The Politics of Happiness
The Tuesday before the July 7th bombings, I went to listen to a debate at the London School of Economics. The debate lead by Lord Layard and Dr Raj Persaud was titled, “The Politics of Happiness”. The argument as spelled out in their recent books are as follows:
In Lord Layard’s new book, Happiness: lessons from a new science, he argues that the relentless pursuit of economic growth is exacting a high price from the national psyche – leaving depression and emotional impoverishment in its wake. His polemic is that we should radically rethink economic and social policy to reorient it towards increasing the happiness of the population.
In contrast Dr Raj Persaud’s new book, The Motivated Mind, an antithesis to Lord Layard’s book, suggests that sustained happiness at the personal level is not going to be achieved by macroeconomic tinkering and has more to do with personal adjustment and attitude. He warns that attempts to manufacture happiness through policy directives in the past have been doomed to failure, because of a fundamental failure to appreciate the elusive and personal nature of sustained long term well-being.
As you may imagine, the debate was quite stimulating and it made me think further about my own happiness. Heck, it is one of the reasons why I moved to London. I knew I was leaving a big part of my life behind and that there were would be some regret, but I truely believed that starting anew in London would lead to greater happiness – not immediately, but eventually down the line. To ensure that, I created a plan for myself – one set out in various stages – and things went well for the most part in stage one. I found an apartment, opened a bank account and my belongings all arrived in about a month. Plus my transition with work has gone smoothly. Feeling good about that stage, I then started on stage two. That involved me becoming more active in the community to meet more people possible friendship. Once that was in full swing, I planned to spend some time focusing on my career. I’m good at what I do, but in the spirit of being open and honest, I will admit that I am starting to question what I do for a living.
Now ever since the July 7th bombings, I am stuck. I continue to go out but I am being really cautious. Especially now that there is confirmation that the enemy is within (meaning some of the terrorist are British born and plan to strike again). The government is doing what it needs to by increasing the level of police within the community, but I have mixed feelings about their presence. I know they are suppose to make me feel safer, but seeing so many about all the time just heightens my anxiety. It makes me anxious about the future and truth me told, all the activity in the last 3 weeks have broken my concentration. I am becoming obsessed with staying safe and this is reminding me about what I left behind.
This is totally affecting my happiness. I know I shouldn’t let it, but it has. It has also made me realize how much I took for granted in the United States. Even after 9/11, I never really worried about my own personal safety. The war on terror was being fought someplace else. Definitely not in my back yard. Now I’m in the mix. The targets in London are all civilian. So like other Londoners, I am on high alert. I try and stay away from people with bag packs on the train and bus. Yeah, I know, it’s almost impossible to do, but I still try. So I grieve in a way. I long for things to go back to the way they were. When I look across the platform, I just want to see a beautiful man and daydream. I don’t want to wonder whether or not he has a bomb in his pack. I only want to thing about silly things. But sadly that is not to be. Things are no longer so carefree. This is not what I had envisioned for myself.
So I need to regroup. I need to get back on track because the longer I allow these people who have no conscious to interfere with my plans, the further away I’ll be from experiencing real happiness.