I'm writing in English, which is strange in itself since I really love my own language, Finnish, and since I detest the power position that the English language has in global communucation... but I'd get way too many complaints from American friends if I didn't write in a language comprehensible to them.

May 4, 2011

USA number one

I was looking at phone numbers one day and was surprised to see that the country code for the USA was 1. I didn't know any country got to have that and said something to the effect to my dear husband (who is American). He said "That's probably what you get for inventing the telephone." Oh.

Yes, the US did invent the telephone and many other modern miracles too. Older miracles are invented in other countries, and just recently this phenomenon we call globalization is making it hard to say where anything is invented, since everything seems to be multi-national.

I might be a bit jealous of America. You see, Finland's country code on telephone is 358. We might have invented the cell phone, but that's a bit hard to prove.

America seems to want to be number one in everything else too. I guess that's just natural for a competetive nation. We participate in sports because we want to win - be number one - and for America everything is a sport in that way. During the cold war America was competing hard with the Soviet Union to be the number one superpower. After the cold war the Americans felt comfortable in their ultimate power. There was no other country that could even come close in financial or military power, or, as many Americans felt, innovation, freedom, courage or other values Americans admire.

Lately there has been a bit of a fall down to earth. China is seriously competing with America about the spot of the strongest economy. America might even be only number two in some respect. This could not be tolerated. As America's number one position was threatened, down went the president's approval ratings (first president Bush's, then president Obama's.) Obama also received critics for his foreign politics. In Libya Obama didn't take a leading role (thus showing the number one position) and the leader turned out to be (shudder) France in stead. Was Obama giving France the chance to be number one?

Just recently Americans were comforted by Obama's independent decision to go to another country's soil and execute America's number one enemy, Osama bin Laden. This reminded everyone that America is still number one, and can and will do whatever it wants. Obama's approval ratings immediately went up 11% (but don't worry, it won't last long.)

For any American this might seem nothing to complain about - as long as America only does good, not evil, in the world, then why should it not be number one? (I'm not going to discuss whether America only does good and no evil in the world - that question would need a whole book.) However, nations of the world are a bit like children in a playground. If one child always wants to be the first and decide what the children should play, the others get upset. It doesn't help if the child is the biggest and strongest of them, in fact, it may make things worse. The more that child emphasizes that it is number one, the more the other children resent it, even if all the child's commandments or suggestions were reasonable.

Every nation wants to be an equal voice - except for those that want to be a bigger voice than others. That is the strenth of the only truly international organisation, UN. (Ok, we could discuss how equal nations are in the UN, but to be honest, there is no other organization that even comes close.) Many Americans don't like the UN. Many others don't like it either, since it is so slow and full of conflict. I love it for the same reason - the conflict means that no country can actually pull its own agenda through. If there's conflict in the UN that is because there's conflict in the world. Nations don't think alike on issues. However, the UN is a place where they can try to work them through - and in matters of culture (UNESCO) and protection of children (UNICEF) it seems to be working at least a bit.

One more thing. The USA might be number one in many things, I'm sure, but a recent trip showed me it's not the only number one in telephone country codes. Canada shares 1 with the USA.


  1. Great, great post, Tuittu! What I've discovered myself is that the americans seem to be brought up to believe that USA is number one in everything and that it definitely is the best country in the world. Then, if some americans ever found out that some things are actually a bit better somewhere else and there's no way to give credit for that to US, they're devastated and don't know what to make of it. I found this very interesting when I first discovered it.

  2. One thing Finland is definitely #1 in: Munamies.

  3. hahaha, scott, right on! there's no competition :D

  4. The UN, originally called the League of Nations, also a US invention, although not favorable toward the US, for which two world wars were entered or started so the US would join. And since then every war the US has entered have been UN wars.

  5. Anna, the UN is in a way a US invention, but that's where it's a bit hard to say who invented it... the US started it but it wouldn't be UN without other countries. But yes, we can be grateful to the US for it! Not every war has ben UN war - Libya yes, Iraq not quite. Bush didn't quite have UN permission, although there was some UN resolution which was almost what he wanted. The weapons inspectors were UN people and hadn't found any weapons of mass destruction.