Why poor countries can’t be happy?
The ‘Frozen Culture’ countries of North Europe top the list of the happiest countries of the world. These countries have plenty of snow but do not see the sun for most part of the year. And they are not famous for their song and dance. Moreover, these people smile sparingly, if at all. No wonder they are termed as having ‘Frozen Cultures’. And yet they are the happiest, really!
Which are these countries? Finland, Norway and Denmark. These three top the recently released World Happiness Report 2018 on 156 countries. Sweden, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Ireland also feature in the top ten. Another ‘deep frozen’ country, Canada is also among the top ten while Australia and New Zealand make it to the top ten. These countries hold the top ten positions for the past two years. By the way, these countries are also among the most boring. And have high suicide rates.
No tropical counties
Knock, knock. How come there is no tropical country among the top ten? Why none of the so-called developing countries made it to the top ten happiest nations? Who says that just because a people are poor, they can’t be happy? Why do the peoples in these countries escape the cold weather to the warm, colourful tropical countries for their annual holidays?
Look at the beaches of Goa, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bali, Kenya, Mauritius, Jamaica, Rio, and other major holiday destinations, and you will find people from these happiest countries, and other western countries, enjoying themselves; laughing, singing and dancing they hardly do in their own countries. Seems happiness comes with the sun.
And consider the tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, the only Utopia in this world today. Its guiding principle is to satisfy the well-being and collective happiness of its residents through an index of measurable and attainable life goals, called Gross National Happiness (GNH). Their king claims that GNH is more important than GDP or Gross Domestic Product. This country of Nirvana ranks 97 in the happiness report. Why? Because it doesn’t meet the norms.
The list is based on six key variables found to support well-being: income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity. Who decides these parameters? A group of hard-nosed, social scientists and ‘experts’ at the United Nations. These parameters are debatable, especially trust and generosity.
Dragging down rich countries
Among the rich countries, USA slipped to 18th place, five steps down from 2016. Britain comes in 19th. The researchers cite obesity, depression and opioid addiction as some of the factors dragging down rich countries. UAE makes it at 20th position.
Despite its natural beauty, glorious wildlife and vibrant indigenous culture, Kenya trails at 124 while Uganda and Tanzania lag even further down at 135 and 153. Mauritius with its ‘sega’ dancing fares much better at 67th position.
Terror-ridden Pakistan comes at 75, as India drops eleven placed to rank at 133 despite the year-round carnival of festivals and ceremonies. Nepal fares better at 101, Bangladesh at 115 while Sri Lanka ranks 116 and war-ravaged Afghanistan, stands at 145. In India, Delhi government announced to introduce ‘happiness classes’ in schools after news of some killings and violence among students.
And which countries are at the bottom of the happiest list? All in Sub-Saharan Africa: Tanzania (153), conflict-ridden Southern Sudan (154), Saharan nation Central African Republic (155), and war-ravaged Burundi (156).
How to be happy
So, what is happiness and how can we be happy?
Osho says, “Whatever you are doing, do it happily. Don’t ask for happiness. LIVE happily. Whatever may be happening, seek out where and how you can find happiness. Even a dry crust of bread can give you happiness if you know how to find it. If you know how to be happy, then even the shade from an ordinary tree will put palaces to shame. If you know how to be happy, just the song of the bird in the morning or the sun rising or the beauty of the stars at night or even the small breeze can shower you with happiness. Don’t even ask for happiness. LIVE happily.”
Forget the ‘frozen cultures’ countries and the happiness report as well.
Kul Bhushan worked as a newspaper Editor in Nairobi for over three decades and now lives in New Delhi
* Published in print edition on 13 April 2018