Imagine a fellow, walking down the street, dressed in a tailor made suite, he is so handsome that lovers are looking forward to date him, he is so rich that everyone looks up to him and, he has a cancer. A bad cancer. He doesn’t know it, there are a lot of people that tell him to make screen tests, just because sometimes it happens, but he is full deep in his life and he feels well, why should he do that? That fellow represents our modern society. Can you see it?
We daily benefit from a lot of facilities and goods that make us feel like that man: money can buy every kind of stuff as long as you can afford it, and even if you can’t, you can try to purchase a debt or try to improve your income, or dream to win a lottery at least. In the mean time you have fresh water, cheap food and some kind of accommodation. Everything basic is a piece of cake. I am not pretending life is simple, but the majority of us do not experience serious daily life threats in our society. That’s not obvious in other part of the world, not in Africa, not in Syria.
Besides that we don’t feel happy, as we could be:
The map above shows in a glance the result of surveys asking to people about self-stated happiness (the darker green countries feel happier than the lighter)
U.S. score is 7.3, better than many other countries, especially those which face serious life threat and poverty, but it is only 7.3 out of ten, not a brilliant score! Far away from Costa Rica with 8.5 or Norway and Canada with 8. However, it could be even better. What about raising the score to 9?
First of all, is this important? If you don’t think so, have a look at the solution found by politics: as soon as this was brought to attention, a new indicator it was delivered, they called it “happiness indicator” and filled it with GDP, services, life expectancy, so that real feelings have a reduced weight, so that Costa Rica and Nicaragua disappear! Here you can find the new indicator:
It is an important wellness indicator, but the simple fact that they call it “happiness indicator” shows that our modern society not only looks for happiness, it does want to feel happy. So, why we should show ourselves we are not happy enough and be sad to discover that? Let’s try to hide the problem, it is logical… or not?
Human being is so complex to understand and this was only a one more example, but the fact that our society doesn’t allow people to feel happy remains. Many people feel that there is some kind of impersonality in our society, it appears more role based that human based. Some detractors say only money works. Living in a society and become less and less confident in others is a bit of a contradiction in terms, don’t you think? This graph indicates how the level of trust in people has changed over the years:
Year by year, we changed in a group of people living in the same place, more than a society. We give a big importance to independence and pretend that everyone stands on their own feet, we have to manage ourselves and to be responsible. That’s good, women and men do that everyday and brilliantly succeed, but because we are human, someone occasionally fails. We can’t help in that case if we don’t trust each other. Sometimes you would need more tolerance to your lacks, even at your workplace: when you realize your bad mistake, when you are done with work and need a day off. That could be absurd to you or reasonable. Our society has not a standard on human needs.
Italian researchers discovered in the late 90’s mirror neurons, a mirror neuron is a neuron that fires when you act as well as when the same action is performed by another person. Indeed we used to laugh when people laugh and sometimes we become sad if other people are sad. Thus, we suffer not only when we fail by ourselves but even if we see others in real troubles, that means we would be happier if everyone feels good. May be you don’t care this, and you might think that this is a weak vision of people who face the failure. Charity can show you it is not like that. Bill Gates without doubt is a successful man and he is one of the greatest philanthropist in the world: Bill & Melinda Gates foundation delivers funds for health care, education, fighting poverty projects. Billion of dollars. This is the website homepage of the foundation:
Gates says: “The vast majority of the wealth, over 95 per cent, goes to the foundation, which will spend all that money within 20 years after neither of us are around any more.”
Do you think he does that because he is better than you, or maybe crazier than you ? I don’t. He simply suffers, being human, for big inequities and besides that he is richer than you. By the fact that there was no doctor planning to do anything for his pain, he has found his own therapy, he is trying to stand in front of his problem, telling himself he is doing something. A lot of people even with money problems, donate. Because they feel it is necessary. U.S. ranks first for charitable giving by individuals in the world, but although the giving rate stands well above 1% of GDP, this remains a personal choice.
What about to loose a bit of money for more friendship and happiness, do you feel it is a bad deal? Even if we feel comfortable now in our reality, it will not last forever and it will not be the same for everyone. There is a song, more than others, that deeply criticize our modern society, it is Society by Jerry Hannan, a cover version by Eddie Vedder was used as a soundtrack in the well known movie Into the wild, based on a true story. The main character is a young boy who felt frustrated by our society, after he earned his academic degree, he decided to live apart and eventually died. Yes, it is not simple to live apart. In that song you can find a line:
“There is a greed which we have agreed”
If not, we have to accept that there is a common utilitarianism that can lead to social indifference, and a tendency to underestimate our human needs, forgiving to take them into account. Could we be able to change our society for the better? It’s worth to try, if we succeed there will be no reason for our children to go into the wild.
Originally published at medium.com