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Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

G'day. Martin Gifford is a regular Webdiarist. This is the second piece in his series for Webdiary on worldwide happiness.

by Martin Gifford

In my recent article, Let’s Create Worldwide Happiness, I suggested that creating a happy human world should be the new reference point for our actions, meaning that, in principle, everything we do should benefit all (or at least not hurt others) in the short-term and long-term. Aiming for the benefit of all is better than aiming for one’s own benefit, or for the benefit of any individual or group. Expansive, inclusive, harmonious goals are life affirming, whereas smaller goals are often defences against life.

In presenting a case for change, a person needs to describe the suggested change, counter the objections, and close the deal. My previous article outlined the suggested change, and I countered many objections in the comments section. The purpose of this article is to briefly summarise the suggestion, the objections, and the counterarguments, and then to close the deal.

The natural stages of life are:

  1. Establishing security (like a vine growing roots and branches).
  2. Appreciation and enjoyment of current creation (like a vine flowering), while co-creating the future (like a vine fruiting).

In other words, we survive to live, we live to appreciate and enjoy our bodies, our minds, Planet Earth, and The Universe, and by appreciating and enjoying life, we co-create the future. Doing these things is my definition of human happiness.

These stages of life fit in with all philosophies and religions since philosophy essentially means ‘love of life’, and the major religions hold that we earn paradise or liberation in the next life according to what we do in this life. If you explore why people pursue anything, you will find that the quest for greater happiness for themselves or others is at the heart of it.

Given that we have completed stage 1 (we are the dominant species), we must be ready for stage 2 (appreciation, enjoyment, and creation). The buds are ready to bloom; we only need to let it happen. It is now the easiest thing to do.

However, if we do not know about stage 2, we unwittingly repeat aspects of stage 1, leading to pain, boredom, and frustration. When we do not know about co-creating the future, we become destructive e.g. we find scapegoats to blame and punish such as refugees or the nine alleged drug traffickers in Indonesia, or we indulge in war such as the War in Iraq or performing terrorist acts. Destructive behaviour generates enemies and so it spoils the very security to which we cling. Progressing to stage 2, on the other hand, increases security.

The essence of the way for creating a happy human world is to act harmoniously (appreciation and enjoyment of all) and inclusively (co-creating with all). This is natural once we realise that the initial survival emergency is over and that stage 2 is next. Acting harmoniously and inclusively will create an environment of goodwill that is conducive to the natural blooming of widespread happiness. In that environment of goodwill the rich will help the poor to help themselves, the strong will help the weak to become strong, and we will resolve misunderstandings before conflicts arise. Cooperation uses less time and energy than conflict does, and it produces better results.

The objections to establishing worldwide happiness as our goal fall into two general categories:

Objection 1 - “Worldwide happiness is a bad goal.”

Objection 2 - “Worldwide happiness is impossible now or forever.”

A good refutation for objection 1 is as follows: All people naturally seek greater happiness (security, appreciation, enjoyment, and fulfilment). To experience feelings of happiness, people need to be sensitive. But if you are sensitive to feelings of happiness, you will also be sensitive to the suffering of others. Therefore, for an individual to be happy, all the people she or he meets, sees, hears about, or reads about must be happy - the more the better. In addition, human beings need good relationships to be happy, firstly because we are social creatures, and secondly because we need others’ goodwill to maintain the present good and to create a better future.

In other words, it is only in a happy world that we can a) relax and be sensitive enough to experience happiness, b) enjoy the happiness of others, and c) convert conflict and competition into support and cooperation, thereby efficiently maintaining present good while improving the future.

A good refutation for objection 2 is that technology, information, and channels of communication have evolved to the point where worldwide happiness is now possible. We now have the physical and mental resources to create and maintain a happy human world e.g. you are reading about it on the internet right now. So we seem to need only the will. But since the desire to be happy is present in all individuals, we must really only need to communicate the fact that an environment of happiness is a prerequisite for each individual to reach his or her own desired happiness. In 2005 AD, such communication is easy.

This brings me to a paradoxical form of objection 2, which is also the essential cause of suffering for humankind. A self-fulfilling prophecy that people often think is that since other people believe worldwide happiness is impossible, or since other people will say no, worldwide happiness must be impossible. In other words, people say no, because they think others will say no. This represents an underestimation of our communication and creation abilities.

After hearing the rationale for making this world into a happy home for us all, and after having objections answered, what if we say that it is a good goal and that it is possible? What if we just say yes? And what if we ask the next person to experiment with saying yes? By saying yes, we can see how the world looks from that viewpoint. It is a creative step that opens the door to further creativity. Then arguing becomes part of the co-creative process of life. We start using our minds for exploring how worldwide happiness might be possible, rather than for guarding the door. We might even discover a better goal.

People have become accustomed to a low standard of happiness, so it helps if they can see a higher standard. Ask people to imagine walking down the street in a carnival of appreciation, enjoyment, and creativity, especially on a Friday night or on a Sunday afternoon. Watch their bodies relax. See the twinkle in their eyes. It is like returning a gasping fish to its natural watery habitat. Ask people what kind of world they want to live in. We can create paradise on Earth.

Everyone must be included. Even villains are waiting for someone with a key to unlock the villains’ hearts and release their goodwill. In the meantime, we can generate greater security, appreciation, enjoyment, and creativity, and then invite criminals, terrorists, despots, presidents, prime ministers, opposition leaders, and media magnates to join in and be happy too. Once we have achieved a higher standard of happiness, stragglers will be attracted to it.

