In a world with limited resources, environmental devastation, and increasing population, how much longer can nations strive for unlimited and unsustainable economic growth? While the people of wealthy countries are over consuming the available resources, it has not made them happier. In general throughout the world, people are living longer, and as technology gets better, our societies become worse. In the world’s development, capitalism was seemingly a refreshing innovation over feudalism and the divine right of kings, but now, in its final stages, it has led to a world controlled by plutocrats (the wealthiest one percent) or oligarchs (rule by the few).
Production for profit, or capitalism, needs poverty. For a few individuals to live with extreme wealth, there must also be many who live with extreme poverty. You can’t have one without the other. But since the few who own most of the wealth also influence the government and the mainstream media, they also control the information that goes into the minds of the masses. Consequently, the masses have been deluded into believing that they too can become very wealthy if they work hard enough or win the lottery.
Some culture critics have lamented that there will never be a revolution in the United States to overthrow the current system because our culture has become like the Roman Empire, which collapsed in part as a result of moral decay and decadence. But the increasing popularity of the concept of “gross national happiness” can be a way to get people to examine their values and priorities in a new way.
Any healthy country that achieves a high level of gross national happiness can be a model for other countries to emulate. Here are seven problems that prevent Gross National Happiness, the overall happiness of a nation. Solving these national problems and then taking the recommended steps to achieve world peace can result in Gross International Happiness.
- When a nation strives to become an empire, it creates problems for the whole world. In the United States it is deceptively promoted by telling people that we are the “good guys” with a “humanitarian” mission.
- A vast disparity between the rich and poor within a nation, and the vast economic disparity among the rich and poor nations of the world.
- Capitalism, even a regulated capitalism, because for companies to survive and be successful, they must eliminate their competitors–without a concern for the common good or the environment. Likewise, totalitarian or authoritarian socialism also prevents the gross national happiness of a country because it ignores the democratic voice of the people.
- A corrupted political system in which those who own the most wealth have the greatest influence on lawmakers and the mainstream media.
- Watching too much television: It is not educational; it wastes time; and it negatively affects the mental development of people: Also found at Erlyn Baack’s website (referring to the above link) is a five-minute video clip of the 1976 movie Network in which fictional character Howard Beale, in a famous movie rant, tells his television audience to “Turn off your televisions!” There may be pleasure in excessive TV watching, but not true happiness. Developing an insatiable desire to learn in order to make the world a better place is far more rewarding.
- Materialism and its focus on individualism and the private pursuit of inordinate wealth in the attempt to find happiness. It would be more socially responsible to view the world as if it were a living organism in which all organs must thrive together harmoniously. In the human body, for example, the various cells and organs must cooperate; it would be the demise of the body and its various organs if the organs competed for blood in order to get the most nutrients and oxygen.
- The existence and use of nuclear weapons, nuclear power plants, fossil fuels, and genetically modified foods (GMOs) which threaten the survival of the human race. If governments would stop competing for peak oil, they could work together to create financial incentives for alternative fuels such as solar and wind. Financial incentives could also be provided for organic and composted, local food production. Although biofuels are not considered to be a solution to climate change, it is unfortunate that environmentally friendly hemp as a biomass fuel has not been more seriously considered.
On a related note, it is ironic but not surprising that what is arguably the most versatile plant on earth is still largely illegal–it is the plant called Cannabis sativa. Marijuana/hemp/cannabis was made illegal in the United States in 1937 through a conspiratorial disinformation campaign because it threatened the profits of certain corporations. Congress at that time was led to believe that jazz musicians and Mexican immigrants under the influence of pot became insane and violent, so the plant obviously had to be outlawed. Thus, deception and hypocrisy by corporate controlled-government is another factor that hinders the happiness of people in a nation.
Capitalism is the dominant economic system in the world. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see more movies that challenge capitalism and its concomitant social problems? Mindless movies made in the United States are often watched around the world. They frequently have a larger-than-life superhero who really knows how to fight and kill people. Can you imagine seeing a film in which the collective action of several groups creates a sustainable, democratic communist society, instead of the usual horrifying dystopia?
If such a movie was really thought-provoking, the U.S. government would criticize it in the interests of “national security,” and the corporate-owned, mainstream media would fear that such a film undermines the perception management it uses for public mind control. Of course, not all movies and TV programs are bad. With the exercise of discretion and moderation, they can provide some of the amusement and entertainment that people need.
How to Achieve Happiness?
