I took a look at Happiness Worldwide 2022 Report over the weekend, hoping to take a break from the misery of Ukraine’s wars in Yemen.
I found it quite amusing and completely depressing.
The fact that Finland, long a “buffer” state between Russia and the West, is crowned the happiest country in the world for the fifth consecutive year should give Ukrainians and the rest of us pause.
Ukraine, which ranks 98th, has been attacked by Russia primarily or allegedly for rejecting “buffer state” status, among other demands.
Switzerland and Austria, fourth and eleventh respectively, have also been neutral states since the start of the Cold War.
But before discussing the findings of the report, let’s start with its beginnings.
According to its authors, the small, impoverished Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan should be thanked for the “World Happiness Report” and for “much of the growing international interest in happiness”.
Well, it’s not like Bhutan isn’t stepping in, a lot of the world’s focus has been on misery, but it may have focused on the wrong indicators, considering that the Prosperous modernity has proven no guarantee of happiness and may well cause more unhappiness.
Anyway, when Bhutan transitioned from an absolute monarchy to a constitutional monarchy in 2008, it also started using Gross National Happiness (GNH) – which assesses the “collective well-being” of the people. based on sustainable development, environmental conservation, cultural preservation and good governance – instead of “archaic” Gross National Product (GNP) as the main indicator of development.
To quantify the well-being of the population, the Center for Bhutanese Studies began by surveying some 8,000 randomly selected households using a questionnaire of more than 200 questions about their personal life and feelings. It must have been torture.
In 2011, the “Kingdom of Happiness” sponsored a UN resolution, calling on other governments to “give greater prominence to happiness and well-being in determining how to achieve and measure social and economic development.”
And the following year, Bhutan, along with a number of academics enthusiastic about the new “happiness industry”, presented to the UNGA “evidence of the emerging new science of happiness”, paving the way for the proclamation by the UN of March 20 as the International Day of Happiness.
I find the “Day of Happiness” and the “Science of Happiness” to be rather contrived, defeating the whole point of happiness as the end goal of all human endeavour, as the Greeks and Romans of antiquity, whether through the pursuit of virtue and justice, or the pursuit of pure pleasure.
Either way, the pursuit of happiness is only possible through the happiness of the pursuit, or so it’s the cliché.
Anyway, the first annual World Happiness Report was born in 2012 under the auspices of the United Nations – arguably the most constipated and miserable organization in the world!
But joking aside, the report seemed to focus on two possible sources of happiness: subjective preferences, related to culture, community and environment; and objective factors relating to wealth, health, security, education, etc.
I suspect that these latter, more objective indicators weigh heavily in the report’s rankings and go a long way to explaining why the culturally introverted and largely reserved Nordic and European states continually top the list. They are apparently more “happy” than happy, according to their own studies and polls.
Unfortunately, the “Kingdom of Happiness” ranking has gone from low to low over the years, dropping from 79th to 97th.
And the only famous country associated with happiness other than Bhutan, “Happy Yemen”, clearly didn’t get the memo that year, as it descended into civil war and turmoil, resulting in a military intervention led by the Saudis and the Emirates which produced “the worst humanitarian catastrophe of the 21st century”.
On the positive side, as the war entered its second year, the UAE created two ministers of happiness and tolerance, promoting virtue as a core value of state and society, while tightening its political grip. and safe.
It was then that George Orwell turned in his grave.
Yet after briefly dropping to 28th place in 2016, the economically liberalized super-rich emirate has remained ahead of its Arab peers for four consecutive years according to the report’s index.
However, this year the United Arab Emirates was overtaken by the relatively poorer Gulf kingdom of Bahrain, which ranked 21st in the world.
Bahrainis, of course, have lived under tight political and security control since the Arab Spring uprising nearly crippled it 11 years ago, prompting Saudi military intervention to help quell the popular uprising.
So one wonders how Bahrain edged out Spain and Italy, who rank 29th and 31st respectively, and nearly beat France – even though the French are famous for opposing everything and nothing, including understand happiness. It is their national sport; their collective charm.
Bahrain signed a ‘peace agreement’ with Israel, although I doubt it brought much joy to Bahrainis as most of them were against ‘normalization with the Zionist enemy’.
Which brings me to Israel, which jumped into the top 10, ranking ninth on this year’s Happiness Index, despite its violent apartheid system, as documented by international human rights organizations. . The worse the apartheid, the higher the rank!
I’ve long associated military occupation with happiness, especially after watching Pharell Williams shamelessly sing Happy to a shameless Hollywood guest list among the Shameless Friends of the Israel Defense Forces, FIDF, in Los Angeles, so Israel shamelessly hammered the Gaza Strip.
Maybe we finally know for sure why, as TIME magazine once tried to explain in a cover story “Israel doesn’t care about peace.” Well, because he’s happier without her. Thanks in large part to the dismal failure of Palestinian and Arab leaders, whose war-torn states rank horribly low.
It is indeed remarkable how a country that evicts, occupies, oppresses, imprisons and humiliates an entire people for decades and in close proximity, can be so wildly happy. Is it delusion, indifference, sadism, racism or what?
Bhutan, “The Land of the Thunder Dragon”, shows that it could be a combination of factors.
In the years before his obsession with happiness, the Bhutanese military expelled around 100,000 Nepali-speaking people residing mostly in the impoverished south of the country, to pave the way for the monarch’s “one nation, one people” vision. King Jigme Singye Wangchuk’s other vision was to marry four sisters, which he did with joy and celebration in 1988.
Despite its turn to democracy after the king’s abdication, the government has done little to rectify, compensate for, or reverse the terrible ethnic cleansing. In a revealing interview with Al Jazeera a dozen years ago, Bhutan’s prime minister denied it, justified it, and happily embraced it, all without flinching.
But the problem is bigger than Israel, Bhutan and Bahrain or for that matter Russia, China and the United States. This is the prevailing international hypocrisy of happiness, preaching virtue and projecting violence, speaking of peace and waging war, proclaiming love and spreading hatred, hugging trees and polluting the air.
Well-being can be achieved through “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness”, but only in tandem with, and not at the expense of, the “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness” of another individual, nation , race or sex or generation.