Note on Revised Version (feel free to skip this part): I am revising this to correct a couple of mistakes, and also to add a couple of things I thought were self evident, but evidently need to be spelled out. This essay is intended to be taken at face value. It is not a disguised dig at America or any other country. It was intended simply to point out that the notion of greatness is subjective. Certain Americans, especially Admiral, apparently misunderstood this and got oddly defensive. When I said that politicians ought to listen to their constituents he interpreted this as a dig at Bush (methinks he doth protest too much). Then when I mentioned Freedom of Speech he didn't even consider the possibility I might be thinking of the United States. If your country is so great, why do you always assume other people think the worst of it? Somewhere along the line Admiral seems to have got the idea that I hate the U.S. I don't. I just disagree with some of their foreign and domestic policies. If a mother disciplines her child for swearing, that doesn't mean she hates the child, just that she wants it to behave.

Admiral- No, a longer essay wouldn't give your viewpoint crediblilty. Only admitting that is in fact only an opinion would do that. You used quotes from someone who shares your point of view, and claimed that validated your position. It does not. I could quote a friend from Sri Lanka who moved to Australia and thinks it's a pretty good place to live, but I know that the fact that the two of us think so doesn't 'prove' anything. I could quote Qualia too. Would that make me twice as right? Of course not! An opinion is still an opinion, no matter how many people share it. In reply to Hnmn- you seem to have fallen into the same trap Admiral did in assuming that anywhere outside the U.S people are oppressed and poverty stricken. As an Australian, I don't consider myself either of those things.

The Greatest Nation

I thought this up at work (God knows, I need something to occupy my mind- my job is washing and packaging pond weed. all day). I'll be grateful to anyone who humours me by reading it, but mainly I'm writing it for me, to prove I can still think. It is intended as a response to the debate recently stirred up on over which country is 'the greatest nation on Earth'. Calvin Fitzgerald and Admiral insist that is the United States. However, the entire debate is really quite pointless unless we know what exactly those writing mean by 'greatest'.

According to the Oxford Popular English Dictionary (I love this book, it's my Bible), the word 'great' means:

"Great /greit/ adj. 1 of a size, amount, extent or intensity much above the normal or average (also contemptuously). 2. important, pre-eminent. 3. remarkable in ability, character, etc. 4. (also greater) the larger of the name. 5 fully deserving the name of; doing a thing much or on a large scale. 6. (colloq.) very enjoyable or satisfactory 7. Competent at; well informed on.-n. a great person or thing.."

I assume the aforementioned writers are using either meaning 2, 3 or 7, or a combination of the two. If it's meaning 2, important to whom? The United States is important to people who live there, and to different degrees, to people in many (though not all) other countries. But is it THE most important country? How could that possibly be proven one way or the other?

(Note: My fiancé, known here as Qualia, has just brought me a beer. Victoria Bitter, in my opinion, is fucking great- meaning 6.)

The drift I get from Calvin Fitzgerald and Admiral's essays is that they believe the U.S. is indeed 'remarkable in ability, character etc.', but this depends on your point of view. If either of the aforementioned writers had just said that they BELIEVE the U.S. is the greatest nation because blah blah blah, I would still consider it a strange (it seems to be just Americans who feel the need to make statements like this all the time. I honestly wonder why that is) and arrogant statement, but a true one. It's the way that they insist it's a 'fact' (I think Calvin said 'simple truth') that bothers me. A fact is something that you can prove. Neither Admiral, nor Calvin have proved their contention because that is impossible. All that they can say, truly, is that America is the greatest to them.

What one person considers virtuous or moral may be totally abhorrent to another. In some cultures, cannabism is (or was, I think imperialist Western nations have pretty thoroughly stamped it out now) considered not only acceptable, but essential. Different people have different values, so it is foolish to assume that your values are universal. It is also foolish to assume that your values are necessarily the 'correct' ones. We are all human, and therefore fallible.

The following is a description of what I would consider to be a truly great nation. These are just my opinions. Your ideas on the subject may be different. That is precisely the point. Some of these things I may elaborate on in further chapters or essays. Until then, we may just have to agree to disagree. It's my hypothetical nation, and I can do what I want with it. Since I try to write about what I know, it's mostly based on my own country (things I like about it, things I don't, things I'd like to see etc), though I have looked into the policies I am aware of in some other countries, including the U.K and the U.S. Note for revised chapter: Yes, I'm aware that some of these things exist already in some countries (eg. the education system I describe is mostly the one we have here, ditto for healthcare.). There's no need to review and tell me so. My point is that a truly great nation for me would have ALL of these things. NOTE: When I refer to free education, healthcare etc. I mean publicly funded (ie. Funded through taxation). It is commonly referred to as 'free' in Australia, meaning that the individual does not pay the immediate cost.

