent ]

            •  I Still Only Speak Adequate "Survival Spanish". (1+ / 0-)
              Recommended by:
              northsylvania

              Having lived previously in Papua New Guinea and Cambodia, I learned that it is relatively easy to adapt to new countries.

              But I am not one of those fortunate people who have a facility for learning to speak foreign languages, although I have always been pretty good at learning to read them (Cambodian Khmer excepted.)

               I figure I have a defective department in my brain! Here in Mérida probably much, much less than 1% of the population speaks English, so Spanish is a necessity.  I keep working on it, hoping to one day be truly fluent.  

              Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

              by Justina on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 10:32:01 AM PDT

              [ Parent ]

  •  Thanks for the diary. (13+ / 0-)

    I'm sure this is the result of Gallup's hidden socialist agenda ... or something like that.

    The people of Venezuela have obviously been brainwashed by Chavez and his dictatorial government. Yes I know there are free elections but it's not really a democracy if people don't choose leaders who are favored by the USA.

    A proud member of the Professional Left since 1967.

    by slatsg on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 03:32:12 PM PDT

  •  If health care's so great (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    crankyinNYC, Miggles, MGross

    How come the President leaves the country every time he needs treatment?  Isn't that kind of embarrassing?

  •  More interesting research on Happiness... (9+ / 0-)

    Human happiness is a surprisingly well researched and politically almost completely ignored subject. Some interesting findings about happiness. It seems to be very connected to how level the playing field is for any given nation. The US has severe inequity in its economic playing field and also a vast disparity between the 1% and the 99%. Venezuela has been working on bringing their economic disparity under control and leveling their playing field. Not surprisingly this has worked to make their citizens happier. Some interesting things are linked to this economic disparity. Here is a brief list:

    Murder rates
    Crime in general
    Obesity
    Teen pregnancy
    Drug use
    Mental health issues

    In other words, even if you are part of the 1% economically, if you live in a country with high economic disparity, you are more likely to be obese, isolated, and a victim of crime. In truth, even the 1% in the US would benefit (although not economically) from a more level playing field and a happier population.

    For more on the research check out: Equity Trust.

    De air is de air. What can be done?

    by TPau on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 03:38:59 PM PDT

  •  Hey Justina. (13+ / 0-)

    What a great and solid Diary.


    "Armaments, universal debt, planned obsolescence — the three pillars of Western prosperity." — Aldous Huxley

    by Pluto on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 03:43:05 PM PDT

  •  Was Anyone Doing Essentially This Survey in the (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NY brit expat, Justina, slatsg, apimomfan2

    1960's, before both our parties decided to run the economy off the rails? I'm guessing "no."

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 03:53:37 PM PDT

    •  It is of pretty recent construction (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Justina

      and that is why really it hasn't been used before; it is simply coincidental rather than causal as far as I know.

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 03:56:09 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Happiness research has been going on a while now.. (4+ / 0-)

      The best and oldest data I found on the topic, indicates we have been falling off in happiness as the income disparity increases. And check where the US falls on this 1995 graph of well being research: graph and here

      Bhutan has been calculating the Gross National Happinesssince 1972. They have tried to export the idea to the West with some positive results.

      Satisfaction with Life Index since 2005
      Happy Planet Index since 2006 (Britain #74 and US #114)

      World Happiness Map in 2006

      De air is de air. What can be done?

      by TPau on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 04:29:28 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I've seen some economists calculating a (3+ / 0-)

        happiness index; that is who are behind the index that is supposedly being calculated in the UK. They are unfortunately mainstream economists so I am a bit skeptical about the construction, but I do need to examine it in more detail.

        Interesting that the linkage between income inequality and happiness is so apparent, but I am certain that it is probably more than that ... it probably has something to do with how the revenue that is taken in as taxation that is ensuring the narrowing of income inequality is spent in healthcare, education, housing, employment, social services. I also would not be surprised in the least if the sense of community that arises when all are provided for has some role in the measurement and also a cooperative rather than competitive relationship with other members of the community.

        "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

        by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 04:42:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Interesting thing about the Spirit Level... (5+ / 0-)

          findings:

          Income disparity seems to be the thing that drives the unhappiness. The researchers looked at both rich nations and poor. Poorer nations did not always have a robust social safety net because the whole nation was doing without. If the income disparity was high, unhappiness was high--even in wealthy nations. If the income disparity was low, happiness was high--even in the poor nations.

          The reason may be that if we feel everyone is treated the same, then we are all in the same boat--there is more social cohesiveness. On the other hand if some have much more than others, even if all are better off than most nations, the lower classes strive to catch up, creating strain. Upper classes strive to maintain or advance their lead.

          It may have much more to do with human psychology than any tangible benefit acquired from a more equal economy.

