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The question on what makes people happy has perennially escaped many thinkers, be they scholars, psychologists or therapists. Humanity is yet to master what exactly makes people happy as the indexes used to measure happiness have shown that even in places where people are expected to be happy, they are not as happy as they are expected.
For instance, if wealth equates to happiness or it has a direct link to the level of happiness, then it would mean that the wealthiest nations in the world would be ranked as the happiest nations. However, this is not the case as America, despite its massive wealth compared to other nations of the world, ranks a distant twenty third in the happiness index (Breakthrough Para 14). Therefore, this shows that wealth is not the source of happiness.
The concept of happiness is surrounded by a number of fallacies, paramount being the misconception that material possession is a source of happiness. In most parts of the world, people express that they would be happier if they acquired more material wealth.
For instance, people may assert that getting a better and even bigger house, live in a bigger and posh estate or drive an expensive car can be a source of happiness. However, Mathews and Izquierdo, (112), note that in most cases, this fallacies are the main sources of people’s unhappiness as they end up creating for themselves too much ambition that makes them be unable to reach the ideal happiness.
Going by Mathews and Izquierdo’s argument, people should be contented with whatever they have as opposed to spending too much time on agonizing on what they don’t have. They further point out that people should focus more on what they have as opposed to what they would wish to have as this only adds pain to their aspirations.
After years of working as a journalist, Weiner sets out to explore the idea of happiness by conducting interviews with people of those areas that have recorded the highest levels of happiness as well as those people who have recorded the lowest levels of happiness. This journey made him do many things in the quest to ensure that he establishes the real idea of happiness. In his book, Weiner (64) establishes that for one to be happy, the element of trust even to a government has a lot of emphasis on whether a person will be happy or unhappy.
For instance, the book establishes that in Bhutan where the leadership has deliberately pursued a policy of happiness for all citizens, the people report to be happy as they trust their king. This shows that the trust that the people of Bhutan have in their leadership reduces their worries hence making them be happy. Therefore, according to Weiner (44), trust in the leadership is an excellent way of making people happy.
However, critically thinking, this can be a fallacy as one cannot lay total trust on the leadership if the leadership has no capacity to meet the needs of an individual. For instance, if the government power was to be explored in relation of its influence on the capacity to influence the level of happiness, then it would be evident that Americans would be happier than many other people of the world. This is because the leadership of the United States of America remains the strongest in terms of military might as well as financial resources.
Therefore, Americans can trust their government for security and provision of all basic necessities. However, do the Americans lay trust in their government? Would laying this trust to the government result to happier Americans? Perhaps, one can say that trusting in the leadership may make the residents of Bhutan happy, but this does not directly mean that all people must lay their trust in the leadership to be happy.
Bearing in mind that the United States of America has one of the best democratic practices, people have trust in their elected leaders, but they are still the 23rd happiest people of the world.
Although Weiner (68) shows that trusting the leadership is a source of happiness by contrasting Bhutan with the people of Medova, one can still argue that so long as the leadership provides the required security, be it physical or social, the concept of happiness cannot be said to be directly linked to the trust in the existing leadership. For instance, Weiner fails to acknowledge that the leadership of Bhutan has made it deliberately known that it pursues the concept of happiness to its people.
Therefore, people have trust that the leadership has its plight in its day to day policy formulation and thus they feel happy that the leadership is concerned about them. However, this may necessarily not be the case as the citizens of Bhutan who ranks among the happiest people of the world may be ignoring their own predicaments in the trust that the leadership wishes are geared towards their good.
Going through Weiner’s works, one can see that the concept of happiness has many misconceptions. There is the misconception that doing whatever one wants is the path to happiness. In this quest, Weiner engages in many activities that he views as sources of happiness.
For instance, Weiner (64), ends up eating rotten Iceland sharks as this, he reasons, could be a source of happiness. In another instance, he insists that an insect that he found in distress must be saved as, according to him, this is a duty that can earn him happiness. This can be said to be a fallacy associated with the myth that doing whatever one wants can lead to happiness.
However, critically thinking, does consuming something that can even lead to sickness a source of happiness? Even after doing all this, one can deduce that Weiner never mastered the source of happiness since if he managed to establish the source, then the geography in search of bliss would have come to an end. This is an indication that people are yet to master what is the source of happiness.
In another incident Weiner visits Switzerland, a country that ranks high in the happiness index. Paradoxically, Weiner (80) learns that there are many hidden virtues of boredom only that people may not express them directly.
This is an indication that even people who report to be happy are not entirely happy as there are many issues that may make them unhappy. Westerners who live in better economically endowed nations were seen to seek happiness form the gurus of India an indication that although people want to be happy, they are yet to master the sources of happiness.
For instance, personally speaking, I would be happier if a graduate with straight A’s in all courses, but does this guarantee me a better job than the other average student? Even after this achievement, I would need to get more aspirations which show that I will still be far from getting happiness.
Another great fallacy that is evident in Weiner’s pursuit of bliss is that people who live in countries with the highest ranking of happiness are more secular as compared to residents of the less happy countries. However, despite their reporting of higher rates of self contentment, the rates of suicide in such countries are higher than for those who live in countries that record lower levels of happiness. It is expected that if people were happy, problems such as suicide would go down as opposed to going up.
Thus, the book contains a major fallacy in proposing the idea that less religious countries have happier citizens as this fact is directly contradicted by the increased rates of suicide in such countries. There is the misconception that rebelling against religion is a source of happiness. If this was indeed true, less religious nations would not only post higher figures of happiness based on happiness indexes, but would also have less incidences of suicide or life frustrations.
In conclusion, one can note that the whole concept of happiness can be said to be a fallacy. As posted in the blog “Breakthrough writer” abundance cannot be the source of happiness. The more people have their desires fulfilled, the more they want to experience more desires which force the brain to require further stimulation to experience happiness.
This is what has been referred to as “hedonic treadmill” which is an indication that true happiness cannot be achieved. Wealth and other material passions are sources of more mysteries as opposed to being sources of happiness (Breakthrough writer Para 22).
Throughout Weiner’s work, one learns that happiness is all about self conceptualization, the way people view themselves. The people of Switzerland view themselves happy because their land is a tourist destination; the people of Bhutan consider themselves happy because they have trust in their leadership while the people of Medova are unhappy as they compare themselves to the richer nations, not the poorer ones.
Breakthrough Writer. “All Geography of Bliss Lessons on One Page.” NP. 2011. Web. 16 October 2011. < http://herculodge.typepad.com/breakthrough_writer/geography-of-bliss-lessons/>
Mathews, Gordon and Izquierdo ,Carolina. Pursuits of happiness: well-being in anthropological perspective. New York: Berghahn Books, 2009. Print.
Weiner, Eric. The geography of bliss: one grump’s search for the happiest places in the world. New York: Twelve Hachette Book Group, 2008. Print.