The distribution of Happiness


The Distribution of Happiness - by P.K.Odendaal - March 2013.

We all should be engaged in the pursuit of happiness, but somehow the activity eludes us, because there are so many other things which occupy our thoughts and acts - and so the pursuit of happiness it filters down to the oblivion of the subconscious. When we realise that we are not happy, we wonder why that is, and it is simply because we did not pursue it. How can we realise or attain something when we do not pursue it? That only happens in fairy tales.
The notion of distribution is very easy and well known. The population of the earth is not spread evenly over the whole earth. If that was the case the distribution of the population over the earth would have been constant or homogenous. But now there are more people in cities than in rural areas, so that the distribution of the population is uneven. It is also valid for almost anything else like pressure, rain, poverty, minerals and wealth. We will return to the latter later on.

Our first notion would be that the distribution of happiness over the earth would be the same as the distribution of the population. That would mean that every person is exactly as happy as the next one. But that is not so, because not all people are happy to the same degree. If that is so, we must wonder why this is so. Why can't all people be equally happy? Surely if all people pursued happiness equally hard, then all people would be equally happy. The reason is my introduction in which I postulated that very few people pursue happiness.
Yes, we all pursue wealth, because we equate that to happiness, but that is a fallacy - a very false proposition. We just think that happiness equals wealth. If that was true, most rich people would have been happy, and most poor people not, but we find the rich people mostly unhappy and the poor mostly happy. In fact we can surmise that wealth is the antithesis of happiness. But poverty is also not the secret path to happiness, however fervently we would have wished that to be so, but also that is quite off the mark.
There is a saying that we seek our happiness in a place where we are sure we will not find it - a place which is guaranteed to make us unhappy. I concur with that notion.
We might start on a political or state level. By now we know that people who have no freedom, future, opportunity, dignity or self esteem are unhappy, as we have seen from the Arab spring. Ruthless dictators abuse their subjects and reduce them to serfdom, and even kill them for fun. But then again we also see that monarchies fare better than democracies in these states. I have little appetite for democracies in nations of groups with diverse social and cultural levels. It just does not work there. If we wish to consider monarchies and democracies for a moment, we will see that well run monarchies and beneficial monarchs are very successful, but they are mostly superseded by cruel tyrants who reduce these states to nothing. Before the First World War, almost the whole world were successfully run by monarchies, but that war ended most of that, leaving it to the second world war to end the rest. So now we have democracies and republics, which are almost as badly run. We have only exchanged one potentate for another. Still there were very successful monarchies like King Arthur's Round Table of old and very successful democracies like that of Canada presently.
We secondly look at the state form. Are capitalistic states more successful than communistic or socialistic ones? I do not think so. There are examples of successful state forms of each, but both state forms are subject to misuse - capitalistic ones by wealthy lobbyists and communistic ones by blackmail and coercion. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
The third we might look at is state handouts. All states hand out social benefits to the needy or the not so needy. In well run capitalistic democracies it goes to the needy, and in low level democracies it goes to the people who will vote that party into power again.
All in all, the route to happiness is strewn with obstacles, and it is surprising to note that there is any happiness on earth at all, due to the manipulation of the poor by the rich and powerful. Serfdom and slavery has vanished and in its place we have a system even more inhumane than either.
However, there are basic tenets of happiness which includes at least half of the following aspects: wealth, dignity, opportunity, limited freedom, respect for human rights and human values, limited social support, support of cultural values. All these are none other than civilization in a broad sense. The opposite which may be called barbarism, is a loose-loose situation and too ghastly to contemplate. It is doubtful whether anyone living in a non-civilised society can ever be happy.
And that is about how far one can progress on this subject - and the hypothesis is that the distribution of happiness is directly proportional to the level of civilisation in a country.
How does one test this hypothesis? Let us look at the list of cities which are most popular to live in. There are many lists for these and I have taken listings from three of the most well known lists and the cities are:
1.        Vienna
2.        Vancouver
3.        Melbourne
4.        Toronto
5.        Calgary
6.        Sydney
7.        Adelaide
8.        Auckland
9.        Helsinki
10.      Zurich

What is significant is that these are all first world capitalistic and democratic states - in my opinion states where civilisation has reached an advanced stage.
Of course what I mean by civilisation is not only being civilised or finely cultured, but also pertains to the level of technological development, availability of infrastructure and production facilities, banking, communication and a well developed transport system - but this automatically goes with a high level of civilisation.
And all this time you have been laughing at me, because I always maintained that happiness is something inside you. Sorry - that was not the full story. Next time we will look at the distribution of poverty, slavery, wealth, crime and more ...