Should happiness replace prosperity as national goal?
Posted on 8 May 2009 | 8:05am
John Prescott once gave Tony Blair a gift of a plastic fish which, if you
pressed it, would sing ‘don’t worry, be happy’ to the former Prime Minister.
I thought of that as I read
the views on the economic crisis of a Prime Minister with the wonderful
name of Jigme Thinley.
‘Greed, insatiable human greed,’ he cites as the reason for current global
woes. ‘What we need is change. We need to think gross national happiness.’ GNH
not GNP. Interesting.
Mr Thinley is PM of the tiny Buddhist kingdom of
Bhutan, up in the Himalayas somewhere between India and China. Hard to compete
with them economically, I guess.
Happiness has long been a measure of life in Bhutan, but they now have a new
constitution which insists any policy proposal must be judged in part by the
happiness it produces.
Even their first election last year after a switch from absolute monarchy was
part of that plan. ‘Happiness is an individual pursuit and democracy is the
empowerment of the individual,’ says Kinley Dorji, who seems to be to Mr
Thinley what I was to TB when we had Billy the Fish in the office.
Now I still don’t do God, and I am not going all Buddhist on you, but it is
worth thinking about.
They have four pillars, nine domains and seventy-two
indicators of happiness. These are re-assessed every two years, in consultation
with the country’s 700,000 people, by the Gross National Happiness Commission.
I am not making this up. Indeed, I am warming to it.
Like me, my fellow comms
and info man, Mr Dorji, also worries about the impact of the media. The country
allowed TV for the first time ten years ago. Then, he says, if you asked any
young person to name their hero, the inevitable response was ‘the King.’ But
then came TV. ‘Immediately after that it was David Beckham. And now it’s 50
Cent, the rap artist. Parents are helpless.’
I certainly think if we were to go for a G.N.H plan in Britain, there would
have to be changes in the media. Quite a lot of the TV two-ways telling us we’re
all about to go broke or die of swine flu would have to be reviewed by the GNH
Commission. Of course there could be no room for the Daily Mail in a country
interested in happiness. So bye-bye Mr Dacre. Sorry, as the Evening Standard
Talking of which – as the worst aspects of the Standard’s
negativity happened when Dacre was bossing former editor Veronica Wadley, I
look forward to the ‘Sorry’ campaign from the Mail. They could start with an
apology for the role they played in fuelling a frenzy about MMR. ‘Sorry for
giving you measles – the Daily Mail’. Let’s see that one on the tube.
Anyway, I slept better thank you, so my own contribution to GNH is up. I am
getting some good tips too from the two very nice women who have been
organising my Lisbon media schedule as I promote Os Anos Blair. Fair to say
they find my obsessive punctuality a bit, well, British. Why stress myself out
worrying about keeping a few journos waiting? It’s so not GNH.
They’ve even been quo
ting poetry at me as I remind them
we are running late … Fernando Pessoa ‘oh what a pleasure it is to have
something to do and not do it.’
Or take a chill pill, as my daughter sometimes says. I bet they have chill
pills in Bhutan. I bet Fernando Pessoa is on the curriculum.
One day I may
go and find out. Meanwhile off to do my speech on crisis management.
Rule 1 – don’t worry, be happy.