So this is my close: Let’s create worldwide happiness. Say yes, and pass it on. Let’s move on from endless debate about secondary issues, to the evolutionary, all-encompassing, co-creative way of life. A happy world is closer than we normally think, and your agreement and further communication will bring it even closer. You might be the one who makes all the difference.

My email address is worldwidehappiness@yahoo.com.au. I welcome your responses, suggestions, and objections.

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re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Ok on that two-step formula, I'm seeing the young struggle to establish security and the middle-aged struggle to enjoy the fruits of their labour. Personally I've done far too much work trying to establish myself, to little effect; it will work eventually, but social conditions, like housing prices and the choices I've made mean it will take much longer than I'd like. The young people that have established themselves are just as miserable, if not more, through over-work and lack of time spent with their partners, etc. Some haven't established themselves but are content and enjoying the security of un-ambition but I struggle to relate to their relaxation and total lack of pessimism. Lambs to the slaughter.

On the baby boomer front there appears to be an inability to fully enjoy the wealth and fruits of establishment and a longing for something beyond pure wealth accumulation. I'll cite John Hepher's Baby Boomers , as the major source of my understanding of this aspect, though evidence is ripe wherever you look.

For the Thirty-something’s, I don't know, I never meet them. They seem harsh and reticent. Over-worked, with the extra burden of new responsibilities, raising children, paying debts. Something of the sort.

Throughout all of life is the undercurrent of the "War on terror". It is a ghastly thing, whatever side you are on and it makes life difficult to enjoy for everyone. Or at least, everyone that takes in the news.

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Solomon, nearly everyone is secure in Australia. The only insecurity we have now is due to the failure to move on to step 2, which is happiness achieved by creating worldwide happiness. As for the strugglers, it is better to have happy trusting relationships than to compete for a house, etc. As for the achievers with a home, they are not as happy as they could be because they don't know about stage 2. If you join a political party like you said you might, will you spread the idea of worldwide happiness?

Dave, selfishness is caused by ignorance. If everyone understands that we need worldwide happiness to be happy individually, then we will do it. It's straight forward. Your proposition of an unavoidable choice between my happiness and your happiness is a hypothetical. It doesn't come up in our day to day experience. People revert back to the worst of stage 1 if under stress or if they don't know about stage 2. By 'now' I mean 'during the next 10 years'. I think we can easily achieve worldwide happiness in that period. We only need to choose it. We will choose it if we hear about it and spread the idea. We've got to give it a try. We've got to raise the standard of debate.

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Objection 2(a) - "Worldwide happiness is impossible now..."

"We can create paradise on Earth."

Call me a cynic - "Cynic!" - but WE most definitely cannot create paradise on Earth.

Humans tend to selfishness. Yes, ask people what kind of world they want to live in and they'll say, "A happy one, bien sur!" Or, as I would suspect more likely, "One where 'I' am happy, of course!"

So if the consequence of yourself being happy was someone else being unhappy, would you take your happiness over theirs? I suspect so because, after all, you're aiming for happiness and it has to start somewhere!

I was reminded of a quote in reference to New Orleans that went something like this (my paraphrasing): "It takes a very long time, as well as a lot of organisation, planning and constant control to keep a society civilised, but only a few days for all that hard work to come crumbling down."

Why? Because all of us will ultimately be looking out for our own happiness first and foremost, particularly when we don't have the relative comforts and security enjoyed by the western world. Those comforts and security could in this age be more accurately attributed to anyone not impoverished, war-stricken or otherwise forsaken by those of us chasing happiness, whether western, eastern, northern or southern.

And so, Objection 2(a) states "Worldwide happiness is impossible now...". This objection is entirely accurate, the key word being 'worldwide'. Individual happiness is freely available for those prepared to take it, but worldwide happiness cannot occur NOW. Which leads to Objection 2(b), "...or forever". This objection most definitely deserves refutation. Worldwide happiness is by no means impossible forever - but with this caveat - it will never succeed as a creation of humanity, because of human selfishness.

That all said, I didn't read your first article or the comments, or your replies to those comments, so apologies for coming in late. This is my first visit to Webdiary.

Caroline: Dave, welcome on board, no apologies necessary! Next time, full name or a nom de plume, with explanation please, as per the Webdiary Discussion Guidelines

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

There are two fudamental flaws in this (both may be logical flaws or one may simply be emotive): the assumption that it is possible to be "happy" (whatever that may mean); and the assumption that there are mutually exclusive, non-competing, desires.

I want to be in parliament but there is a limited number of seats. Lots of other people want to be in parliament but there is a limited number of seats. Assuming (simply for the sake of argument) that the achievment of that want would lead to happiness for the wanter, not every wanter can achieve happiness. Indeed the losers will not achieve it at all.

Wanting to be in parliament is a much more bizarre desire than most human desires but most of those are mutually incompatible.

Unlesss you define "happiness" so narrowly that it does not admit of competing desires, it is unachievable by everybody. The concept is essentially meaningless. "Man that is born of woman hath but a short time to live, and is full of misery." As true now as it was in the 17th Century.

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

G'day Martin. I have to admit that when I read your first piece on this theme - which presented a solution so simple and so right, and for which no one would have to be nailed to anything - my impulse was to scan the skies for the imminent arrival of a Vogon constructor fleet.

No, I'm not really taking the piss, it's only that, as no doubt you've gathered from some of the reactions of others, the very idea is so way outside everyone's frame of reference that it is difficult to see how it can proceed, let alone succeed.

I think that you are correct in saying that the creation of happiness, worldwide or otherwise, depends upon the fostering and promotion of goodwill. A problem for the creation of happiness, therefore, is that goodwill hasn't had a very good run in the toxic moral and political environment in which we find ourselves.

