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Gross Human Happiness:Need for Ethics & Change in Lifestyles, by Dhurjati Mukherjee,27 October 201 Print E-mail

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New Delhi, 27 October 2010

Gross Human Happiness

Need for Ethics & Change in Lifestyles

By Dhurjati Mukherjee


Forget the trillions of dollars, burgeoning stock markets, sky-rocketing wealth, the million dollar question is: Are you happy? Today, the world is busy dissecting this.  And perhaps feeling envious of tiny Himalyan kingdom Bhutan which has dispensed with Gross Domestic Produce and replaced it with Gross Happiness Index to determine his country’s worth. Made clear by the fact that accumulation of wealth or prosperity might not help one to be happy.


Undoubtedly, the social and economic situation is such today that it is very difficult for an individual or his family to remain happy and contented. Especially against the backdrop of hard facts: that the wealthiest Americans suffer from dissatisfaction and mental tension which indicates that economic prosperity does not bring happiness and mental peace. Pertinently, former US President Bill Clinton too, expressed the growing feeling of insecurity at the scope and pace of change in the world.


His observation finds echo in the Human Development Report 2009 which found: “Although per capita income of the OECD countries now average $ 20,000, surveys reveal growing insecurity and considerable dissatisfaction”.


Pertinently, the resultant effect of lack of happiness is leading to growing divorces, suicides and frequent break-up of families. As per available statistics of the International Federation of Suicide Prevention (IASP): “More than a million people in the world commit suicide every year. … (but) over six million are affected each year by the impact of suicides. More people kill themselves than dying in war, terrorist activities and homicides”.


This is not all. Over 60 per cent of the suicides occurred in Asia, specially China, Japan and India. It is interesting to note that according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), suicide is now being recognized as a major public health problem in South-east countries. Thanks to modern lifestyle changes and tremendous emotional, physical and psychological pressures on the individual. 


Another major problem is increasing domestic violence in the Third World countries and the West. Which in turn jeopardizes family life thanks to the aggressive attitudes of both husband and wife along-with their inconsistent lifestyles.


Obviously, the most affected are children who suffer due to lack of parental care, love and affection and become preys to social and mental tension. In the West, especially in the USA, unhappiness has been rampant among teenagers because modern life makes people feel like losers even if they are winners.


The young generation fall victims of unhappiness right from their youth which in turn has an adverse impact on their future growth and behaviour.  Sociologists believe that the joint family system, which has broken up, was much better than the present nuclear family set-up, especially for the healthy growth of children.


In addition, the present discontentment in society is the result of material cravings for more and more and unachievable, unfulfilled ambitions. Children are badly affected and their behavioural pattern changes over a period of time. The lack of parental love and care with both parents busy with their work even after office hours, and late night parties, is substituted with handsome pocket expenses which fails to make children happy.  


True, there has been extensive research on the subject of social changes and its impact on the human individual but no positive results were found. While the competitive nature of society is not changing but individuals are aiming at targets difficult to achieve. Arguably, in such a situation, what can be done to ensure happiness and sustainable life styles?


Interestingly, some of the world’s greatest philosophers have delved on the path of achieving genuine happiness. Studies have indicated that happiness could be achieved if one is content mentally and sociologically. Simply, an individual can find happiness with what he has in his family and social surroundings. However, the present materialistic culture and lifestyles make it very difficult to achieve happiness.


Over the years, apart from philosophers, the problem of happiness has been analyzed by sociologists and psychologists. More so, as social trends have made man jealous, over-ambitious and intolerant.


Celebrated author, Oliver James book Britain on the Couch, delving into the problem from the socio-economic perspective observed that the fragmentation of communities, the pressure of free market expenditure, the incentives for short-term material gratification and the craving for more and more have led to loneliness and depression.


As a result, “millions now turn restlessly from one therapy to another”.  Not only James but many others too have underscored that a restless and discontented individual is not satisfied with anything resulting in a situation where he cannot feel happy and enjoy life.


What next?  The question is indeed difficult to answer. Some have taken to the path of religiosity, specially in the West. But the most important thing in Third World countries is for them to evolve developmental strategies which are decentralized and made more humane, involving people at the grass-root level.


Furthermore, the West must steadily reduce consumerism and the rich should abdicate a part of their riches for the benefit of the poor. Though this is happening to a large extent in the West, sadly in countries like India the spirit of benevolence is not present.     


Indisputably, the widening inequality in society, as revealed by various surveys, could definitely be singled out as a major cause of unhappiness. This has to change and respective Governments need to be cautious. Clearly, for this to happen, the mind-set of political leaders, social and economic planners is very crucial. It has been observed that though our polity and planners acknowledge this, in reality no effective action is being taken by them to change the system.


Especially, at a crucial juncture, when extremist and other undesirable persons are resorting to rampant violence against the socio-economic order and family life is breaking down in India and most parts of the world.


Thus, it is imperative that the present system should not be allowed to continue. Sincere steps need to be taken curtail this in consultations with all concerned. The time has come to usher in a more humane society where there is love and compassion, fellow feelings and genuine concern for those who do not have the ability to work/perform as normal people.   


Importantly, some specific measures in this direction are needed. Namely, beginning inter-religious courses at the school level, from Class VI onwards where ethics, morality and fellow feeling should be taught; a Parliament of Religions to highlight the need for social change should be convened. India should take the lead along-with like-minded countries.


This is not all. Business houses should be compelled to give 20 per cent of their profit for human welfare following the example of US’s Warren Buffet and Bill Gates; the United Nations should strictly enforce that Governments bring down inequality levels, suicides, hunger deaths, violence etc. Last but not least, discussions should be initiated at all levels for environment-friendly and sustainable lifestyles. Not only to protect mother Earth but also generate happiness in the individual. ----- INFA


(Copyright, India News and Feature Alliance)

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