Ireland has been named as the place with the highest quality of life in the world, says the Economist. Having just returned from there, I can vouch that, with the exception of the smoking ban (see previous posts), Ireland is a fabulous, if bloody expensive, place, and somewhere I would be happy spending time drinking Crested 10, sheltering from the rain, and avoiding tax.
‘TOP TEN COUNTRIES’
The USA is 13th and the UK 29th. Surprises me not. What interests me is that I have been to 8 out of the 10 top countries and can make comparisons. Last time I read such a survey, Norway was top and had replaced Switzerland. When I went to Norway, I loved the place, but the beer was 5 quid a pint (double the expensive UK price) and you can only buy wine from licensed government shops. However, heroin was plentiful and cheap, so Oslo city centre was full of white-faced kids passing out on the pavement.
A survey by William M. Mercer (2002) said that Zurich is the best city on earth to live in. It may now have been replaced by Dublin, but when I first visited there in the early 90s, it was in the middle of a similar epidemic. I was travelling around in a luxury car (they were ALL luxury!) on my way to a radio station and we went past a young, vibey looking crowd having a good time in a well-kept park.
“Who are they ? What’s that ? Can we go there ?” I asked chirpily. I got a strange look from the driver, and my beautiful (they are ALL beautiful!) female host said quietly and with some dry amusement, “They are the addicts. They are being given the clean needles.”
It’s a funny phenomenon – a country gets to the top of the tree, and it’s population, in particular it’s youth, languishes. Is that because, at the top, there is nothing left to strive for ? What is it stops a country like Ireland, Norway and Switzerland from descending into chaos ? Is it because they are all actually pretty damn straight places (and they are ALL straight!) ?
Switzerland cleaned up it’s drug problem with a series of measures, some strict, but mostly by treating the addicts like the health problem they were. Norway was still in denial when I was last there, it may have improved by now. Ireland does suffer from it’s own problems – it still has pockets of real poverty, something you don’t find really anymore in the other two of the top three – and has a degree of drug banditry which sometimes causes high-profile deaths.
I doubt the availability of hard drugs figured large in the calculations of The Economist, unless it was compiled by HUNTER S. THOMPSON, but they do seem to come as a package. Perhaps this explains the constant Irish references to “the craic”.