Here’s a new website called Action for Happiness, which was featured this morning on the Guardian. And here, while we’re at it, is another website, The Spirit Level, which points to the links between equality and happiness.
The Guardian has a famously cynical and fractious commenting community, and many of the responses to the Action for Happiness were (predictably) grumpy and negative. But there was a comment by Gordonbnt which made an excellent point. He starts by quoting the original article.
But the shocking fact is that, despite massive material progress, people in Britain are no happier than they were over five decades ago. Over that same period our society has become increasingly competitive and selfish, with a culture that encourages us to pursue wealth, appearance, status and possessions above all else. In the 1960s, 60% of adults in Britain said they believed “most people can be trusted”. Today the figure is around 30%. Our growing focus on self-centred materialism has also contributed to wider social problems. We’ve seen huge increases in anxiety and depression in young people, greater inequality, more family breakdown, longer working hours, growing environmental problems and crippling levels of debt.
But it doesn’t have to be like this. The good news is that by focusing our time and energy instead on things that have been shown to consistently bring happiness, we can live rich, rewarding lives.
Can you see the contradiction in this?
You say the problem is that materialism and selfishness and individualism destroy the potential happiness of lives; then why should we turn abandon this
– so that “WE can leave rich, rewarding lives.”
The logic of an individualistic pursuit of happiness is to be supplanted – not because its wrong, or that there might be a wider society outside where 30,000 people die, globally, of malnutrition everyday – but because WE can live even happier, “more rewarding” lives by “being less selfish.”
One logic, which is fundamentally based in greed hits an obstacle – of the non-delivery of happiness – which is to be supplanted by the pursuit of a “higher, Spiritual” happiness; but its the same basica avidity that wants the second thing.
Worth pondering on from a Buddhist perspective. We too often say that we should be ethical or loving or kind because it makes us happier. Perhaps more emphasis on the interconnected happiness of all would be a good thing…