Ever since I flipped the page of the new 2011 calendar and hung it beside my study I have been aspiring to tick a day when I will get to hear more of positive news than the negative ones. It hasn’t yet happened in the past 11 days or so. Good news from our part of the world has almost become a rare entity and one always dreads as to what new drama will the coming day unfold.
It makes me wonder, as we are well into the second decade of twenty first century, reached the moon, invaded the space, climbed the Mt Everest, peeped inside an atom, now gearing to reach Mars and further, but we haven’t reached into the core of our own hearts to gain happiness and contentment.
Nations measure prosperity by their GDP which represents countrys income and its economic progress but terribly falls short of capturing other measures needed for prosperity like health,( both mental and physical), personal freedom and security.
I talk to friends and relatives of all kinds—successful, average and not so successful.
Talking to a friend who and her husband are currently laid off—It is valid, of course for them, to staple happiness together with their jobs and hence economic well being. But when I talk to a cousin, who’s husband is in an extremely coveted post and with a fat pay package—she talks of her disgust at the ‘nauseating gap between the rich and the poor’ and that she does not even cherish her own prosperity seeing so much miseries around.In fact she lives in guilt despite doing a lot of charity too.
Talking to relatives back home and they are unhappy for the prevailing socio-politico-economic conditions , but then someone else in US with a settled life talks of the bills, the mortgage payments, the stress at job and the mechanical life which keeps them away from happiness.
You talk to a mediocre student and he is worried about his prospects of making it to a University due to immense competition. Talk to a brilliant student and she harps about the pressure she has to take of being in a world ranking program. It is really a disturbing statistics that a large chunk of university students and people from the general public are on antidepressants in some parts of the developed world.
I look at my own life and compare it to the days when I began my life with my husband with just two suitcases as my possessions and now they have multiplied to many many many more ‘suitcases’ but do these ‘suitcases’ add to my emotional well being? Do I feel any better because of this material gain?. Whatever satisfies me is not my material possessions but my contribution as a health and community worker or as a wife, a mother or even a friend.
Money , of course, is important to lead a comfortable life but only certain amount of money can give you happiness. Anything beyond the threshold does not add to happiness or prosperity but more to greed, discontentment, desire for more, fear of losing it and even guilt at times.
Why is it that the people of the likes of Bill Gates vow to spend a major chunk of their wealth on charity? Is it that he doesn’t
love money or does not need it? Of course not.( Who doesn’t love it!). If he hadn’t loved money he wouldn’t have strived to reach at the top of the Forbes Richest Men list and stayed there for years together. It simply proves that after a certain threshold of economic prosperity money ceases to matter as a source of happiness and contentment. But one has to live the experience to realise how it feels. In general wealthier people are less happy than the less wealthy counterparts, but it takes an awful lot of income to buy happiness that companionship and community provide for free.
We as individuals may very well resolve it by associating prosperity and happiness to family values, interpersonal relationships or even intrapersonal relationship—coming to be one’s own friend.
But the real task lies in incorporating this concept of happiness and contentment when it comes to economies or nations as a whole.
Fortunately enough some economists and a tiny nation have started to associate that ‘true’ prosperity ( which includes happiness) does not limit to only economic prosperity. But still the concept is in its trial stage and infancy.
A tiny nation of BHUTAN in our region through its ex-King Jigmey Singye Wangchuk,proposed an approach to have the idea of GROSS NATIONAL HAPPINESS along with the Gross National Produce (GNP). Bhutan may be a tiny country land locked between two giants India and China, with a rugged Himalayan terrain and harsh alpine climate, but it’s visionary king has made some great strides towards the issue of making his people happy.
A 55 year old man now, educated in UK and US, he ruled Bhutan from 1972 until his abdication in 2006 to his son. He is credited with many modern political and social reforms in the country.
In 1972 he introduced the concept of GNH .The concept of gross national happiness (GNH) was developed in an attempt to define an indicator that measures quality of life or social progress in more holistic and psychological terms than Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The philosophy, which is underlined by four pillars, namely
-equitable socio-economic development;
-conservation of environment;
-preservation of culture;
-promotion of good governance,
The GNH theory seeks to pursue the broader forms of well-being beyond material things. There was no exact quantitative definition of GNH proposed.
The King proved that his actions were louder than the words by:
-transformed Bhutan from a absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy.
– stunned the nation by declaring general elections in 2008.
-transferring most of his administrative powers to the Council of Cabinet Ministers and allowing for impeachment of the King by a two-thirds majority of the National Assembly
-on 14 December 2006, he announced that he would be abdicating immediately. This was followed with the first national parliamentary elections. Judicial power is vested in the court of Bhutan. The Chief Justice is the administrative head of the Judiciary. National Election and Anti-Corruption Commissions were also set up in 2006.
Many people term the king orthodox simply because he does not cherish material gains as the source of happiness. So orthodox is he that even to this day, traffic lights do not exist in the country, and by law everyone must wear traditional 14th century clothing. But in 1999, the King lifted a ban on television and the Internet. In his speech, the King said that television was a critical step to the modernisation of Bhutan as well as a major contributor to the country’s Gross National Happiness, but warned that the “misuse” of television could erode traditional Bhutanese values.
Despite being termed orthodox, his country has seen great progress over the past decade. The country has shown a growth rate of 6.5%, annually upto the available stats of 2008, the life expectancy at birth has risen from 48 years in 1984 to 66 years in 1994. And in just one decade from 1990 to 2000, gross enrollment rate at the primary level has jumped from 55% to 72%.
It simply does not mean that ALL IS WELL in Bhutan. They still have to overcome the poverty which grips a third of the nation.
Although being a tiny nation it sets an example for our leadersand teaches a great amny lessonsabout SELFLESS RULE and GENUINE CONCERN for it’s people.
As economic development on the planet pushes the limits of ecosystems to their brink, it calls into question the ability of the planet to sustain further, this civilization. Hence the talk of moving “Beyond GDP” in order to measure progress not as the mere increase in commercial transactions, nor as an increase in specifically economic well-being, but as an increase in general well-being as people themselves subjectively report it.
Inspired by the concept of GNH from the King Wangchuk of Bhutan, a second-generation GNH concept, treating happiness as a socioeconomic development metric, was proposed in 2006 by Med Jones, the President of International Institute of Management. The metric measures socioeconomic development by tracking 7 development area including the nation’s mental and emotional health.
GNH value is proposed to be an index function of the total average per capita of the following measures:( and I paste them from the original document):
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.
I wonder where would we stand if we apply all these parameters to our part of the world. I dread to even make an attempt to do so.
If only our leaders were as visionary and sensitive as King Wangchuk, we would also aspire to be a happy nation some day.
The idea of linking Happiness factor to Econmic prosperity is still in its infancy and only time will tell if it matures into a reality and our planet attains HAPPINESS along with other innumerable worldy achievements.
Where there is a will there is, for sure, a way .
12 January 2011