The blame lies not merely with our present or recent past political masters - of course, very few of them have been much of a boon - but with our species legacy, the baggage of our recent and remote past, in which goodwill has at best had only a limited and incidental role.

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Martin , no I will not spread the idea of world-wide happiness because it sounds vague and...vaguely ridiculous. I'd campaign on Industrial Relations, on the grounds that whilst it might not affect people personally, it will affect the general well-being of society by placing extra stress on professions like nursing. Beyond that I'd probably say nothing, since an uncluttered message is a good one. I would also inquire as to the troubles, experiences and reasons why a person votes the way they do, so that I could collate it in to a report, to hand back to the higher-ups to deal with as they please.

I'd not try to influence policy, since I know that would be a pyhrric excercise, as a new entrant and a young'n. I'd merely go collecting and spreading raw information. I would also insist that people in the party get to know me and assist me when I need it, since I'm nobody's puppy.

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

World Peace will only be achieved when people are happy. People can only be truly happy when they are free of greed. We are constantly encouraged to be greedy and agressive by numerous commercials telling us how we must have more and more of everything. Until we learn to switch off from this we will never be happy or at peace with ourselves or with others.

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Martin if I do a sort of a metaphorical Edit-Replace on your piece and exchange references to happiness with references to economic well-being I get a treatise arguing the benefits of Globalisation. Is that what you're getting at?

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Martin: intriguing piece, and I can just about predict what some WDers will say about it. So here's my 2 cents worth before the currency becomes devalued.

I think you're absolutely right that we have to pull back and take stock of where we are and where we want to go. So much of human endeavour is micro-focussed and reactionary (in that it's a reaction to something) that we end up doing some wacky things before we know what we've done.

Dave, you're right and you're wrong. While most people are probably selfish, in the sense that people would rather other people suffer than themselves, I think there's also some good in people too. Most of the time, people are content to live, work, raise families, and just get on with life, provided that they have the means to do so.

I'd contend that the major disasters like wars are started by a few people for their own reasons. Most people don't want to go to war: whole nations rarely rush spontaneously across borders to invade other countries. They go because their leaders make them go. Yes, there will always be murders, in any society, but organised wholesale slaughter is a bad thing that we've got to learn to do without. The world would be much better off.

But I don't think we need some people to be unhappy for us to be happy. For me, I'm extremely depressed about what our own governments are forcing on people all around the world: I'm unhappy because they're unhappy. I suspect I'm not alone. Anyone with a shred of empathy would feel the same, especially given that we in the developed world are at least partly responsible (at least insofar as it's our governments' and corporations' actions that make people suffer). As an illustration, there's the fact that the majority world pays more to the rich world in debt payments than they receive in aid. Debt that's often incurred by despotic leaders, who then bugger off to enjoy their cash leaving the impoverished citizens to pay.

Here's an item from the Guardian I spotted today: Tax Avoidance Keeps Developing World Poor. No-one has to become unhappy to make these poor countries happier: they just need to act responsibly and a little less greedily.

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

How can I make the world happy when happiness is subjective. We become happy as we overcome greed and anger. You can only hope that others follow suit.

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

When my home of one hundred years is swept away by floodwaters, when my dog is cleaned up by a bus, when my mother dies from cancer, how do I stay happy? Truth is, in the face of these normal earthly occurrences, I can't. And everyone I meet soon after will register my unhappiness and so too will feel transitorily unhappy about my unhappiness. (Or, more likely, in today's world, they won't give a toss because it has zero impact on them, (or so they think), and they can simply ignore my pain (or so they think) - but like liquid into the chalk…

The planet is a hazardous place, human activity aside, it is not designed with a view to making us either happy or unhappy, and God knows society doesn't seem to be structured for, or heading in any direction which aims to foster or maintain happiness amongst us.

Happiness must start with the individual. It’s next to useless for me to think I can automatically be happy if I am surrounded by other happy people. Being the sum total of all my experiences, the good and the bad, I am not that simplistic, and I don't know anyone, save the severely brain affected who is.

There is great truth and beauty in sadness, it’s one of the more 'real' emotions we get to feel. Happiness is a come-by-chance state that never hangs around quite so chronically as its counterpart. Yes it would be good if the world could 'change', if society wasn't so cut-throat, and the rise (and rise) of selfish individualism wasn't so destructive for us all. Sadly I can't see this happening anytime soon, unless individuals commit to changing themselves for something more authentic, more truthful and more humane. But this is, as we know, the road less travelled.

We humans congratulate ourselves for having such large brains, when truth is we use such a miniscule part of them. I'd be 'happier' if people could learn to use a bit more of their grey matter, and we sought to take our leadership from the best and the brightest amongst us, rather than what we do now. I think a greater degree of world-wide love towards the earth, ourselves and each other would be a more realistic aim than trying to clutch at something that by its nature is usually only short-lived.

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Alison Jobling. Have you managed to understand what Noam Chomsky's agenda is yet, or are you still stuck in Fundy Guardian land?

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Happiness is the kids at gran's for the weekend, hubby ferrying vodka martinis out to the pool, The Jam pumping out of the stereo, a bowl of peeled prawns on the table next to me, and the possibility of a bit of a nibble on an ecstasy tablet as the sun sets!

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Martin, I have studied Buddhism a little in the past and your idea is no doubt gained from Buddhist philosophy. The idea that one needs to helps others gain happiness before one can achieve happiness oneself is a part of certain Buddhist traditions.

It is a lovely idea but quite frankly unattainable at least right now.

