Happiness Revolution. A Guest Blog by Peter Dawe.

Come the Revolution!

Many have the opinion that the current western Neo-liberal, captured democracies are due to fail. Come the revolution there is a period of chaos and then the first group that organises effectively becomes the de-facto government. Look at revolutions worldwide since Cromwell to see the pattern.

The current instabilities of the UK, including Brexit, the acceleration of inequality, trade, payments, migration, pensions, government funding, global stress in energy, food and water all imply that revolution may be as close as 2018.

I would like to offer the bones of a radical non-economic social narrative; one that puts people’s happiness first, and doesn’t use the discredited proxy of wealth and income as the measure of success.

Happiness – Enough is enough!

  • Happiness is probably the most common goal of humans. Yet it is rarely spoken of directly. I believe that we should make Happiness the narrative of a revolution in western society. In the process we release ourselves from the treadmill of materialism

Fulfilment

People can seek fulfilment in other ways. Many work roles will be done by volunteers seeking a certain type of fulfilment. (There are many examples of this today). Fulfilment through sport, arts, or whatever become high priorities. Yes there will be people who seek fulfilment through power, materialism or other less worthy ways, but within constraints I believe these can be tolerated too.

Community

Beyond the basics, study after study tells us happiness is a function of community. Our new society should encourage good community and remove incentives for fragmentation. E.g. Hygge in Denmark, the happiest western society, is founded on strong families and small group friendships.

It should be noted that Neo-Liberal society can see families and informal friendship groups as sources of happiness that compete with their monetised equivalents.

Examples of incentives for fragmentation include:-

  • Paid-for child care, rather than parenting,
  • Care-homes rather than extended family support,
  • Big-ticket sports and leisure events, rather than local sport and arts events

Progress

 Research, development, deployment of innovations can still be achieved without the financial imperatives of the market economy. Non-financial incentives such as prestige, honour and admiration are three non-financial incentives, indeed few academic researchers have wealth as their primary motivation.

Security

Whilst I might hope that this model will remove most evil. Security of the person, the community and the nation have to be provided for a happy life.

An end to misery

The first priority of a happiness agenda is to get rid of misery! The ambition should be that everyone is secure in their access to basic sustenance, shelter, society and services. Key here is that there should be no prejudice in receiving these.

Disapproval of materialism

Marketing is a major generator of misery. Its whole purpose is to make the target unhappy, and that buying their good or service will make you happy again. In this agenda, marketing has to be seen for what it is and both discouraged financially and people taught to understand how the marketeers manipulate people in unpleasant ways. It is people who are content with a low eco-footprint who should be lauded, rather than those that enjoy conspicuous consumption,

Sustainability

A more challenging agenda is where we seek to ensure future generations can be happy too. With a non-materialistic society, creating a 100% sustainable society can be envisaged.

The end of Economics

With people opting to live modest fulfilled lives, It will be Armageddon for economists and corporates. GDP will go through the floor. Production will be just to sustain the basics. With modern technology that is likely to need only a fraction of today’s workforce. The much heralded age of leisure and fulfilment can be delivered.

This paper is an opening shot at a new narrative, I welcome comments, contributions and ideas how one can get these ideas into the main-stream.

 

Dr Peter Dawe OBE

 

Comments

  1. Ivan Horrocks -

    Peter, thanks for a thought provoking post. Personally and philisophically I agree with you. Politically – by which I mean how it might be possible to begin to advance this agenda not my personal politics – it’d be an extremely difficult task because there are so many vested interests stacked against such an agenda and they are extremely powerful – frequently in ways that are not visible, or only occasionally.

    If I had to start somewhere it’d be with what you refer to as the ‘dissapproval of materialism’ and specifically a movement to tackle marketing. Many, many people recognise the corrosive impact of marketing/advertising even if they don’t speak out about it. It puts pressure on people to purchase goods they have no real need or want of and that alone adds to another your points – misery. Ask any parent – and particularly those with little of no money – at this time of year for an insight into the degree of misery and stress they feel. Indeed, Giles Fraser had a really good piece in The Guardian yesterday about the corruption of the use of Santa Claus (Saint Nicholas) into a symbol of greed and excessive consumption.

    But even here the push back from vested interests would be severe and sustained, with much of the media – who have a direct interest in maintaining high degrees of marketing and advertising of course – particularly active in promoting the dangers of any change to the existing system.

    Ultimately the only defence to that is to have a detailed routemap of how the potential ‘downsides’ – as they would be presented – of restrictions on marketing (e.g. the impact that selling less stuff would have on employment) would be dealt with in a less materialistic society. I think that could hold a mass movement against marketing together (which could then move to encompass a wider agenda), particularly as the evidence that our current economic system is destroying the Earth becomes undeniable and recognition that the only way to tackle this is a future (and a not very far in the future, future) based on sustainability comes to dominate.

