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greg dahlen

Alumnus, academy of achievement

TEDCRED 50+

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How does it feel to live in a smaller, or a less powerful, country?

I've lived all my life in the United States, the world's most important country in my lifetime. I suppose some of it rubs off, by living in an important country I feel important. I wonder how people feel in smaller, less powerful countries, do they feel unimportant because their country is not as powerful, do they have a grudge against more powerful countries because they are more powerful, do they have an eagerness to prove they are just as good as people from more powerful countries, or that their country is just as good, do they not care or see advantages in being from a less prominent country?

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  • Da Way

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    Sep 29 2013: I think the important point is not to stay in one country all your life. How can you know whether something is better or worse without experiencing it? You may travel the world and decide the US is the best country after all, in which case great for you!

    Personally, I've only experienced Asia, Europe and the US. I don't prefer one over the other particularly. Asia (far east) for me has the best quality of materialistic life, in the US I find overall the friendliest people, and Europe is the most culturally sophisticated, I am yet to experience the rest of the world but Im sure as long as you're not in a war or crime zone, you will find something you like, regardless of the size or power of the country.
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    Oct 12 2013: I work with a lot of immigrant people or new immigrant people and trust me when you are on 2 islands at the bottom of the world they get really home sick and realize just how good they had it at home but surprisingly only a few return, i don't know why? There's not much to do on 2 islands except bicker and run around trying to find meaning to a once proud small colony by latching onto another super power.

    I have noticed within my small country there is an unease and a sense of insecurity. I don't know what it is but it feels like something big is in the air somewhere else on the planet.
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    Oct 12 2013: Most people's concerns are local, no matter what kind of country they live in, and if you feel more important for being American that's just your fantasy. Unless it affects them, people everywhere don't pay that much attention to far-away events or cultures. I live in two countries, one large (US) and one small (Norway). People in Norway don't give much more thought to the US than Americans give to Norway. Well, some more, because the US is often in the news, usually in a negative way. If the Norwegian prime minister does something dumb it doesn't affect very many people. But when the US president does something dumb people can get hurt all over the world.

    I don't agree that the US is the "most important country," though it's seen that way by many Americans. It is the country that has been in most wars in the last century, and it's probably the world's most despised country and perhaps the most feared because of its tendency to bring down the hammer on smaller countries. But in the US also, people in my town are much more concerned about their own condition - about unemployment, the economy etc - than about what goes on around the world. The latter is of importance mainly when it affects them, like a rise in oil prices. In the end people are people. I haven't seen much difference, though those in smaller countries may be happier on average.
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    Sep 16 2013: I feel normal and comfortable. Well my country Philippines most of the time don't have problem with other country. The only negative thing that I feel is that when I see something on tv which other countries have it make me wish that hopefully we have like that too. However I am happy and contented with my country.
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    Sep 16 2013: Yo, at least there are no acts of terrorism as nobody really cares for such heck-holes as Poland, Hungary or the Czech Republic.
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    Sep 16 2013: small countries are still extremely huge, beyond the limit of comprehension. the size of the country does not make a whole lot of difference
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    Sep 16 2013: the idea of countries has passed it's used-by date
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      Oct 12 2013: Perhaps, but about 20 new or redrawn countries have appeared, just in Europe, in the past 25 years, and several more in Asia. The growing tendency seems to be that each ethnic group wants to be a separate country. So much for multiculturalism.
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    Sep 14 2013: I live in Shanghai, China. I think if my country is stable and safe, and I can live happily with all people around me,it doesn't matter which country is better. Sometimes I think the US is powerful but also a little dangerous , because you're always the target group of some terrorists' attacks. Comparatively speaking, Chinese people don't have so much trouble with them.
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      Sep 15 2013: Sometimes from a distance we get a little bit distorted view of life in other countries.
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        Sep 15 2013: :)Yes, so I'd like to visit the US someday with my eyes and ears, and if you're interested please come to Shanghai to feel my city ,too.
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        Sep 16 2013: ..especially when you get media in between. it distorts the perceptions people have of their own country too..
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          Sep 16 2013: Yes, particularly if they are not also looking around to do their own assessments. Some people come to believe positive marketing (perhaps the more so in places where critique of ones own government is illegal or punishable and the media is controlled by the government) and some tend to see "the grass always greener on the other side." (perhaps the more so where critique of one's own institutions and public figures is applauded and admired). Errors of perception and comparison can go both ways.

          Would you say that in New Zealand people have an over-rosy view, typically, of their country or more often believe and assert that the governments and other institutions are overwhelmingly corrupt and inept? .
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        Oct 12 2013: f, would you agree with me that the u.s. has been the most important country in the world in our lifetime, or is my feeling distorted?
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          Oct 12 2013: The United States has certainly had huge impact on the world in our lifetimes.
  • Sep 14 2013: I live in Israel, not a large nation by any means, albeit a regional power and still (barely) western in terms of standards of living.
    I've never felt much contempt towards other countries for having it better off than me, though again, I don't exactly live in the third world. The one exception to that rule is the mandatory military service I had to go through--though that's less a factor of how powerful a country is and more dependent on its security necessity.

    The primary difference is that in smaller countries, you're much more aware of the outside world.
    Its more prominent on the news, its more noticeable in the culture, and you typically visit abroad more both for business and pleasure (Israeli tourists are notoriously difficult). Most Americans live their lives without ever leaving the US, and have an accordingly poor understanding of much of the rest of the world; in Israel, the opposite is true, at least to an extent.

    Another key difference is a very Israeli psychological hardening towards violence and armed conflict in general. Frequent war and terrorist attacks tend to do that, either before or during the time spent in the military. Though again, more a factor of national security than country size/strength.
    The US and most of Europe don't realize just how well they're off in that particular department, BTW. Terrorist attack casualty figures per year in the single digits? No neighbor stockpiling chemical armament or trying to develop nuclear weapons, again? Luxury.