          De air is de air. What can be done?

          by TPau on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 04:54:29 PM PDT

          [ Parent ]

    •  Yes, A Longitudinal Comparison Would Be Great. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      NY brit expat, TPau, aliasalias

      I'm not sure when Gallup started doing this global survey, but will take another look at their website and see if I can find some dates.

      Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

      by Justina on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 04:30:10 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Americans really don't have any idea... (8+ / 0-)

    how oppressed they really are. It's only after you have had time to live outside of the US for awhile that you can objectively look back and make a comparison.

    After spending 5 years out of US, I truly don't care if I ever return. I don't feel free at all in the US. I do view the US as a police state. I've visited nearly 30 different countries and none I have visited even come close to having a law enforcement like the US. I actually find it frightening.

    We have the ability to do the same thing here in this country if we could quit starting wars of choice, quit giving tax breaks to the richest amongst us and corporations who abuse us. Unfortunately, the only way I see that happening is through revolution. It will never happen as part of our corrupt, so called democratic process.

    Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity.

    by reflectionsv37 on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 03:55:37 PM PDT

  •  Hey Justina -- it is so nice to have your gut (14+ / 0-)

    level belief verified by no less than the Capitalist Gallop Poll! Seriously, what I think is most interesting is that when I was in Venezuela a few years ago (2008) I wouldn't say that the level of development or "standard of living" in terms of commodities or technology was very high from the USA point of view and, while I'm sure it is constantly improving, even with the economic downturn-- I think part of why Venezuelans are so optomistic is 1) that they see it going in the right direction and 2) that they are part of creating the change.  It must be nice to have the 99% running the government! Would be nice if we could have it here (USA)!

  •  An ex-Londoner writes (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NY brit expat, Justina, northsylvania

    about life in #1 Copenhagen. Nice piece in that she also includes some of what she perceives as the down side of the move, although it's pretty minimal.

    Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means "my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge." -- Isaac Asimov

    by Mnemosyne on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 04:07:10 PM PDT

    •  I keep thinking about the food there, but (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Justina, Mnemosyne

      that's me. :D

      "Hegel noticed somewhere that all great world history facts and people so to speak twice occur. He forgot to add: the one time as tragedy, the other time as farce" Karl Marx, The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte .

      by NY brit expat on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 04:14:29 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  I'm No Gourmand, (6+ / 0-)

        and not a gourmet either, but I find the food on the local streets just fine, and the fruits and vegetables are terrific.  We have an huge open air market a few blocks away and it's great fun to shop there and observe the produce and the people!

        Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

        by Justina on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 04:50:02 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Chavez has been "demonized" here (10+ / 0-)

    But I dont doubt that he has been great for Venezuela.  That is exactly the reason he gets re-elected in fair and square elections.    

    •  Chavez is a loon, plain and simple. (0+ / 0-)

      What was the latest conspiracy theory of his -- that Obama had some secret program for inducing cancer in South American leaders?  And holds kooky summits with Iran called the "G2"?  Yes, I think it's great that he has made Venezuela more equitable, but he is an absolute nut.  This is the guy that has pledged to stand by Iranian president Ahmadinejad through thick and thin.  The demonizing of Chavez is well earned.

      •  Not exactly (0+ / 0-)

        He may be a bit paranoid but he good reason.  Bush Junior trued ti assassinate him and then instigated a coup against him.  With that sort of meddling, I am not surprised he has become a bit paranoid.

        Oh yeah and heaven forbid that any nation should hold an economic summit where the almighty US is not in charge.

        "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

        by noofsh on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 05:26:28 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  More Than 100 CIA Assassination Attempts On Castro (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Brecht

          The media tries to denigrate Chavez in every way they can.  Chavez is not being paranoid to believe that the U.S. and their right wing puppets in South and Central America are trying to put him out of commission.

          The U.S. supported coup attempt against Chavez in Venezuela in 2002 was on the verge of killing him.  Documents from the Vatican's ambassador to Venezuela verifies that.  

          More than 100 armed paramilitaries from Colombia under Uribe's regime were arrested inside Venezuela.  They admitted they were there to assassinate Chavez and promote a counter-revolution.

          Documents obtained from the U.S. government document that the the CIA made over 100 attempts to assassinate Cuba's Castro, not to mention the many assassinations of African and  South and Central American leaders who dared to depart from the U.S. orders over the last fifty years.

          Today, the U.S. is openly assassinating foreign citizens (and even our own citizens) in drone attacks in foreign countries.

          It is not "paranoia" when the U.S. really does want you dead.

          Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

          by Justina on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 06:59:33 AM PDT

          [ Parent ]

  •  Hmmm ... (5+ / 0-)

    I should learn more about this.  I already know the language and like the food.

    But seriously, it is getting scarier and scarier to live in this country.  I am pretty much an optimist and "look on th sunny side" type person.  But I find it harder and harder to feel positive about the country/culture that I will be passing on to my children and grandchildren. And I do occasionally wonder what it would be like to live somewhere else.

