Touria Prayag's Blog

L’express Weekly, 3 September 2010

Posted in Uncategorized by touriaprayag on September 3, 2010

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So What?

The headlines are catchy, pompous and unambiguous: “The World’s Best Countries: a Newsweek study … ranks the globe’s top nations.” Nowhere in the whole study is there any mention that only 100 countries were surveyed. Nowhere is there talk of anything but a classifi cation of all the countries of the globe. The fact that Mauritius had the dubious honour of not being named among the world’s best 100 countries triggered much anger, emotion, disappointment and disbelief. How can we possibly be ranked behind countries like Nigeria, India and Madagascar? Who would want to go and live there? Behind Azerbaijan? Who even knows where that is? A question by yahoo regarding the best and worst countries in the world received the following answer: “Best – Australia: good weather, great sights, high standard of living, strong economy, not overcrowded, faraway from the trouble spots, laid back locals. Worst – anywhere but Australia.” If you substituted “Mauritius” for “Australia”, no one would see any incongruity. But Newsweek’s study was not based on impressions; fi ve distinct aspects of national well-being were considered: education, health, quality of life, economic competitiveness and political environment. Whether we were left out of the list because we did not make the grade or because we are too small and, not being members of the EU, not “important” enough is not clear. Nor is it signifi cant. What is more important is why we seem so convinced that our rightful place is there. Yes, we have beautiful sunshine which we soak up through our windscreens as we sit in traffi c for the best part of the day, beaches which the owners of bungalows and tourists enjoy, a political environment so stable that we can predict the results of the next general elections and an economy where a few players, raking in profi ts by the bucketful, are constantly campaigning for currency devaluation. We have free quality schooling for the rich and powerful who falsify their addresses and free hospitals providing care particularly for non-communicable diseases where we hold some world records! Our eating habits are terrible, alcohol is ravaging hundreds of homes and as far as drug use is concerned, we compete with Iran for another world record! We live in a secular state where religious lobbies dictate most of our social policies and women are dragged to court for being too poor to have an abortion done in a clinic. Patriarchy is rife and, if this is not enough to push us down the list, we have Mr. Choonee as minister of Arts and Culture! But so what? As it happens, the survey reveals that cold, dark and depressing nations seem to top the rankings. The Nordics always dominate such lists. An American analyst offers the following humourous explanation for the link between freezing temperatures and a high ranking: “A heated classroom is better than being outside, hence education is important; moving briskly is good preventive medicine, thus health is robust; quality of life improves immensely when one must get as close to one’s beloved as possible to fend off the chill; the political environment is better when it’s too cold to fi ght in the streets.” Let’s face it: we are a nation fraught with prejudice, perpetually gazing at our navels and our national sport (outside gambling) is measuring ourselves agaisnt others. This study, for whatever it is worth, is a good lesson in humility. We should refl ect on it and retain a sense of humour. After all, this is still the country where we want our children to grow up. Which Newsweek expert can take that away from us?


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