Perhaps when humanity grows up and stops killing each other it may have some chance but I think we have a very long way to go. All around me I see people who are miserable most of the time. I would like to be more positive but one can't go around smiling like some sort of demented Mary Poppins all the time. Someone would start to wonder what you were taking!

Seriously, the world needs to change. And sometime soon before it is all too late. But we need leaders with vision and the strength to stand up for the people and not bow down to the great God Big Business and the Almighty Dollar. Can anyone tell me where we might get leaders like that? I certainly don't see anyone in this country nor the rest of the world that seem to have any conscience whatsoever. Let alone promoting happiness.

As an individual you can try and change your little corner of the world and hope the effect flows on but that is all it is. A beautiful, wonderful dream.

But keep dreaming , Martin. I will too. I think the words of John Lennon's "Imagine" says it all.

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Alison Jobling. Are you on drugs? Chomsky has been calling for a secular bi-national state in Palestine for decades!

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Wendy Davies. You sound like a Soviet Communist! Keep your bizarre ideas of "leadership" to yourself. I certainly don't require others to lecture ME on what my values and attitudes towards material comfort should be.

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Malcolm, I'd contend that most human needs are not mutually incompatible. Note I say 'needs', not 'wants'. Once needs are taken care of, there's greater chance to be happy.

I have to agree with Solomon that "let's all be happyyyyyyy" sounds rather hippy-trippy, but there's a core of sense. If we think of where we want our world to be and then work towards that, instead of firefighting all the time, we stand a better chance.

A big issue is how we define happiness. I'd suggest we go for something less grand and more achievable: let's work on ending poverty and repression, and killing the arms trade. Together these things create most of the misery in the world.

And Noelene, as I keep asking, please substantiate your claims about Chomsky. If you can't produce a reference by, say, Sunday, I'll be forced to assume you're making it up, and will then dance around singing "liar, liar, Noelene's crimplene pants are on fire".

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

This is my first posting here in this new place and this topic, although kind of weird, is very accessible. Thanks Margo for keeping on keeping on.

Now, what makes me happy? Um... is true happiness a reality, and if so, can I buy some in a spread form for my toast?

I personally think it goes against the grain to be happy in Australia. Take John Howard for instance! Take him to an undisclosed location and ram raw baby carrots up his nose will ya’? He always looks miserable, even when he’s supposed to be bowled over with joy! He is our front man and so a lot can be gleamed from this little creep. I believe Australians see themselves as happy-go-lucky rather than happy. We are happiest when the opportunity arrives to be opportunistic. We’re a lucky bunch but not a happy bunch. There's a real sense in this country that the bottom will fall out of it all if we push our luck. Happiness is looked on with suspicion in Australia. How many times have you been asked, "What are you smiling for mate?" Only to then have your block knocked off! This contemporary Australia should not be setting goals for assuring happiness worldwide when a great majority truly believe in murderous revenge, flatly refuse to help others in need, and have strong aspirations to avoid the mess when the bottom does finally fall out of it all, and that's just the generation born after 1980. I believe Australians don't have the capacity for happiness because we choose to see ourselves through others eyes. Australians have refused to get to know themselves and this is one of the first steps of finding happiness. Have a happy day.

ed Kerri: Another raconteur joins us. Welcome, Craig.

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

"Are you on drugs? Chomsky has been calling for a secular bi-national state in Palestine for decades!"

Oh, my god, a secular bi-national state?! Notify the media! Oh, man's inhumanity to man! What a horrific thing to even suggest!

Honestly, Noelene, is that all you've been shrieking about? You use that to justify your claims that Chomsky is all sorts of Badness? Get a grip, woman!

To help you get said grip, here are some soothing images:
Land ownership in Palestine 1948 and 1967;
West Bank final status map presented by Israel at Camp David, July 2000 (Note here the "existing or planned Israeli thoroughfares": that means Palestinians can't use those roads. Apartheid? Not us!);
Palestinian sovereign areas according to the Sharon proposal, 2001;
If Americans Knew, which has some simple graphs showing the falsity of the picture portrayed in the mainstream media;
and this, perhaps most importantly, a flash animation of the path of the wall.

Look carefully at them all, then tell me how the hell the Palestinians are supposed to form a viable, independent state? Or perhaps you think the Palestinians should be driven from their homes, as so many Israeli government officials have stated?

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Noelene, excuse me if I believe that everyone has a right to basic human rights, like decent medical care, free education and a roof over their heads.

I am not a communist and resent you saying so!
More of a small "l" liberal with a social conscience.

And as to my ideas of what a leader should be forgive me for thinking a leader should actually care about the people he is leading and not greedy corporations.

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Martin Gifford. YES, and I am passing it on as we speak.

Here's to happiness!

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

How can we have a world full of happy people when some of those people derive pleasure from the discomfort of others?

It's going to take a revolution of thought to get everyone to be nice to each other.

Happiness, like life, is an illusion, and maybe if one stops looking for it, only then will it appear.

I wish there was a more original way to say it, because this is not an original idea. Maybe I heard Tripitaka say something like this on Monkey?

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Why do we have to be happy - why can't we just "be".

If we can't be happy people, does that mean we have failed as people, then descend into depression because happiness was unobtainable. How about just feeling "good". What do we do about those annoying early bird people who are chirping like crazy in the mornings and all day, yet dead boring by 7pm and wanting to go to bed, just when I'm starting to get happy!

Craig Ball,"Take John Howard for instance! Take him to an undisclosed location and ram raw baby carrots up his nose will ya’? He always looks miserable, even when he’s supposed to be bowled over with joy! He is our front man and so a lot can be gleamed from this little creep."

