So i’m just gonna post this thing, and hope i get some sleep soon..
I got an A on it, if you were wondering. Oh, and I removed the biblio, so thats what the cites were.
The Lies of Happiness
“Nowadays people know the price of everything, and the value of nothing.” -Oscar Wilde.
In Bhutan, King Jigme Singye Wangchuck expressed the priority for his nation to follow the measure of the well-being of the people to be based not on G.D.P, or gross domestic product, but on G.N.H., the Gross National Happiness. His goals for doing so is “in part to return to a richer definition of the word happiness.”(Revkin 1) This goes on to connect with what Raj Patel says in his book The Value of Nothing. In the book, he mentions Bhutan and their recent spike in crime as a direct correlation of satellite television becoming widely available. (Patel 37) The Gross National Happiness of Bhutan decreases in value as a result of having different standards of equality that cannot be matched. Raj states that we as a society have been blinded by our beliefs in false values attributed to things that were, in essence, worth nothing. It is also worth noting that while Raj uses this idea to express his rationale behind why our economy and market structure is the way it is, this idea can also be used to explain why the world itself is the way it is. Nowadays people strive to achieve and attain a great deal of things in the pursuit of happiness, but what they do not realize is they are pursuing something they already have, and although money, fame, and wealth can bring fleeting joy, it blinds you to the true meaning behind why you desire it.
Let us first look to Bhutan and to why they used to be the happiest nation in the world, and why they no longer are. It all started in 1972. Jigme Singye Wangchuck did not want his nation to fall into the same trap that were afflicting other developing countries, the trap being a false sense of worth based upon economic growth. He devised a belief called the Gross National Happiness, and uses it as a basis for all the policies that he institutes. This led to Bhutan becoming the happiest country in Asia, and the eighth-happiest in the world. (Kemenev 1) The world at large looked to Bhutan as a model from which to base their own societies, and to try to break down just what G.N.H. actually is. There are 7 metrics: (IIM)
1. Economic Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of economic metrics such as consumer debt, average income to consumer price index ratio and income distribution.
2. Environmental Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of environmental metrics such as pollution, noise and traffic.
3. Physical Wellness: Indicated via statistical measurement of physical health metrics such as severe illnesses.
4. Mental Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of mental health metrics such as usage of antidepressants and rise or decline of psychotherapy patients.
5. Workplace Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of labor metrics such as jobless claims, job change, workplace complaints and lawsuits.
6. Social Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of social metrics such as discrimination, safety, divorce rates, complaints of domestic conflicts and family lawsuits, public lawsuits, crime rates.
7. Political Wellness: Indicated via direct survey and statistical measurement of political metrics such as the quality of local democracy, individual freedom, and foreign conflicts.
What happened next is very striking, after the introduction of television into the societies of Bhutan, crime waves broke out as many people decided that they needed to steal in order to attain the things that were shown on the television. (Scott-Clark 1) It was as if overnight, the country decided that it needed all these things, and the equality that they once saw between one another disappeared with a desire to be better than one another taking its place. Of course, another conclusion to this correlation can also be drawn, and that is that “rising inequality makes the majority of people less happy.” If that holds true, then it would be logical to assume the opposite must also hold true, that belief in equality between yourself and society leads to happiness.
How then, does one achieve this equality? This is how the lies set in. The lie that, money will make you happy. It is indeed a cliché that the person who has “bought the BMW, the person who has the #3 million Mill Valley house, still does not feel good about their life.” (Patel 26) It’s also not even the stuff that you get that doesn’t make you happy, but the attempt in trying to get that stuff that makes you unhappy. “In a survey of 12,000 incoming freshmen from twenty-one select colleges in the United States in 1976, those who placed more importance on money in 1976 were less satisfied in 1995.” (Patel 28) There is also no guarantee that all those who placed money in a place of importance even achieved the money to buy the things they thought they wanted. Nevertheless, they are as unhappy as those who do indeed have all the money they need.
There is another lie, this one not quite as obvious and it takes us into the world of the ethereal, because it enables us to forgo the desire of a preservation for life. Suspend disbelief with me for a second. We know that medicine costs money. If this is the case, then I must attain money to keep myself healthy. This can be blown out to generalize itself as the desire for comfort, or for security. I will be happy as long as I have enough money to put food on the table, enough money to keep a roof over my head, enough money to keep me alive. This is where the lie comes in, that your life is worth preserving, worth spending the amount it may cost. More on that later. Now we get to a new study in 2010, this one by setting a standard where money no longer makes you happy.
