The May 7, 2007 issue of Newsweek carried an article by Rana Foroohar on “The Joy of Economics”. The writer quotes from an in-depth survey report on Happiness, the product of research by scientists at Erasmus University Rotterdam in the Netherlands.
Ten countries each from Denmark to Mexico, Tanzania to Russia and Egypt to India were rated respectively as “The Happiest Nations”, “The Least-Happy Nations” and “Countries with the Biggest Disparity between Happy and Unhappy Citizens”.
The Happiest Nation, according to the Survey, was Denmark with 8.2 rating in the 0-to10 Scale. Switzerland, Austria, Iceland, Finland, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Luxembourg and Mexico did not do badly. They rated between 8.1 and 7.6.
The Least Happy Nations were Tanzania (3.2), Zimbabwe, Moldova, Ukraine, Armenia, Belarus, Georgia, Bulgaria, Pakistan and Russia (4.4). Surprisingly, Pakistan, with political turmoil and instability ever since its conception, did not rate very badly. At 4.3, they were just 0.1 less happy than the Russians.
Now, the last category: “The Countries With the Biggest Disparity Between Happy and Unhappy Citizens”…… Egypt topped the list, and India along with Nigeria, Kyrgyzstan and Turkey were at the bottom of the list.
In the above said special report prepared by Rana Foroohar for the magazine, there are some interesting points which deserve some contemplation:
Wealth alone isn’t necessarily what makes us happy. After a certain income cap, we simply don’t get any happier.Rather than telling people to work harder, politicians can discuss work-life balance.
The happiest countries cited in the report, i.e. the Scandinavian Countries, also rank high on their suicide rate. Surprisingly, countries rating low on the Happiness Scale, report fewer suicide cases. So, the question is: Can Happiness be Measured and Scaled? Can it be rated?
What is Happiness?
Can we define the word and standardize such definition for all humanity?
Prince Siddhartha leaves his palace to find happiness in the solitude of forest. His search for happiness finally leads him to meditation, to the meditative way of life. Not so with Prophet Muhammad, he found happiness in serving the society as a Statesman and a Man of God. Jesus finds happiness in the separation of Caesar’s worldly kingdom from The Heavenly Kingdom of God. Krishna is trying to create such a kingdom in this very world. What is Happiness?
A monk is happy to live on charity. A clergy works for his living; he may even own business, indeed businesses. The Newsweek report shyly admits that “Wealth alone isn’t necessarily what makes us happy” – the facts on the ground prove that “Wealth has No Connection Whatsoever with Happiness”. The Buddhist, the Hindus, and the Christian monks, as well as the Muslim Sufi Fakirs find happiness in giving up of wealth. They may not number much, but when you think of their influence on the society – you will be surprised!
People have different standards, different paradigms, different conditionings and ways of thinking. And, they define “Happiness” according to their different mindsets. So, it is simply not possible to rate happiness.
Apparently, Newsweek did realize this.
They invited the visitors to their website to vote for either happiness could be rated or not. One could also tick the box for “I don’t know”. Majority agreed that happiness Could not be rated!
Indeed, Happiness Cannot be Rated.
And, that explains why “after a certain income cap, we simply don’t get any happier”. In his May 2, 2007 On-Line Report, BBC News Home Editor Mark Easton presents very interesting facts:
“Britain is less happy than in the 1950s – despite the fact that we are three times richer. The proportion of people saying they are ‘very happy’ has fallen from 52% in 1957 to just 36% today. The story of wealth failing to translate into extra happiness is the story of the Western world.
“In almost every developed country, happiness levels have remained largely static over the past 50 years – despite huge increases in income.
What the happiness research suggests is that once average incomes reach about £10,000 a year, extra money does not make a country any happier.
In our opinion poll we asked whether the government’s prime objective should be the ‘greatest happiness’ or the ‘greatest wealth’.
A remarkable 81% wanted happiness as the goal. Only 13% wanted greatest wealth.
Should schoolchildren be taught how to be happy?……(asked) whether they thought schools should put more emphasis on teaching students how to achieve a happy personal life and less on educating them for the world of work. A majority – 52% agreed that more emphasis should be placed on happiness – 43% disagreed.”
The poll asked whether people felt their neighbourhood was more or less friendly now than it was 10 years ago. 43% said less friendly, compared to 22% of people who said it was friendlier.
So what makes us happy? Almost half of people – 48% – say that relationships are the biggest factor in making them happy. Second is health on 24%. When we asked people to choose the two most important sources of happiness in their lives, out of 1001 people only 77 people said work fulfilment
According to the science of happiness, friends are crucial to our well-being. Yet according to our opinion poll, most of us speak to only a small number of close friends every week. Six out of 10 people spoke to five friends or fewer each week. Two out of 10 spoke to only one or two friends. And one person in 25 talked to no friends at all.
We also asked people to say, in their own words, what happiness meant to them. According to analysis by Ilona Boniwell, a psychologist at Oxford Brooke’s University, most people’s definition involved family and friends.
But the results threw up a surprise. The second largest group of responses centered around contentment and inner peace.
It does appear that many people’s happiness is about escaping the stress and pace of modern life.