That's our problem, we just have to set ourselves free from Howard and then the whole nation can know happiness. Does he know or even care how we suffer!

Margo: Hi Deb. No need for paragraph marks. Just leave a space between paras. And regular quotation marks work too on Typepad.

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Everyone, If you’d like to try an interesting experiment, here are a few suggestions for this weekend:

Say yes to the goal of creating worldwide happiness to see how the world looks from that viewpoint. Explore how worldwide happiness might be possible. Ask someone else to experiment with saying yes. Ask people to imagine walking down the street in a carnival of appreciation, enjoyment, and creativity, especially on a Friday night or on a Sunday afternoon. Watch their bodies relax. See the twinkle in their eyes. Ask people what kind of world they want to live in. Ask them if creating a happy home for us all is the most basic need and hence the most basic goal.

A happy world is closer than we normally think, and your agreement and further communication will bring it even closer. You might find that you are the charismatic leader who will make all the difference, or you might discover such a person, or you might talk to someone who discovers such a person. You might hit upon some great key or even find a better goal. Who knows what could happen? Let us know what happened.

My replies to comments so far:

Alison Jobling, Great comments and I essentially agree with them all. Survival of the fittest only applies at the lower instinctual level. We are all fit enough because we have survived. After survival comes happiness and that requires the happiness of all. Those who compete for happiness are ignorant of this or they are feeling unnecessarily insecure. “Let’s create worldwide happiness” seems to be the only sensible thing to do. What else would we do? I agree that firefighting is the wrong approach, but ending poverty and repression and the arms trade are also forms of firefighting. If we spread a good inclusive creative harmonious goal, then these issues will clear up easily as part of the process of working towards that goal. Firefighting is only a way to remove symptoms in emergencies, rather than dealing with causes. Do you think that spreading the idea of creating worldwide happiness on a grass roots level is sound? Are you willing to give it a try? Talk to someone about it this weekend?

C McArthur, Personal trauma is more bearable and passes faster when we are in a wise happy environment. We have the power to make the Earth a happy place whether it was designed to be happy or not. You and I can wake society up to the need to make this a happy home for us all. See how it reads when I write the opposite of what you wrote: it is the “severely brain affected” who think they can be happy in an unhappy world or who think that they are no more likely to be happy in a happy environment. Happiness is “come-by-chance” only because of our ignorant world that is stuck in the survival mode of competition. Why would sadness be more real or more constant than happiness in this amazing miraculous mysterious universe – home to peacocks, galaxies, and Angelina Jolie? Selfishness is due to ignorance, and it’s up to us all to counter that ignorance with wisdom if we have it. We can create worldwide happiness in 10 years if we decide to do so – if we use more of our grey matter as you suggest. Creating a happy home for us all is the most realistic thing we can do. Say yes, and see how the world looks from that viewpoint.

Craig Ball, Happiness should be the natural state after we have taken care of survival needs. It is only in our currently ignorant world that this is not happening. So we have to fix the ignorance. True human happiness on Earth is the feeling and activity of co-enjoyment, appreciation, and co-creation. I agree that leaders are not happy - yes, it’s very strange. Yes, Australians are generally afraid of success. No, we have the ability to help those in need - look at the tsunami appeal. I agree that Australians need to face messes and get to know themselves. I hate the cringe question visitors are invariably asked, “What do you think of Australia?” It demonstrates a fundamental insecurity. Craig, you have a rare and good insight about Australia.

David Eastwood, Globalisation can’t produce happiness because the fundamental of economics - competition for scarce resources - is perpetuated, leading inevitably to unhappiness. Economic success doesn’t produce happiness - it only ends the survival emergency, which is only the completion of the first step. Happiness requires that we move on to the second step of enjoyment, appreciation, and co-creation. Personal happiness ultimately requires worldwide happiness for the reasons stated in my articles.

Deb Wands, “Just being” is good, but when we feel like just doing we experience unnecessary restrictions caused by ignorant people. When we switch on the TV we see starving kids and war, and that spoils our happiness, and it demands a response from us. We never fail as people, it’s only that the system has nearly everyone hypnotised. The trouble with removing politicians is that they are replaced by other politicians. I think we need grass roots communication of wholesome goals until someone with wisdom and charisma comes along.

Frank Said, We can make the world happy by harmoniously creating a conducive environment for happiness - goodwill, security, and wisdom. I think understanding how things work is more essential than overcoming greed and anger. Of course, understanding should lead to the end of greed and anger.

Jacob A. Stam, The reason that worldwide happiness “is so way outside everyone's frame of reference” is because of the din of advertising, the programming by parents and friends, the programming by teachers, and the programming by politicians. But now we have the internet and we can start a whole knew conversation. The way to proceed is to start a higher form of discussion. Why are we on Earth? Isn’t a happy home for us all the most basic need? I hope this isn’t a case of you saying no, because you think others will say no? I think we need grass roots communication until that charismatic person comes along and inspires our higher instincts of goodwill, or until my book comes out, or until a trauma comes along, or until aliens land. A tipping point will be reached where it becomes widely discussed and becomes policy, then it will succeed. We can deal with our collective baggage. We’ve only got to make the equation in people’s minds: The happiness of others = the happiness of you and yours. Where there’s a will, there’s a way. Goodwill is waiting to be triggered – look at the response to the tsunami.

John Schindler, The way to end greed is to understand that it doesn’t produce happiness. So it’s a matter of communicating the understanding of what works and what doesn’t work.

Jolanda Challita, Good on you. Let us know what kind of response you get. It’s fascinating to see how people respond to the idea of creating worldwide happiness.

