What is happiness even…
This is a good question. Treat the questions below like a quiz. Consider your answer then have a look at what I have written. Do it in order please. Go for it. Comment.
Are you happy to let Facebook etc use you to make money?
Not a trick question.
Answered yes? Then by all means let them. Just do not complain when something happens that you don’t like.
Answered no? Then avoid using it. Alternatively just use it for the things that matter to you and avoid doing almost everything that they platforms ask/encourage/demand/prompt you to do. Mislead if you will. Certainly do not provide information that you would decline to give a telephone scammer.
Will throwing things out bring you joy?
This is a popular thing, it seems. If it brings you no joy then throw it out.
If you answered yes to this then go ahead. Does your front door bring you joy? Get rid of it. What about the vacuum? Ok throw that out too … you probably get where that is heading.
If you answered no then look for other ways to be happy. Maybe by listening less to the opinions of others as to what will make you happy.
Are you happy to let quarterly profit results determine your future?
Large companies are almost exclusively run based on quarterly profit reports. These are the institutions that have a remarkably great influence on Government decisions and are the largest extractors of resources, polluters and concentrators of wealth Globally.
Answered yes? Ok, just don’t complain when you have no job, a retirement income that you cannot live on, accept that the poor will just have to be unhealthy and die early – for being poor. Accept that when resources are depleted there will be a likely collapse of life. Accept that it is all to big to change. Pity about the children.
Answered no? Good luck with the enormous task of changing corporate culture and Government stances on free markets. However, if you get together with enough other people, there is a chance that you can influence Government to properly regulate corporations in the interests of its citizens. Government of the people, by the people, for the people – right?
Are you happy to let someone else make political decisions for you?
There are so many things that demand our time that it is hard to prioritise thinking through some of the hard questions. So easy to let others make the decisions and do all those urgent things.
Answered yes? Ok, remember that when some tyrant decides what is best for you might be imprisonment. Ask Martin Niemoller about it:
First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me
Answered no? Hope the effort pays off. Remember that liberty requires constant vigilance.
Would you be happy to keep water to irrigate your farm – even if that meant others downstream having insufficient water to live
This is a real life problem in the Murray-Darling Basin. Extracting water at the headwaters of the Darling river for irrigation during times of low river flow might seem disconnected from communities hundreds of kilometres away who have no water because the river is just puddles. Put as a stark choice, it is a much different matter.
Answered yes? Do you know why? Does it concern you that you might be prepared to cause misery for others for monetary gain?
Answered no? How would this answer stack up if you were faced with financial ruin if you let water flow down the river instead of watering your struggling crops and getting them to market
Please read this before answering the next question. My summary of a short story
Ursula Le Guin wrote a short story in 1973 that I found meaningful. Here is a summary:
The scene is set like this picture of an idyllic place …
“With a clamor of bells that set the swallows soaring, the Festival of Summer came to the city. Omelas, bright-towered by the sea. The rigging of the boats in harbor sparkled with flags. In the streets between houses with red roofs and painted walls, between old moss-grown gardens and under avenues of trees, past great parks and public buildings, processions moved. Some were decorous: old people in long stiff robes of mauve and grey, grave master workmen, quiet, merry women carrying their babies and chatting as they walked. In other streets the music beat faster, a shimmering of gong and tambourine, and the people went dancing, the procession was a dance.”
Later we find out about a bargain Omelas has seemed to accept in trade for their happiness …
“They all know it is there, all the people of Omelas. Some of them have come to see it, others are content merely to know it is there. They all know that it has to be there. Some of them understand why, and some do not, but they all understand that their happiness, the beauty of their city, the tenderness of their friendships, the health of their children, the wisdom of their scholars, the skill of their makers, even the abundance of their harvest and the kindly weathers of their skies, depend wholly on this child's abominable misery.”
The bargain is that a child must live in filth and be fed scraps so that Omelas can be happy. Here is what is observed at night
“Night falls; the traveler must pass down village streets, between the houses with yellow- lit windows, and on out into the darkness of the fields. Each alone, they go west or north, towards the mountains. They go on. They leave Omelas, they walk ahead into the darkness, and they do not come back. The place they go towards is a place even less imaginable to most of us than the city of happiness. I cannot describe it at all. It is possible that it does not exist. But they seem to know where they are going, the ones who walk away from Omelas.”
Would you “walk away from Omelas?”
https://www.enotes.com/topics/ones-who-walk-away-omelas for more reading and an analysis. Let’s put aside the difficulty of working out what really makes us happy. Short term happiness vs long term.
Instead, lets look at the trade-offs related to happiness. If happiness is driven (for you or others) by having things that others do not then pursuit of happiness will inevitably destroy the environment we need in order to live. The things in life that are “free”. Water, air etc.
If happiness is driven by being “better” than others then conflict and envy are the consequence. Think religion. My religious belief is better than yours and I will kill anyone who disagrees.
If happiness is driven by community/family then we head into the territory of ultra-nationalists and start to fear, exclude and persecute others.
Liberal democracies post WWII until the early 1990s valued shared wealth (social security), non-discrimination, peace as well as universal healthcare and education. The bargain allowed/encouraged the emergence once again of inequality and ultra right wing politics. So what to do?
Answered yes? Do you know why you answered this way. What are the alternatives?
Answered no? So what would you do if you stayed? Try to change things or are you staying because you would want things to not change?