Tuesday, November 6, 2012

USA complaints vs. life in Argentina

It's election day in the USA! Unfortunately that means a lot less patriotism and pride than one would expect. In the entitled and self centered world we live in, people don't consider what's best for them might not be best for the society at large, or that regardless of who is elected we [will continue to] enjoy numerous great freedoms and a quality of life much better than the majority of the world.
Of course, angst and emotions run high is any society when the government is changing. But so many entitled Americans, who have never lived the hard life in the States, or who have never lived and worked abroad don't realize that even when things are bad they are relatively good. Living in Argentina has given me a new perspective and appreciation for the United States, but also left me frustrated with people who don't know how good they have it.
Americans complain about the rising prices of gas, but Argentine's struggle with the rising prices of food -staples like milk and vegetables. Inflation averages 2-3% each month, though published figures are widely known to be low-balled. The past few years have been especially alarming in that the inflation has been especially high somewhat mimicking the years leading up to the 2001 crisis. Read more about that issue here, or here, or here! (The second link has a great chart comparing prices then and now.)
(This graph from tradingeconomics.com shows inflation for the past two years.)
Americans complain about federal funding being cut from Planned Parenthood. In traditionally Catholic Argentina, abortion was just legalized this year, and only for victims of rape or if the mother's life is in danger. This kidnapped sex slave had her abortion protested.
Americans complain about waiting in line to vote, even with the introduction of early voting. In Argentina, voting is required by law, one day only and citizens are assigned one specific voting location. You better believe in a country infamous for lines everywhere polls are no exception, and with 16 and 17 year olds now able to vote that will only get worse. 
Americans complain that the government is corrupt. But in Argentina, in the last six months alone, two former military leaders were convicted of baby stealing, a former president was on trial for corruption, and a Youtube video of police torturing prisoners was released. Not to mention that the same couple has been ruling the country for 12 years, and President Cristina tried to make a constitutional amendment to make it 16
Americans complain about insecurity. Actually, they don't really. The issue generally only come up in the wake of an occasional tragedy. In Argentina violent crime is daily issue for people, especially in Buenos Aires. Two stories from this week (and you hear these stories every week) that come from people I know include a friend being robbed at gunpoint on the same block as her home, and a student fighting off a thief who tried to yank a gold chain off his neck through a subway window. I also know firsthand: someone who was kidnapped and robbed though later released, someone else who received an extortion call to throw money from his balcony or else his allegedly kidnapped mother would be killed, and many people who were victim to a myriad of other lesser offenses. 
Americans complain when some people Occupy Wall Street and other cities. In Argentina, everyone is used to everyone else occupying whatever street they want -- skateboarderspolice, middle class people, truck drivers, miscellaneous unions, students, air traffic controllers... There's no messing with a protest. 
Americans complain that the US is becoming socialist and the government controls everything. In Argentina citizens who want to travel abroad and exchange pesos for dollars need to apply to and be approved by the national tax agency. If approved, Argentine travelers are only allotted between U$S 70 and U$D 100 per day of travel. And if you try to use a credit/debit card or shop online there is an additional 15% charge. Also, the national identity card which all citizens must carry requires you to give up your fingerprint
Don't get me wrong, Argentina also has some policies that are better, and in my opinion more progressive, than those of the US. For one, gay marriage is legal (since 2010) throughout the country and children are recognized as the child of both parents. Another example are labor laws that favor employees - giving more time off for holidays and maternity leave, making it harder to fire people and requiring a biannual bonus. Every country has its good and bad. Overall though, life in Argentina (and many other countries) is harder than life in the USA.
The attitude of constant progress, innovation and improvement is one thing that makes the US great. But in pursuing those things Americans should realize that even as is, and as things will be with the next president whether it be next year or in 2017, life is pretty good. 
...Am I starting to love Argentina?

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