Malcolm B. Duncan, We have infinite potentials, so we don’t need to cling to the outcome of any particular one. And as Alison Jobling wrote, most goals are not mutually exclusive. Focussing on the broadness of our potentials shows that happiness is achievable by everybody. Regarding your example of wanting a seat in parliament - there are many similar jobs that will do just as well, such as journalist, local government, writing a book, not to mention all your other potentials and interests. Life is “full of misery” because of ignorance. If we end the ignorance, then happiness will follow. This is possible now with modern communications and information.

Matt Pope, Those who “derive pleasure from the discomfort of others” are ignorant of their potential and their need for happiness in others, and they are operating on the stage 1 level - survival. So we need to give them good info or at least raise the standard of debate. We need to prove to them that working for the happiness of all satisfies their quest for happiness better. Where there’s a will there’s a way. Yes, “it’s going to take a revolution of thought.” No, I disagree with your claim that enjoyment, appreciation, creation and life are illusions. Indeed, your commenting proves that you were responding to something that wasn’t an illusion - you switched on your computer (real), you read the article (real), you tapped on the keys (real), and you had certain feelings (real). In principle, I agree that we should stop looking for happiness, but the lifeforce in us will inevitably move us to seek security, enjoyment, appreciation, and creation, which are forms of happiness. We can’t stop the natural will to manifest our potentials, which leads to happiness.

Noelene Konstandinitis, Your ideal weekend is one form of human happiness on earth - enjoyment. Appreciation and co-creation are the others. We shouldn’t need alcohol or drugs on this fantabulous amazing miraculous planet.

Solomon Wakeling, What is “vague and vaguely ridiculous” about the idea of creating worldwide happiness?! I would say that not promoting worldwide happiness is ridiculous. Doing small things like IR campaigns are good, but don’t you see the potential in raising the issue of worldwide happiness? It could put people beyond the need of further help and end the competitive assumptions behind the IR issues. I believe in dealing with causes rather than symptoms (except in emergencies). Say yes to creating worldwide happiness and see how the world looks from that viewpoint. An uncluttered message can be effective in the short-term but is rarely a good message. I like your idea about inquiring about voting reasons. The trick to influencing is to be harmonious. It’s like finding out voting reasons - it’s about finding common ground. The desire for happiness is the most obvious common ground we have. We should go for it directly.

Wendy Davies, Do you think leaders don’t care about the people? I think they care at least a little bit, but they are such arch pragmatists that they compromise to the hilt. The right wing ones think that what’s good for the corporations is good for the people. Having said that, I dreamt last night that George Bush was torn between committing suicide and going on a homicidal mission! Yes, killing is appalling, but the situation can be quickly turned around with insight. We can create worldwide happiness in 10 years once the idea has gained a strong foothold. I agree that you “can’t go around smiling like some sort of demented Mary Poppins.” However, we shouldn’t stop working on creating happiness until we feel like smiling a lot more than we do. We need to spread the idea of worldwide happiness or something like it at a grass roots level - then the leader will rise out of the swamp. You’ve got to talk about it. What else would you talk about? There are 6 billion people in the world, so surely someone with the right charisma and wisdom can come along. Until then, my suggestion is: “Worldwide happiness - say yes, and pass it on.”

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Its hard to be happy in a world that allows children to die of hunger.
Niger famine:

“An average of 40 young children are dying each day in one area in the east of the country, a new study has found.”

It would make me happy if we spent just half the money we spend currently on bombs and bullets, overcoming famine.

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Martin Gifford, I'm glad you included some explanation in your challenge to us all for the weekend, because "spreading worldwide happiness" is too vague a term to be useful. I know if I use that, people will look at me as though I'm the dippy hippy, and nothing will be achieved.

I think you're right when you say that we need one over-arching, unifying theme, though. We tend to get bogged down in the firefighting, and lose all enthusiasm. Perhaps we need to focus on that one theme, and inspect every proposed change to society, every act that we perform, every artifact we buy or sell, in light of that theme. Does it further the goal, or retard it? Nice starting point. It will need something more from there on, though. I'm not sure what that something will be, but probably if we got started we could easily come up with a way.

I can't speak for others, but I find it very disheartening that although most people seem reasonably nice, the World is still relentlessly nasty. I can't understand how people believe some of the things they believe, or how they acquiesce in so much badness, and consider themselves good people even while they advocate the slaughter of innocents.

One of Terry Pratchett's characters summed this up far better than I ever could: when asked about the nature of evil, she replied "Thinking of people as things". When her interlocutor remonstrated that it was more complicated than that, there were different types of evil, she replied "Yes, but they all start with thinking of people as things". Hard to argue with that.

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Martin Gifford, your suggestion that we have infinite potentials, outside of pure theoretical philosophy, is drivel.

Each of us may have many potentials but we do not all have them all.

This is a vale of tears. To your argument: vale.

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

G'day Martin, thanks for your comments. I couldn't agree more regarding the problem of, "the din of advertising, the programming by parents and friends, the programming by teachers, and the programming by politicians" - notwithstanding that these are to a large extent manifestations of social democracy in process. I agree that the opportunity to "start a whole new conversation" using the Internet does hold promise, but then so I suppose did the printing press.

"Why are we on Earth?" Well, now we're talking. Various approaches to this question account for the din/programming. Some approaches are, of course, inimical or hostile to others, many represent creative or novel solutions to that question, some are potentially disastrous.

