The World Today for March 31, 2023

NEED TO KNOW

Joyful Warriors

FINLAND

For the fifth time in a row, Finns are the happiest people in the world.

According to the United Nations’ World Happiness Report, citizens of Finland demonstrate high levels of “eudaimonia,” a term the ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle coined to describe “overall life satisfaction,” reflecting a “pro-social, healthy, and prosperous” society.

Finns enjoyed the best financial incomes and health outcomes, felt both social cohesion as well as a sense of freedom, and experienced generosity and little corruption in their day-to-day lives. Close connections to nature were among the reasons why Finns were so happy, Smithsonian Magazine wrote.

The United States ranked 15th on the list. Germany, the United Kingdom, and France stood at 16th, 19th, and 21st places respectively. Afghanistan and Lebanon were at the bottom.

Still, political conflict is possible even in utopic Finland.

When Finnish voters go to the polls on April 2, they will choose between the ruling Social Democratic Party and its charismatic leader, 37-year-old Prime Minister Sanna Marin, and the right-wing opposition groups, the National Coalition Party and the Finns Party. The clash between these two sides will have implications beyond the capital of Helsinki.

Marin has been something of a darling for Western leaders who have sought to present a united front against Finland’s giant neighbor, Russia, in the wake of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s genocidal invasion of Ukraine last year.

Overturning Finland’s traditional neutrality, for instance, Marin convinced Turkish President Recep Erdogan to give the green light to Finnish membership in NATO, a major expansion of the alliance that brings Western forces along a huge section of Russia’s northern border, the Associated Press reported. She recently floated the possibility of giving American-made F/A-18 Hornet jets to Ukraine, too, Newsweek added. Ukrainian leaders have been begging for more warplanes.

Marin also frequently appeared in Western media to discuss issues of global significance. In an interview with 60 minutes, for example, she discussed the benefits of countries having a young leader – she assumed the premiership at age 34 – describing how she perhaps understood the urgency of addressing climate change more than earlier generations of leaders, for example.

Still, not all were happy when the young leader caused scandals over her late-night partying, the Guardian noted.

The Social Democrats are trailing in the polls, too. As Politico wrote, Marin might be more popular among conclaves of foreign leaders, diplomats, and non-government organizations than she is among her constituents. The prime minister has pledged to improve public services, especially the national health system. Her conservative rivals, blasting her spending plans as irresponsible, are calling for fiscal austerity and more restrained public spending, explained Reuters.

Some Finns, it seems, are not so happy.

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