I ran across an interesting article in last Sunday’s San Francisco Chronicle. The article, by Arthur Max and Toby Sterling discusses the ways in which happiness differs amongst citizens of different nations, and steps that can be taken towards increasing the overall happiness level on a national level: ‘The tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan long ago dispensed with the notion of Gross National Product as a gauge of well-being. The king decreed that his people would aspire to Gross National Happiness instead.’
This is no joke, and the fact that Bhutan, ranked way higher on the happiness scale than the US – #8 versus #15, deserves further examination. In Bhutan, ‘less than half of the people can read or write, and 90 percent are subsistence farmers. . . Its notion of GNH is based on equitable development, environmental conservation, cultural heritage, and good governance.’ I feel this very much. Some things are amiss in our modern culture, and I am yearning for a change, a new life built on a different value system, that promotes connecting with nature, and others, and reverses the state of alienation I am (we are) increasingly feeling as a result of so called progress and industrialization. Not that I trying to get off the hook. I know I still need to do my share. Good governance, the glue that can solidify and multiply of all our individual actions, is what I am after.
The authors quote Martin Seligman, the University of Pennsylvania psychologist: “Although economic output has risen steeply over the past decades, there has been no rise in life satisfaction during this period, and there has been a substantial increase in depression and distrust”. Not only is our steadily increasing consumption slowly killing the planet, it is also not helping us become any happier. Something is wrong with this picture.