There's a guy called Donald Cameron, who professes to have deduced the purpose of life from Darwinian evolutionary theory. In his book, ambitiously titled The Purpose of Life, he concludes that "reproduction is not just the main thing: it is almost the only thing. Childlessness by choice is a disaster akin to suicide or murdering our own children."

Does Cameron believe in and live by the these principles he has extracted from the chaos? "I first understood it twenty years ago," he writes, "when I was aged about 40 and had the standard two children. I now have nine."

The man's clearly a dynamo, but obviously if everyone in the world lived by Cameron's conception of the purpose of life, the human race would exceed the carrying capacity of the planet even more catastrophically than now obtains.

It seems that a house full of kids constitutes Cameron's conception of "a happy home for us all", fulfilling one of "the most basic needs", if not the primary imperative. Imelda Marcos, on the other hand, might regard a room full of shoes as fulfilling her most basic needs. The "pursuit of happiness" is the pretext upon which humanity weaves a bewildering tapestry of enterprise and folly.

Martin: "I think we need grass roots communication until that charismatic person comes along and inspires our higher instincts of goodwill, or until my book comes out, or until a trauma comes along, or until aliens land."

Amen to spreading the word at grassroots level, however you clearly recognise how contingent the planet-wide establishment of the program must be. By the way, I'm not saying "no" because I think others will say "no". I guess my response amounts to a qualified "yes", mainly due to the problems of definition identified by others as well.

"Goodwill is waiting to be triggered - look at the response to the tsunami." - the obverse of that might be found in reports of various antisocial and criminal behaviour after Katrina ripped through New Orleans. Note that I'm not trying to be negative about this, but one has to be conservative about the human capacity for making a good fist of freedom, given the din/programming, not to mention various other darker modulators of human behaviour.

A news article here tells of the apparently rising incidence in Victoria of "children receiving therapy after sexually abusing other children". A report by the Australian Childhood Foundation "has found that more than 70 per cent of the children had themselves experienced sexual, physical or emotional abuse". The report "also found that 42 per cent of the children's parents had a history of childhood abuse". Thus, abuse would appear to have flow-on and even generational effects, with damaged people from each generation potentially inflicting further damage on the next.

As with such more extreme forms of abuse, so we might consider that perhaps lesser or more commonplace forms (eg, bullying and other dominance behaviours, pecking orders, etc) will also have a tendency to perpetuate abuse and unhappiness. Of course it's true that humans are genetically pre-wired with such behaviours, however it's probably also true that these may be modified and limited through various means such as social mechanisms, education, sublimation in sport or other pursuits, whatever.

Such ameliorative measures are perhaps in large part the wellsprings of goodwill. So, yes, we "can deal with our collective baggage," but bear in mind there's perhaps millennia of backlog.

The potential for happiness in a population may somehow be measured by the degree to which its governance promotes goodwill through leadership and legislated measures. Any thoughts on what Australia's report card might look like?

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Free societies provide the conditions for happiness

'For centuries, philosophers and poets have tried to understand what happiness is, and what might contribute to it. In recent decades, scientists have started to come up with the answers. Happiness is electrical activity in the left front part of the brain, and it comes from avoiding communism, getting married, getting friends, and getting a number plate with my surname (misquoted ;-)' The Scientist's Pursuit of Happiness

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

I just can't get my head around a 'don't worry be happy' mentality as a cure-all for the world. It seems too superficial.

What about the inherent discrimination of people who have mental health, medical problems or simply, just do not have a faith and belief in the world happiness concept. Are these differences going to condemn them as lesser people? To be even further targeted by society? Will desperate people paste a smile on their faces and pretend to be happy until the day that they kill themselves, then leave others to wonder why they could not tell anyone how they really felt?

Many selfish people will have no problems with the concept, but will they feel a duty to ensure that other individuals and nations are entitled to be happy too and may need substantial gifts from them in order to do so.

This happiness movement seems a lot like helping out our fellow man, could it just as easily be named World Philanthropy or World Friendship, I would be happy to be a part of that!

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Martin: "...look at the response to the tsunami."

A further thought on that, Martin. I don't want to diminish what was after all a splendid response by the World community to the tsunami disaster. However, I seem to recall reports of various criminal elements engaged in child sexual exploitation moving in to 'harvest' orphaned and otherwise displaced children. Probably doesn't prove anything much other than that there's always a downside wherever one looks. And, of course, that humans can be truly despicable sometimes.

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Martin Gifford’s replies part 2:

Jozef Imrich, Free societies are good, but if they are supposed to provide the conditions for happiness, then why isn’t there more happiness? I think a balance between capitalism and a good safety net is currently the best system - something like many Scandinavian countries. I doubt that happiness is simply electrical activity in the brain. Communism hasn’t had much of a chance, but it is probably unworkable. Marriage and friends help because we are social creatures. A personalised numberplate gives you a temporary high if you’re under 20. We need worldwide happiness to reach our greater potential.

Deb Wands, I glad that you “can't get your head around a 'don't worry be happy' mentality as a cure-all.” I don’t advocate it either. My two articles describe my cure-(nearly)-all. Discrimination isn’t inevitable in human nature - it arises as a consequence of stagnating in our lower instincts of survival, rather than stepping forward into our higher instincts for happiness (enjoyment, appreciation, and creation). We can create a happier world and invite non-believers to join in if they want. The goal is real happiness, not the current fake, oblivious, fleeting happiness that you also dislike. If we are sensitive enough to be happy, we will be sensitive enough to notice and assist those who are unhappy. Philanthropy and friendship without understanding are mere coping methods. With understanding they become part of the bigger goal of creating worldwide happiness.