Researchers at Princeton University have found that “people’s feelings of joy and contentment increase along with their income up to about $75,000. (“Press Trust of India” 1) These findings were based on the Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, which measures people’s day to day level of happiness and overall life satisfaction.” Remember back during 2008 when then Senator Barack Obama was asked to “define rich.” Obama said “if you are making $150,000 a year or less, as a family, then you’re middle class.” (Powers 1) It’s uncanny that $75,000 is exactly half of $150,000, and if we consider that most households have two monetary providers, it’s quite spot on. As a comment and criticism, some people say that $75000 may be enough in Alabama, but in New York, you’re going to need much more than that to be happy. That’s the answer then, that depending on your levels of equity, you have different standards of how much it takes to be happy.
If all of the above is indeed the case, then the key to happiness is equality. This can generalized into oneness with you and the rest of the world as the way to happiness. What makes all humans the same, if it is not to be given life itself? (I’ve looked for research to back up and solidify the claims I am about to consider. I could not find any, but I thought it as something that ought to be said regardless.) Consider your equal insignificance. The Best way to get an honest assessment of the world you live in, is to be honest about the one thing you share with the rest of the world. You will die one day. So will every other man, woman, child, and baby. The collective death that life brings with it, the collective meaning that death contains. Once you can accept this, you start to think of yourself and your troubles as insignificant in comparison with the rest of the world. You are just one person out of 7 billion. You are also equally insignificant, with the rest of the people. That, is where everybody starts. To first say, that no matter what glory you achieve in life, no matter what joy you can evoke from others, you are nothing more than a single person given a single life, on this pale blue dot. You need to consider the thought that, nothing matters. You are already made equal.
If Happiness is a goal to be attained, then I would say that you have already attained it. Equality between others, an intrinsic intent for interconnectedness, I believe that lies at the heart of everything we do. If that is indeed the case, then all the things we do, all the money we try to gain, all the fame we attempt to attain, it all falls short from the thing we most desperately want. The reason for this, is because we are already happy. Remember, if happiness is equality between yourself and others, gaining money, gaining fame above others, glory above the rest, invariably sets you apart from those who you wish to be one with. I suppose that brings up the other issue of just why people try to be better than others.
I believe this portion of my rationale has to do with a common belief in western society. That belief is in “not enough.” We as Americans have this belief that the world is a capitalist society,that it is a dog-eat-dog world, that you must strive for success, or it must be a pursuit for happiness. This all implies that life must be difficult, and because of this belief, one believes they must rise above others to be happy. This is not the case. I suppose if you wish to bring it from the ethereal to the literal, I would say that If you must rise above others to be seen as special enough for a special job, it would behoove you to know exactly why you decide to shine brighter than others, so as to prevent yourself from burning out. If you are doing it so that you will be more likely to be chosen, then it is in your desire to be accepted by the group the chooser comes from; the acceptance and connectivity between you and the group you wish to rise to, compared to where you are. I would like to say that this is not something that brings happiness, but merely the connective bond that people strive to feel, in which case, it is THAT which you desire and that which you receive. This is why people aren’t completely black and white happy and miserable, because believing you are accepted by a group you desire to be in, is belief in the interconnectedness you are now a part of. If that is the true, subconscious intent behind your actions, then you are believing something else is making you happy, when in reality, you are simply getting your acceptance from elsewhere. Why try so hard to get something you’ve already had?
Think of life as a game, with you having already won the prize. If you have already been given life, you have already been given equal interconnectedness. Then there’s another level. Happiness: merely the emotion people believe they wish to seek. It is through the pursuit of happiness that happiness tends to fly away. If the true goal is interconnectedness, then happiness is already within your grasp, you’re just too blinded by trivial pursuits to see it.
The other thing, is actually playing the game. Because living your life accepting the belief that you are the same, is merely the truth that you can choose to believe. It is not the end all, be all, great answer to life. Someone once told me, if life is so fulfilling, and you are so fulfilled, why do you still live? To play the game. See, in a game, there has to be players. Some people play the game well, and believe they are on a good path to winning, some people believe they are not quite so good, and feel sad in their belief that life is just hard by nature, and that it has to remain that way. The actual truth however, is knowing that life is indeed a game. Those living as mere pieces on the board, do so thinking that everything they do must matter. The Money must matter, so I must attain it. The Misery matters, so I must remove it. In a day, many things will happen. Knowing that it is all part of a larger board, a larger game, makes all the difference. There are players who play the game well, and those who struggle with its rules, but the true winners of the game, are those who know they’re actually playing. For it is in knowing it is a game, that you know that you’ve already won the prize. The inherent connection between you and others is present, and it is a gift that can never be taken away.
If you are blind and believe that you can see, how can you be sure if you have clarity of sight or not? The simple answer is, you can’t ever know if you are blind or not. The only deterrence against this is to constantly question your beliefs and the world around you. I cannot fully say that my view is the view that will hold true and withstand the test of time. I can only say that this is my conclusion, based upon the beliefs I hold true, based upon what I think I see, subjectively.