So, most of the people related Happiness with Relation, Contentment and Inner Peace. We can safely conclude that Happiness is not material well being. It is the Emotional and Mental Well Being. Moreover, when we talk of “Inner Peace” and not just “Peace” – we are already on the periphery of Spirituality.
I remember a meeting at the office of one of country’s high officials, attended by a handful of “the chosen ones”. People considered as the cream of society. For whatever reason, yours truly was included in the list. We were invited to do some brain-storming and find solutions for various problems faced by the nation. I am talking about Indonesia.
Most of the dignitaries present somehow connected all the problems with material well being. One of them went so far to say that, “Once the stomachs are filled, all our problems are solved. We can get our people to do anything for the state.”
What a view, what an opinion!
And no-one objected to it, with the exception of yours truly. Then, after I presented my thoughts and offered some solutions – a dignified old lady, teacher by profession, came forward to second me. Just two of us could really see that “Happiness was not Material”. That was a couple of years back – back in 2005.
Interestingly, most of the dignitaries present had a record of attending one of nation’s leading motivators who speaks on “non material well being” of individual. In fact, quite a few of them were part of the motivators organization and training program. What a tragedy!
The motivator himself, although speaking on non-material, rather spiritual well being, apparently cannot identify true joy and happiness related to the spirit. He cannot differentiate them from the sensory pleasure and bodily comfort. Mind you, he is not alone. With him stand some of our finest brains. What a tragedy!
Matter or money specifically, is compared to a pair of shoes by my Guru: “You cannot wear them if they are very loose or very tight. They should be fitting, just the right size”. Just enough is right. The latest survey report cited by BBC News Editor endorses this view.
Coming back to the most important factors related with Happiness – Relation, Contentment and Inner Peace – each of the Trio respectively represents one layer of our Consciousness.
Relation is related with the Emotional Layer. Contentment is the result of sane reasoning. It is the blossoming of our Faculty of Discrimination, and that is part of the Layer of Intelligence. Here, I separate Intelligence from Intellectuality. A man of letters, a scholar with a mile long list of degrees after his name, is perhaps intellectual. But, he may not have an inkling of what intelligence is. Intelligence is a matter of soul. It goes beyond bookish knowledge. It is the inherent Knowingness. It is the inborn, inherent knowledge of an infant, by which it finds the nipple of its mother.
Knowledge alone cannot make you content. It is the Knowingness that knowledge is not all and that it cannot make you content – that makes one content. This Knowingness is verily Intelligence.
Knowledge and Intellect tend to work with facts. They need proofs. Knowingness or Intelligence works with truth – The Truth. It does not need any proof. It is a proof unto itself. It is the Instincts in Animals, and the Intuition in Humans.
Third important factor in securing Happiness is Inner Peace. And, this is an “all soul affair”. This is the periphery of our Spiritual Layer. One more step, and you enter the realm of Pure Spirituality, where Happiness turns into Bliss. In the language of our ancient seers – it is The Aananda. This Aananda is actually what all of us are striving for, knowingly or unknowingly, wittingly or unwittingly.
Indeed in our relation with the world and in our sense of contentment and inner peace – it is actually the Pure Bliss or Aananda that we are looking for. Our Search can only end when we attain to that supreme state of Total and Perfect Well Being – where even imperfections are so perfectly imperfect that you cannot differentiate them from The Perfection.
This state of Supreme Bliss or Aananda cannot be described in words. It can be realized in the spirit. And, such realization alone can make us truly happy!
When a man or a woman of such realization comes down from his or her spiritual heights, we have a Gandhi, a Martin Luther King, Jr, a Mother Theresa, and a Sukarno. Even today we have such men and women around us. Alas, my country, my nation, my people do not recognize them. What greater tragedy can befall a country where the children of spirit, where the people with realization are not honored!
We need Newsweek and BBC to open our eyes. We need World Bank and International Monetary Fund to help us out of economic crisis of our own making. We need the Middle East to teach us culture, economics, even dress code. The latest is in the field of agriculture – I hear the Communist China will be sending their farmers to teach our farmers how to cultivate our land.
There are Happy Nations and Least Happy Nations, and there are Countries with the Biggest Disparity between Happy and Unhappy Citizens….. I went through all the three lists, and tried to find my country, my nation. It was not mentioned in any of the lists. Where are we? Where do we stand? How are we faring?
Happiness cannot be rated, yes.
Happiness is not even the Last Frontier; there is still the State of Supreme Bliss or Aananda – yes. But, how can we ever achieve that state if we have not even tasted happiness?
Far from being a happy nation, my country may not even know the meaning of happiness. We are happy when a clergy intimidates us with hellfire and we shed tears out of fear. We are happy to see a bunch of hooligans hijacking the whole nation in the name of religion.
Wake up my country, my nation!
Wake up my brothers, my sisters, my countrymen and women; wake up to secure your place in the civilization of the day. You have had some very happy moments in the past, but a much happier life awaits you in future. Wake up to that future, that starts now, this very moment. Fill this day with happiness, so your tomorrows can be happy too!
The lessons that West is just learning come from you.
You have inherited those lessons from your ancestors, from your seers and sages, from your men and women of wisdom, from your long history in the past. Whenever you neglected those lessons, whenever you rejected the local wisdom – you lost your dignity. You were chained and enslaved by the foreigners. Allow not that history of shame repeat itself, wake up.