Malcolm B Duncan, we have infinite potentials in the sense of infinite numbers, not infinite scope. What we see of an individual is one potential due to circumstances at one point of time at one location. Since there are infinite points in time and infinite locations, we must have infinite potentials. Why do you say that my argument is dead on the basis of your interpretation of a single sentence of mine? By the way, this universe is a fantastic mystery and worthy of a more positive response.

Jacob A Stam, Cameron emphasises the past, scientific data, and our lower instincts as the basis for his philosophy. I prefer to emphasise the future, observations of patterns in people and life, and our higher instincts as the basis of my philosophy. Cameron’s blunder is not recognising that survival (including reproduction) is only the starting point for living, not the purpose of living. A huge difference exists between what people hope will bring happiness and what actually does bring happiness. How much more evidence do we need that the pursuit of exclusive personal or group happiness fails? Have you spoken to others about the idea of creating worldwide happiness recently? The tsunami and hurricane have demonstrated that seeking security has its limitations and that we need to grow so that we develop more of our potentials so that we can prevent, and deal with, emergencies better. Of course, people degenerate during an emergency — that’s the animal instinct of ‘every man for himself’. But so what? When the emergency has passed, what will we do? If we create a wiser happier world, people will respond better to emergencies. Yes, our hurtful behaviours can be sorted out. But all the bad things you describe are due to the ignorant inherited system of pursuing exclusive happiness, not ‘human nature’. We don’t need to deal with a “millennia of backlog”, we only need to get wise, which comes from communication. We only need to change one system, not plow through the past and our piles of wounds. Yes, we need better governance - if a person can make a difference on that level then they should do it, otherwise it’s back to grass roots communication.

John Pratt, child starvation is caused by the exclusive happiness paradigm ie. the idea that a person or group can be happy at the expense of, or in spite of, the needs of others. Starvation is a symptom of that system. So we need to change the system. If we understand the need to pursue worldwide happiness, then we will do it and childhood starvation will end in the process.

Alison Jobling, it’s about spreading the idea that we need worldwide happiness for any individual to reach their greater potential. It’s just straight factual information, not hippie dippy talk. Yes, we need a reference point. People do bad things because of ignorance, hence the need to talk about higher matters and stimulate higher instincts. Yes, “thinking of people as things is bad”, but the real problem is thinking that a person or group can be happy at the expense of, or in spite of, the needs of others. It’s a simple fact that the pursuit of such exclusive happiness cannot work. Did you talk to anyone about it on the weekend?

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Martin, just wondering what your views are on 'Finding Flow' as regards to whether it is a pre-requisite for happiness here

For over 2.5 hours my two youngest played in the bath yesterday. They looked like prunes. When I insisted that they should get out they were laughing their heads off as they said, "But we just got in!" They were so happy, they had experienced flow - time just flew. I am inclined to think that it is a very important aspect.

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Humans have for centuries been conditioned to have low self-esteem, low self-confidence and to be reliant on others. This has long been used as a tool of domination and control. In order for this to stop first people must believe that they are worth the effort. Secondly, they must release their fear of success, which can only be done with the loving support of friends and family, for it is one of the most insidious of all fears.

Fears stop us all from accessing the happiness that lies within. This includes the fear of taking responsibility for ourselves - our feelings, thoughts, attitudes, beliefs, words and our actions. We are all of these for as we are, so we create with others the experiences that we deal with daily. Sometimes we even cope with them, though much of the time we plod along in a state of mind numbness that few even realise they are in, until they begin to come out of it.

True happiness is not an action. It is self-love, self acceptance and self-trust. So many of us don't have any of it, least of all really think about what it is that produces this feeling.
What brings me joy? Life, people, love, touch, learning, helping others, laughter, writing - these all make my heart glow. That glow is my happiness, something I didn't find for many years, with my ability to laugh being one of the toughest of all.
We all take life too seriously and forget the sweetness. I got involved in politics and it totally drains the life out of you. The stress in our daily lives, the constant battles, financial worries all pile up high. We give our power (read happiness) over to all of these, leaving nothing for ourselves and therefore our loved ones.

There will be those people who read this and consider it a lot of clap trap, but I had to fight to get here. I had to pass through that valley of prospective suicide knowing that if I was to come through, that I had to make positive changes to find that happiness that is so elusive to me. I could not have done it without my family and friends who gave me the greatest happiness of all - their love and commitment to helping me through. If not for them, I wouldn't be here!
In the midst, I am me. I like who I am! I love being me and if somebody doesn't like who I am or how I am, it is not mine to deal with. I respectfully leave it with them.

World-wide happiness is attainable for those who are prepared to change, which as we all know is one of the most frightening things we ever have to do. The thing that bothers me is what it is going to take before people are prepared to work together, to help one another and to let go of the need for pain? Our world is falling apart at the seams with wars in all corners. Not in Australia!

We can philosophise till the cows come home, but the bottom line is that if we don't want to remain in conflict, then every individual must look at how they are and work on that, instead of pointing the accusatory finger at society in general.
Remember the hundred monkey syndrome? First one monkey washed the sand of the fruit, then one by one others also picked up the idea. Once the hundredth monkey was washing their fruit, it suddenly was being done on neighbouring islands by other monkey colonies who had no contact with the first group. It crossed the barrier of water and understanding, but it still happened. If monkeys can do it, why can we?

re: Worldwide happiness - say yes, pass it on

Helen Langford: whatever works. Changing happens naturally when people understand what works and what doesn't work. Exclusive happiness cannot be maintained over a long period.

Jolanda Challita, experiences of flow etc. are great, but it's only one form of happiness. It is not the only form of happiness that it is often claimed to be.

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