Every time one of those - admittedly flawed - surveys of global happiness is published, the nations of Central America figure close to the top of the chart.
And yet every time an article appears in the global media about Guatemala, or indeed some of its neighbours, readers are invited to consider these countries as encapsulating all their worst dystopic social nightmares: murder, child abuse, corruption etc. etc. I used to put this down to ignorance or at least the love of sensationalism within the western media, but this week, with the release of that despicably manipulative Michael Sheen video I am starting to detect something more deliberate.
I can't tell you how sick I am of articles which suggest that the insecurity that Guatemala experiences today is a continuation of the 'civil conflict' of 1960-1996 which, it is commonly suggested, normalised the population to high levels of violence. This is complete and utter BOLLOCKS. Next-door Belize was a nice ordered place run by the Brits during most of the same period, and yet today has an even higher homicide rate. As does Jamaica for that matter, or indeed the US Virgin Islands, neither of which, tellingly, are targeted by the media as western hemisphere equivalents of Somalia.
No, this violence is largely a consequence of America's cack-handed 'War on Drugs' and has little connection with Guatemala's long struggle to restore political legitimacy.
Growing up in 70s Britain I was exposed to more political violence than my Guatemalan wife and the rest of her family. Three IRA bombs went off close enough to my home to shake the walls so violently that it would be no exaggeration to suggest that I was a little traumatised.
The Guatemalan civil war was in contrast very un-Syria like. The vast majority of the urban population could be forgiven for going about their lives as if nothing much was really happening. For two decades the regular army engaged various rag-tag guerilla outfits in the hinterland. In the latter stages of the conflict, thanks in large part to an American counter-insurgency doctrine derived from its Vietnam experience, there was a scorched earth campaign in the predominantly Mayan provinces of Guatemala now widely characterised as genocide. But today, these are the very regions of the country where violence and insecurity are less pronounced than in the metropolitan core. So, these apparent crimes against humanity surely cannot be said to have lastingly accustomed the local population to placing a low valuation on human life.
The one connection that can be made between the civil war and the present condition of the country relates to the way it was wrapped up. The UN insisted that as a condition of the peace accords, that the Guatemalan army should be dramatically reduced in size. As a consequence of this well-intentioned imprudence - not unlike the equally dunderheaded American disbandment of the Iraqi army in 2003 - the country was suddenly flooded with out of work majors and colonels who immediately took up with organised crime.
Back in the 1980s UNICEF's biggest beef against Guatemala was infant mortality. This problem has receded and as a result the population has grown by 2m in two decades. 1m Guatemalans also now live legally and illegally in the US. The economy grows at a healthy 3-4% rate per annum, but this is still not enough to provide sufficient economic opportunity for all the young people.
The timing of the UNICEF film to coincide with Joe Biden's visit last week is surely no coincidence. The Central American nations have asked for $15bn to deal with the issue of economic migration - especially that of unattended minors - and one has to surmise that the Obama administration has an interest in finding a way to maximise the private contribution to the forthcoming inflow of funds.
The broader issue of population dynamics and economic migration is one that American culture and politics are simply not geared up to face in an honest manner. The Republican party is racist at heart and would rather build a bigger wall along the southern frontier. Meanwhile the Democrats have found a way to deal with the problem is via a disturbingly paternalistic reflex - the surplus humanity can be only admitted into the USA via adoptions or, failing that, by considering all Central American children as 'refugees' from hopelessly endemic violence.