  2. Ms Christine Bergin -

    Would love to see this working but I suspect that people have forgotten how to be a community. Those with the experience of real community would be considered too old to be useful. The modern technology seems to encourage texting not talking. We don’t know how to communicate or respect each other any more and old-fashioned skills like managing an allotment or knitting and sewing need to be taught which takes time and effort.. And of course teachers. do we have the patience anymore?

  3. Tony_B -

    You might enjoy this income-based approach as a happiness indicator, in PNAS – “High income improves evaluation of life but not emotional well-being” [1]

    I suspect ’emotional well-being’ equals happiness.

    [1] http://www.pnas.org/cgi/doi/10.1073/pnas.1011492107

  4. Peter May -

    Interesting article here on the ‘losses’ if food and drink were to be in plain packaging.
    Personally it would be the advertising part of marketing that I find the most pernicious and why I find it virtually impossible to watch commercial television – however good the underlying programme.

  5. Mo Stewart -

    An interesting concept Peter but, unless and until the neoliberal politics of greed is removed from the UK, I’m not sure how this could be established with any hope of success.

    ‘Happiness’ means different things to different people, and so would it not be better to suggest ‘need not greed’ as the priority for most people in society who are not included in the top 1%?

    The press and media are corrupt, and most people access their news from the press and media, so any public influence would be an uphill struggle in a country where those in greatest need have no hope of anything improving. Frank Field identified this in the HOC this week.

  6. Neil Robertson -

    Very interesting article Peter – I particularly like the fact that you call out marketing and advertising as a big part of the problem. I find that watching the BBC almost exclusively cuts down on a lot of the pestering from the children about buying stuff (and probably does me good too). It was always much worse then they had spent time at relatives that had Sky! For adults, I find it particularly offensive that gambling is advertised so much. I have just been watching QI on Dave whilst writing this and was amused to see a car ad that stated “This is the car to build families” – what absolute BS! But it is an example of the emotive nonsense that can be powerful if you are feeling low.
    Regarding directing people away from consumption and towards more community/family-based activities – I think one needs to work towards the positive creation of more cohesive communities which will naturally tend to reduce the need for lots of consumption. Carrot and not stick!

  7. Geoff Plant -

    The commercialisation of Britain is in many ways interesting, pervasive, socially divisive, engineered, destructive and depressing.
    Or conversely it presents opportunity, social identity, wealth, a sense of superiority, ego fulfillment, security and achievement. I think though, the two rarely meet in the middle.

    Some important practical changes that could be made are to do with life style. Why do we need shops to be open on Sundays or 24 hour supermarket opening or more to the point why do we use them. I’m old enough to remember these changes coming in, along with wages having to be paid into a bank account, when debt was frowned upon not encouraged, now we are required to have at least two direct debit payments for each account, restricting choice. The restriction of choice has been a major developmental success in the capitalist world view, it has captured and molded our thinking, although they claim the opposite to be true.

    We moved four years ago to the South of France, we live in a village with 172 other people. It is sprawling, it has no central point, no shop no cafe and one public telephone. We get our winter logs from the Mayor, we have a village fete each year lasting three days, everyone gets involved, in some way or other. Last year the main evening communal meal was attended by 455 people. (It’s the same for the other villages around us) At meetings to discuss the village needs and or proposed changes, local politics, more than half the village people attend and air their views and opinions, they are taken into account.

    The Mayors son was sadly killed and there were so many people in attendance we had to park our car half a mile away from the church. When you meet a villager they stop, shake hands or kiss on the cheek and genuinely ask how you are. Shops are closed on Sundays, in much of France and the markets are used by most people, daily. If you want a stamp be prepared to wait while the counter staff finish talking with the person in front of you, service is important.
    I’m not painting a Rosie picture here, it’s simply how we live in this area. It is about community, about thinking of others and their needs, when you do this they will return the same in spades. What I believe we lose most in an over developed commercial society is genuine human contact, a belonging and a slower pace of life with time to think, time to reflect and time to enjoy the beauty of the world around us. it is less competitive and more cooperative, it has real value and meaning not a contrived seeking of who has the most things.
    I could go on but I think it’s time for a coffee and a slice of gateau in the conservatory, looking at the snow covered mountains.

  8. Peter Dawe -

    Thanks for the support. Points I’d like to emphasise:-

    Ivan, Mo, Happiness is anti economics and neo-liberal economics in particular. The call here is for Revolution! If you start to use economic arguments, you’ve already lost IMHO. Looking a “Need” immediately brings in economics, beware!

    The loss of community in UK is an opportunity! A Happiness movement that is founded on establishing supportive communities could be the foundation from which the political movement can grow. E.g Setting up pop-up “Happiness Cafes”, that target those who both get community and those who want it but dont know how to build it.

    Building a public narrative (Starting in Progressive Pulse?) that calls out advertising, and other processes that kill community would help, But more important we need to create an environment that encourages others to build new happy communities.

    Maybe Geoff can suggest the essence of what makes his french community work, that we can use in the UK

    1. Geoff Plant -

      Peter,
      I will give it some serious thought, try to distill at least something of it’s core and post something here.

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