I cannot watch the news. It only takes minimal exposure before I want to curl up in a ball on the floor. For instance, I keep hearing that Mexico is on the Verge of Collapse, and also that it is a Failed State. This is scary stuff. I’m not sure what happens when a country that has survived for a thousand years collapses. What is left behind?
I admit that it makes me anxious, and more so since I recently watched a harrowing special about the Dust Bowl on the History Channel. Was I to understand that having the earth denuded of it’s topsoil, drought, livestock keeling over dead, a historic depression, 25% unemployment, and plagues of freaking millipedes had not put America on the Verge-of-Collapse, but Mexico is permanently perched there? This means that somehow the country that I’ve chosen to live in has to be a third world hell worse off than Dust Bowl Oklahoma. My anxiety has turned to skepticism.
It turns out that The Fund for Peace has a grading system called the Index of Failed States. When a state is failing, it doesn’t mean that there will be some kind of supernova as it collapses in on itself, as I vaguely thought. It’s less like a star burning out and more like failing math in your sophomore year. Instead of A-F, it goes from Green (sustainable) to Red (Alert). In between are Cream (Moderate) and Yellow (Warning), and believe me, the whole world lives somewhere in the cream and yellow zone, including America and Mexico. It’s clear that you can’t be rock and roll and be in the Green…only countries like Luxembourg and Sweden are green. And Canada.
It didn’t require much of a time investment before I began to feel like I’d been had by the the Talking Heads and their catastrophe rhetoric. Again. If you don’t straighten up, says the Fund for Peace, you’re going to fail. Just like my parents used to say! But in the hands of newcasters with hour after hour to fill, it becomes something very different.
Believe me when I tell you that I’m content to leave politics to the people that give a damn. If it doesn’t involve rhinestone appliques or reality television, I’m not interested. When I am forced to listen to the news, I usually feel only a vague sense of horror, like a teenager hopelessly eavesdropping while grown-ups ruin her life. So I didn’t set out to become an expert on this kind of stuff, and in fact, I haven’t.
But I can report that the Verge of Collapse turns out to be a very wide place, a regular esplanade, if you will. I have learned that the standards for being a Failed State are low, and almost any accounting error or severe storm will qualify you. A government only has to come up short in one of many varied criteria, and economy is one of those, so to my surprise, the USA is in fact sharing the Verge of Collapse with her neighbor to the South! Also crowded onto the Verge are Argentina, Venezuela and Israel, and of course, Russia and China.
Thanks to the Internet, God bless it, even if the Fund for Peace gives you a passing grade, it’s pretty easy to find someone who thinks you’re a Failed State. As an example, I thought that England would be safe, serenely hunkered down somewhere with a gin rickey watching the sun set on those of us who were roosted on The VOC, but nope, Britain is in danger of bankruptcy, which certainly gets you an F. New England, too, because the Atlantic Codfish is, you guessed it, on the Verge of Collapse.
The exception is Canada. I mentioned my findings to the ladies who lunch, noting that Canada seemed to be safe from the VOC. “Oh, we’ve been bankrupt for years.” our Canadian bff drawled. “The healthcare system, you know.” I can’t find anything to substantiate her position though, and she’s the same woman that thinks W was an excellent king.
I’m pleased to report that Mexico can be a Failed State and on the Verge of Collapse and still be a damn fine place to live. Drug wars are bad and so is flu, but this sunny nation has never been free of violence or illness or poverty or even millipedes, and people have always fallen in love and settled in Mexico in spite of it. I don’t know what drives the relentless barrage of media that addresses only one aspect of this country of contrasts. It seems like bullying, petty and mean. The fact is, bad in Mexico exists, and it can be pretty bad… but, what the hell, Mexico’s good is so much better.