The Paradox Of Happiness

The side effects of happiness…

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The benign Pez vibe and happy checkouts

Pez was everywhere when I was very small. These days the only place I see the stylised sweet dispenser is at the checkout of our local Iceland store (yes I shop at Iceland. Judge me not).

By the way the checkout staff always seem to be having a laugh. That’s some going for a job I’ve never envied. It’s often a more post traumatic stress vibe at the larger Supermarket checkouts.

Some of the checkout staff look as if they are, given half a chance, on the verge of bludgeoning some customers with a suitably weighty block of plastic wrapped cheese to the point where identifying the body from dental records alone would not be possible. They must have to deal with some right awkward types that would test the patience of a saint on Valium.

Checkout atmosphere (if we can assign it a dull management speak pseudo buzzword type description) isn’t just down to friendly small store vs oppressive mega corporate staff flogger stores. I’ve been in small stores where checkout chuckles would probably grant you a rapid demotion to unemployee of the month.

I don’t want to get drawn into a fanciful Pez on the checkout equals subtle benign influence theory but so far Pez dispensers and happy checkout staff scores wholly unscientific points on my improbable causes tally sheet.

Original image by SunCat under this creative commons licence

GLOBAL COMMUTING & HAPPINESS

I watched an interesting prog on the box last night about the new and growing breed of commuters who live in France but commute to the UK to work each day enabling a unique lifestyle that combines the quality of life of France whilst retaining their workspace in an English speaking environment. in some cases it took less time to commute from France than the equivalent commute they had been making when they actually lived in the UK. Cheap low cost flights had made the practicality of this dream scenario possible for many who had traded in their house to buy a palatial sized property in France and spare money in the bank to boot. Surely this points to one of the key factors and problems with working and living in the UK. It’s bloody expensive and the lifestyle rewards for all our efforts is quite low. I’m not a  “basher“. I hate people who whinge without constructive contribution or people who leave the UK to live elsewhere without ever having tried to change things in whatever small way. I especially have contempt for people who emigrate to English-speaking only countries or who move to other isles only to stay within their own ex-pat communities, often aping the very thing that many emigrants complain happens with immigrants to the UK. The whole programme brings up the whole notion of being happy in your work and happiness in general and what brings happiness. Ecological footprints aside, the fact that some people were looking for a better balance of lifestyle in this way proves that what makes people happy is different for each person but that if you work, it’s really crucial to either enjoy what you do or feel that for the hours you put in, you get something back. For some it’s purely financial and material, a minority have a calling and others choose to balance work and personal life as best they can. Many don’t have the choice. What happens as property prices become increasingly unaffordable and council tax overburdens them and the general cost of living means that many, especially key workers, get to see very little security or retain a sense of happiness derrived what their endless toiling brings to them. I feel it’s a serious social problem that will reach a tipping point one day.

GROSS DOMESTIC HAPPINESS

I remember reading some time agao that in the remote Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan the government puts happiness at the heart of its policies.So not only does Gross domestic product(GDP) matter but Gross National Happiness(GNH) is high on the political agenda. In implementing this policy of happiness the capital, Thimpu, has a remarkable lack of advertising and that boards promoting Coke and Pepsi were recently banned. Bhutan was amongst the last of the nations to adopt television but has banned international wrestling and MTV as they felt these did little to promote happiness. Plastic bags and tobacco has almost been banned on the grounds that either does little in the way of promoting happiness.

They had one set of traffic lights in Bhutan but it was felt that this caused frustration so they replaced them with a human being instead.One of Bhutan’s central most central policy is care of the environment with strict conservation laws in place to ensure sustainable development.

The oddity of this seeming Shangri-La is that such radical policies have only been possible because Bhutan is so remote and because they have an absolute monarchy.