On with the show! In the Nation:

Education (At least 12 years of schooling) would be free to all. Tertiary education would be subsidised by the government and the amount universities could charge would be regulated. Interest free loans would be provided to students, adjusted for inflation, so that anyone who wanted to would be able to study. They would be required to pay these loans back only after their yearly incomes reached a certain threshold (say, AU$30,000). This would be paid for by taxation.

In the Nation's schools, sports days would not be compulsory to all students unless cultural events were also.

The toughest punishment which could be meted out by the judicial system, for any crime, would be life imprisonment without possibility of parole. Prisoners would be given access to education and training programs which would help those of them returning to the community not to reoffend. The Nation would not imprison people from other nations without giving them their consular rights.

Most drugs which are now illegal would be decriminalised. The government policy on drugs would be focused on harm minimalisation, rather than punishment, so safe injecting rooms would be provided for heroin users. This would help reduce the number of overdose deaths. The money saved on arresting and imprisoning drug users could be spent on rehabilitation and preventative education programs.

As long as the Nation could afford it, refugees would be welcomed, regardless where they came from, how they got here or whether they had the proper paperwork. Where possible, background checks would be done to ensure that they weren't criminals in exile, but the Nation would refrain from treating ALL asylum seekers as though they were criminals, when it is perfectly legal under international law to seek asylum in another country. They would never be detained in prison camps, but rather boarded out in the community, which would be far cheaper and much less traumatic for the refugees, especially children. This does not mean that the government would not keep tabs on them, just that their accommodation would not be surrounded by barbed wire. Also, being made to feel a part of the community would help those who were granted asylum and citizenship or residency to find jobs and contribute to the nation's economy.

The nation would provide free healthcare to all its citizens. This would make them more productive and able to contribute to the economy. This, too, would be funded through taxes.

Any citizen of the Nation who was of sound mind, of legal age and not in prison would be allowed to run for public office. Elected officials would be expected to listen to the people who vote them into office and to consider what they think and want when making their decisions.

The age of consent would be the same for homosexuals as it is for heterosexuals, as there is no logical reason for it to be otherwise. Homosexual couples would be allowed to marry and adopt children (subject to the normal checks on prospective adoptive parents eg. Background checks to see if they had any criminal convictions). Single people would also be allowed to adopt children provided they could demonstrate that they were able to provide for them.

The minimum wage would be enough to live on. Workers would have the right to join unions if they chose. All workers would be entitled to at least 4 weeks paid holiday per year.

The Nation's police force would not be routinely armed.

All journalists would be required to take an oath (like the Hippocratic oath taken by doctors). It would be called the Pulitzer oath, based on Pulitzer's guidelines on ethical journalism. This would ensure that they worked to make the truth known to people, rather than simply to stir up scandals.

The Nation would have a national broadcasting corporation, which would have to remain politically neutral and would not be allowed to have paid advertisements. A national broadcaster would serve the needs of the community in a way that commercial radio and television stations would not, as the programs it screened would not be commercially motivated. Also, public radio is much less annoying to listen to since the music is not continually interrupted by advertisements. Provisions would exist to screen programs for minority groups within the community (programs in different ethnic languages with subtitles etc.). It would also provide viewers with an opportunity to learn about different cultures, promoting understanding and tolerance.

Religion would be kept out of politics. The Nation's leaders would not use religious justification for any of the government's actions. Religious groups would not be allowed to dictate which artwork could be displayed in public galleries or which books could be stocked in public libraries and the libraries of public schools. Religion classes in public schools would teach about all the major religions, allowing children to make an informed choice. The theory of evolution would be taught in biology classes. Parents who did not like this could send their children to private schools.

The Nation would acknowledge that bringing up children is work, albeit unpaid, so free childcare would be provided to single parents who wanted to work or study.

A welfare system would be in place to provide an income to the elderly, the disabled, carers, people with dependant children and a low income, full time students and the unemployed. The unemployed would be required to prove that they had applied for a set number of jobs per payment period, and would be helped to find work. The long term unemployed would be required to take part in programs of community work or training in exchange for their payments. This would help them build up their job skills.

Citizens of the nation who lived on a very low income (less than a certain set threshold) would be entitled to a concession card, which would give them cheaper fares on public transport.

A citizen of the Nation would be considered legally independent of his or her parents from the age of 21. A citizen could qualify for legal independence at a younger age if he or she was married, lived in a de facto relationship for 12 months or more, was forced to leave home, or earned more than a certain amount (eg. $15,000) in a 12 month period. Legal independence would entitle a citizen to welfare payments if needed.

The Nation would see itself as a part of the international community and would be considerate of the effects of its foreign policies on other countries. The nation would always abide by International law.

The Nation would not persecute individuals for speaking their minds. The Nation would allow its citizens to protest peacefully whenever they felt the need to. The Nation's citizens would be free to belong to whatever religious, political and social groups they chose, provided these did not interfere with the rights of others.

The Nation would strive to protect the environment where possible. Legislation would protect any World Heritage areas within the Nation's borders.

I will probably add more points to this as I think of them, but that's it for now. Must sleep now in preparation for another day of weed sorting. Yay!

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