David Rakoff is the author of the new book Don’t Get Too Comfortable: The Indignities of Coach Class, The Torments of Low Thread Count, The Never-Ending Quest for Artisanal Olive Oil, and Other First World Problems.
This book delves into the hypocritical aspects of American life, the luxuries many of us take for granted and the absurdities we simply ignore. And, once again, it got me thinking about how good everyone in America has it compared to the rest of the world despite our frustrations at home and work and our self commitment to a never ending rat race. I looked up some encouraging facts any westerner should pay attention to if you ever feel like you’ve got it bad:
1. If you woke up this morning with at least $350 US dollars in the bank you are in the wealthiest 8% of the world’s population.
2. If you consider yourself a somewhat healthy American then you are far ahead of the 1 million people in third world countries that will die today because they lack access to basic amenities you take for granted – like vitamin A in their food.
3. If you’re religious and you feel free go to your place of worship regularly in America you’re way ahead of the almost 2 billion people who are assaulted, arrested, incarcerated and tortured each year for attempting to worship or participate in their religious beliefs.
4. If you woke up this morning and took a shower or used a toilet then congratulations, once again you’re ahead of approximately 2.6 billion people, or 40 percent of the world’s population, who lack access to basic sanitation.
5. If you put gas in your car recently, at any price, think about this: in a passenger car, for example, typically only 10 percent of the oil’s energy actually moves the car. Of that, only about two percent actually moves the passenger. So you are wealthy enough to afford an energy resource you will only use at 2% efficiency to haul you down the road. The rate of cars being built now exceeds the rate of growth of the world’s population*. And you are fortunate to be among the 28% of the world’s population that owns them.
6. As of 2004 the impact of the average U.S. citizen on the environment is approximately 3 times that of the average Italian, 13 times that of the average Brazilian, 35 times that of the average Indian, 140 times that of the average Bangladeshi, and 250 times that of the average sub-Saharan African.
Source: UNICEF, The State of the World’s Children
So don’t be surprised to find me laughing at anyone who is about to bust a blood vessel because they forgot to put ketchup in the bag at the drive-thru.
*NOTE: To clarify this is growth rate based upon percentage. From 1974 to 1999 the number of automobiles manufactured per year increased 44% and the world’s human population only increased 16%. As of August 2003 there was 1.9 cars in America for every licensed driver. – Source: Transportation Alternatives, NYC