    The Spanish language news does not paint Chavez as "evil" as the English language news.

    •  Wish we spoke (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Justina

      fluent Spanish. After reading this diary to my husband, he agrees that we'd rather live somewhat lower on the food chain, but feel equal to the people around us. Envy is corrosive.
      What will happen when Chavez eventually does pass on? For that matter, it would be interesting to know what is going on in Cuba right now.

      "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

      by northsylvania on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 02:08:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  It's partly a cultural characteristic (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    FG, MGross, Frank Knarf

    Venezuela is a happy place; it's known around the world for beauty pageants and baseball.  That would account for the substantial gap between the 64% self-reporting and most indicator of real well-being; 64% also exceeds, by a steady 5-10%, support for chavismo proper.  You can also see this broadly cultural bias for happiness beyond economic and political conditions in the results for Colombia (48%) and Mexico (52%) which have very different regimes; curiously, Santos is much more popular personally than Chavez, but Colombians are less happy.  Contrast that to the shockingly low numbers (in the 20s) for Peru and Bolivia, both governed by the Chavez-identified Left; Bolivia is especially striking because Morales has been totally devoted to the well-being of the poor and indigenous majority since he came to power, and has nothing to show for it according to this poll.  Some people are just more morose than others.  

    But nobody's buying flowers from the flower lady.

    by Rich in PA on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 05:17:17 PM PDT

    •  This reminds me, by the way... (0+ / 0-)

      ...of a Colombian bumper sticker of the late 1980s: "Colombia se derrumba y nosotros de rumba," "Colombia is collapsing and we're partying" (This was followed by "Let's do something to save it!" so it wasn't mere observation but rather the origin of the constitutional reform of 1991.)

      But nobody's buying flowers from the flower lady.

      by Rich in PA on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 05:32:51 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  Why do you hate the left so much? (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Justina, NY brit expat, Rich in PA
    •  Chavez has a gusher of petro-dollars (0+ / 0-)

      to play with.  It is great that he spreads the wealth around but  Venezuela would be a very different place without all that oil.

      Where are we, now that we need us most?

      by Frank Knarf on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 07:43:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  So Does the U.S., But in Hands of Corporations! (0+ / 0-)

        Yes, the U.S.'s demand for oil, greater than any other nation in the world, along with its oil speculators, have greatly increased oil revenues to Venezuela since President Chavez was first elected.  

        The Chavez government has used the now high oil profits to fund its social programs for the benefit of all its people, not handed them to private investors and high priced CEO's.

        But think of what could be done in the United States if the profits from its oil companies were invested in social and construction projects that met the real needs of the majority of the American people!  Why we too could have universal health care, free university and technical educations, adequate housing and plenty of food.

        Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

        by Justina on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 10:59:16 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Hey, Anyone Listen to the National Anthem? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    NY brit expat, northsylvania

    The national anthem here is really great, unfortunately I couldn't find a link which played both the music and the lyrics together, so I put separate URLs for both at the end of the article.

    The anthem is played a lot here and it is beautiful and inspiring!

    Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

    by Justina on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 05:29:38 PM PDT

  •  I watched South of the Border recently (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Justina, TPau, NY brit expat

    by Oliver Stone and he had some interviews with Chavez that were interesting to watch.

    Check out the group Daily Kos Gamers. We need more diarists interested in gaming!

    by pot on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 05:47:02 PM PDT

    •  Good film too btw, I recommend it. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Justina, NY brit expat

      Nice to see the new left in South America rising up.

      Check out the group Daily Kos Gamers. We need more diarists interested in gaming!

      by pot on Sun Apr 08, 2012 at 05:56:38 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

    •  He was interviewed on NPR (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      isabelle hayes, Justina

      when he was offering to ship oil to depressed cities. I was stunned at how reasonable he sounded compared with how he was being portrayed at the time. He did have a wicked sense of humour though, which might account for some of his unpopularity in US political circles where everything is deadly serious.

      "There's a crack in everything; that's how the light gets in". Leonard Cohen

      by northsylvania on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 02:13:20 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  same serious US pols who tried to assassinate him? (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Justina, northsylvania

        Hmmm, yeah those guys.  When they failed to assassinate him, they tried to instigate a coup against Chavez, when that failed they tried to meddle in elections.  Yep we have a stellar record with regards to our neighbors in the South.  Little wonder that they dislike our power elite.  They understand we are all about money which is why our power elites can't stand even one socialist success story.

        "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

        by noofsh on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 05:23:27 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

  •  Hi Justina, sorry I missed hanging out in (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Justina

    the evening. Great diary.

    Read something from Eva Golinger that US is allocating some money for Venezuela. Maybe meddling in the election?  How does it look for Chavez?

