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Happiness Ranking: From Oslo To Addis Ababa And Beijing

Smiles of all ages in Hamar, Norway
Smiles of all ages in Hamar, Norway

It's official: Norway has toppled Denmark to become the world's happiest country in 2017. Or, to put in local linguistic terms, the world's lykkeligste country. This year's rankings, which came this morning to coincide with the International Day of Happiness, surely has left more than one Danish unhappy, or ulykkelig (yes, Norwegian and Danish languages are close).

The World Happiness Report is an annual UN survey which ranks 155 countries by their state of global happiness, based on criteria including GDP per capita, life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity and public trust. As expected, developed Western nations dominate the list, and nations of the African continent make up most of the bottom part. Worse, the report shows that "only two African countries have made significant gains in happiness over the past decade": Sierra Leone and Cameroon. A situation that booming demographics are unlikely to change.

Ethiopia, which ranked 119 and where a state of emergency was imposed in mid-2016 amid student protests, is a good indicator of the continent's current situation. As Italian journalist Enrico Caporale reports for La Stampa, the country has one of the highest population growth rates in the continent and it "is projected to reach 210 million people in 2060, up from the current 99 million." And like many other African countries, the former Italian colony is being caught in a vice between Chinese "neocolonialism" and a process of "Islamization" fostered by Gulf monarchies.

"Outside the airport, at the first traffic light, my taxi jockeys for position with a economy car driven by a man who appears to be Chinese. ‘Since they began arriving a few years ago I see them everywhere," my Ethiopian taxi driver complains. ‘We used to call white people ferenji, which means foreigner, but now we mainly use it for the Chinese. They've built everything here."

Back in China, there is little doubt that this expansion abroad has helped accelerate a quarter-century of rather stunning economic growth. But how has the rise to becoming the world's No. 2 economy translated on the happy front? Monday's UN report notes that China remains stuck down in the 79th slot on the World Happiness Report, demonstrably no happier than they were before the economic boom. 伤心 Sad.

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Society

Parenthood And The Pressure Of Always Having To Be Doing Better

As a father myself, I'm now better able to understand the pressures my own dad faced. It's helped me face my own internal demands to constantly be more productive and do better.

Photo of a father with a son on his shoulders

Father and son in the streets of Madrid, Spain

Ignacio Pereyra*

-Essay-

When I was a child — I must have been around eight or so — whenever we headed with my mom and grandma to my aunt's country house in Don Torcuato, outside of Buenos Aires, there was the joy of summer plans. Spending the day outdoors, playing soccer in the field, being in the swimming pool and eating delicious food.

But when I focus on the moment, something like a painful thorn appears in the background: from the back window of the car I see my dad standing on the sidewalk waving us goodbye. Sometimes he would stay at home. “I have to work” was the line he used.

Maybe one of my older siblings would also stay behind with him, but I'm sure there were no children left around because we were all enthusiastic about going to my aunt’s. For a long time in his life, for my old man, those summer days must have been the closest he came to being alone, in silence (which he liked so much) and in calm, considering that he was the father of seven. But I can only see this and say it out loud today.

Over the years, the scene repeated itself: the destination changed — it could be a birthday or a family reunion. The thorn was no longer invisible but began to be uncomfortable as, being older, my interpretation of the events changed. When words were absent, I started to guess what might be happening — and we know how random guessing can be.

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