    "The word bipartisan means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out”. - George Carlin

    by Funkygal on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 02:15:49 AM PDT

    •  Gollinger Has Documented U.S. Electoral "Meddling" (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Funkygal, Brecht

      in her books.  See her blog "Post Cards From the Revolution".

      Eva Gollinger is an American lawyer of Venezuelano parentage who made a series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests from the U.S. government which, when obtained, document U.S. funding for electoral meddling in Venezuela through the U.S. State Department's USaid and its National Endowment for Democracy program, which funds the National Republican Institute, its Democratic Party equivalent and even the AFL-CIO's international programs.  Each of these programs sent funds to Venezuelan oppositionists to foster their efforts to remove President Chavez.

      Gollinger's books document the amount of U.S. funds allocated to opposing Chavez and their sources.

      And, while sending funds to Venezuela's opposition to aid both their electora efforts (and extra-electoral efforts)  the U.S. itself has strict laws in our country against foreign funding of our elections.  Venezuela now has similar laws against foreign funding of its elections.

      Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

      by Justina on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 07:14:25 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Talking about education, read a beautiful (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    isabelle hayes, Justina

    account of Castro's (quite effective) drive for literacy in the 1960's. It is by Jonathan Kozol - "Children of the revolution" - he spent time there.

    "The word bipartisan means some larger-than-usual deception is being carried out”. - George Carlin

    by Funkygal on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 02:19:11 AM PDT

  •  well we did beat Chad ... (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Justina

    we're number one, we're number one

    nope I guess number 12

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

    by noofsh on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 04:43:42 AM PDT

  •  Thx for writing this by the way (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    isabelle hayes, Justina

    I am learning alot.  There has been lots of negative PR planted by right wingers in the media about Venezuela.  I think Chavez has done a remarkable job.  

    "The real wealth of a nation consists of the contributions of its people and nature." -- Rianne Eisler

    by noofsh on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 05:12:59 AM PDT

  •  i'd like to know more (0+ / 0-)

    about that finding that "59% of americans [think they?] are thriving"

    such self-reporting is not convincing

    since probably the majority responding to the poll are in the 99%, and we know how most of us feel about our lives if we get sick, lose our income, etc., i.e. worried

    all the same, i suspect too many among the 99ers are  conservative nonthinkers, not at all ready to support even a nonviolent revolution

    •  Yes, Would Be Interesting To See a Current Survey. (0+ / 0-)

      The majority of the U.S. population is definitely not "thriving" now, and many are actually suffering because of loss of jobs and foreclosures, not to mention the millions who now qualify for food stamps and need to use food banks!

      Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

      by Justina on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 07:19:27 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  I doubt they poll political prisoners for this... (0+ / 0-)

    ...or the Venezuelan diaspora.  Think we're past a quarter million in the US, I've certainly met a number in Texas.

    •  Yes, Doubt They Polled U.S. Prisoners Either. (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Funkygal, Brecht

      The U.S. imprisons more of its people than any other country in the world, in that the U.S. truly is Number One!  (See this New York Times article for some details.  We have a 5% of the world's population, but incarcerate one quarter of the world's prison population.  One in every 5 of our Black male citizens has been jailed.  As of 2008, 2.3 million were incarcerated.  China ranks a distant second in this horrendous competition.  The U.S. also jails folks for actions which are not even seen a crimes in other countries, such as drug use and possession, and gives them longer sentences than obtain elsewhere.

      As for those Venezuelans who voluntarily moved to the U.S. after President Chavez's election, they obviously had the wealth to do so, demonstrating that they were not representative of the majority of Venezuelans  when Chavez was elected.

      Convict Bush, Cheney and their torture cabal. Support universal health care,unions, WikiLeaks and Occupy Wall Street! Time for a totally new, democratic economic system. Turn the corporations into worker cooperatives!

      by Justina on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 10:17:23 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Is that your response to everything? (0+ / 0-)

        The reflexive anti-Americanism is kind of tiring.

        Chavez apparently is awfully fond of labor unions as long as they toe the party line, he created a good 19,000 of those "wealthy" Venezuelan exiles when he sacked all of PDVSA during the 2002-2003 strike.

        Most of the rest of them are people who happened to own assets that he wanted to hand to his own followers.  The fortunate ones are overseas, the less fortunate ones, in jail.

  •  Talking to a young women about a yr ago. (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Justina, Funkygal

    She was travelling in Venezuela and developed an ear infection.  She went to the nearby clinic, walking distance. They did not ask for papers of any kind, citizenship (she was US citizen), insurance, photo ID, nothing.

    She was simply treated for her ear infection.

    Solidarity Forever, for the Union makes us strong.-Ralph Chaplin, 1915

    by JayRaye on Mon Apr 09, 2012 at 08:50:23 AM PDT

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