Gross National Happiness is a philosophy which the small country of Bhutan, located at the eastern end of the Himalayas, has inspired the world. The fourth king of Bhutan popularized the idea in 1972 that gross national happiness is more important than gross national product. In 2009, the Prime Minister of Bhutan stated “We know that true abiding happiness cannot exist while others suffer, and comes from serving others, living in harmony with nature, and realizing our innate wisdom and the true and brilliant nature of our minds.” This concept of Gross National Happiness can be traced back to Bhutan’s legal code of 1629: “If the government cannot create happiness for its people, then there is no purpose for government to exist.” (See the Gross National Happiness Index)
It is also interesting that according to an article on July 29, 2014 at AlterNet by April Short, “The people of Iceland are the happiest on Earth, according to an academic study supported by the Guardian in 2006. The UN’s latest Human Development Index ranking showed Iceland topping the charts as far as its economic and social issues go (wealth, healthcare, and education). Last month Iceland won another top world ranking: most pot smoked per capita.”
How to Achieve World Peace?
Think about it, how wise or fair is it when nations intervene in the affairs of other sovereign nations, without getting the approval of the United Nations? Of course, the United Nations should be changed as well. How fair is it to have five permanent members on the Security Council of the United Nations? Why not let all nations, all of the time, make Security Council decisions, either by giving each nation one vote or by giving proportionate influence to a nation according to its population?
Consumers in wealthy countries get cheaper prices at places like Walmart because many people in the impoverished countries are exploited to work as low as 17 cents an hour. Would Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, or Martin Luther King support that? It has been reported by globalissues.org that almost half of the world–over three billion people–lives on less than $2.50 a day! How does any religious person, or any spiritual person without a religion, live comfortably with that? According to a BBC article, the total value of world income is about $70 trillion per year, and there are 7 billion people in the world, so the average income is about $10,000 per person per year.
Arbitrarily redistributing the world’s wealth is not the answer because there is much truth in the fish proverb that essentially says that it is better to teach people how to fish rather than to just give them fish. But if all the peoples of the world were considered part of our family, we would no doubt find some better solutions to the world’s problems. But when our survival is based on making a profit and eliminating competitors, it makes it more difficult to think of others as part of the family.
The Western countries got a head start as a result of the Industrial Revolution and the Ages of Colonialism and Neo-Colonialism partly because their advanced technology and more powerful weapons allowed them to more easily invade and conquer Africa and Asia to extract resources and exploit people. For that reason, the wealthiest nations, and especially the world’s wealthiest one percent, cannot rightfully make the claim that their relatively extreme wealth is deserved. Citizens of impoverished countries could be equally productive as citizens of wealthy countries if they had all of the same opportunities. If there were a progressive tax on incomes the world over, so that the highest wages could not be more than three times the lowest–that would drastically reduce many of world’s social and economic problems. Some Leftists advocate a 10:1 wage ratio, but the 3:1 ratio is even better.
We know from the study of history that empires don’t last permanently–although, alas, some of them lasted a long time. To prevent nations from aspiring to become empires, we must have the courage and foresight to at least attempt the creation of a democratic world government.
There could be a democratic world government made up of 500 legislators, with each country having at least one legislator; countries with larger populations could have proportionately more than one. The world legislature, created from democratic elections in each country, could vote on various models of a constitution. Creating a military more powerful than any one nation would be necessary. A world government such as this would be built from the bottom-up, based on the decisions of planetary citizens. What we have now is the ever-increasing influence of the world’s wealthiest one percent, the plutocrats or oligarchs of the world. Unless we can reverse this trend, the outcome will be bleak.
This democratic world government would be nothing like the New World Order that every citizen should fear and resist–if ever the world’s wealthiest one percent should attempt to decimate millions of people and create a two-tiered system with a few elitists having dictatorial control over the required number of serfs they need.
Will it take a global catastrophe for people to realize the importance of forming a democratic world government or a more empowered and reorganized United Nations? Unfortunately, if we wait that long, it may be too late!
Local self-determination could be enhanced if the residents who live in the school districts of every public elementary, middle, and high school were encouraged, or expected, to create their own school philosophy and curriculum. Radically decentralizing the public schools, which has never been tried before, would increase the sense of neighborhood togetherness, and it could even create tribal neighborhood school districts.
Theism, pantheism, and secular humanism are three competing worldviews. Scientific materialism is still the major worldview taught in public schools, but the New Age movement is gaining ground in its influence on the world. Religious fundamentalism is also increasing in certain geographical areas of the world. Radically decentralizing the public schools would allow the predominate worldview of a neighborhood to prevail, and it could foster a live-and-let-live society.
Politically, every nation must take all money out of politics. In the United States, a first step in achieving this would be to empower the 7 largest national political parties in a unicameral national legislature through proportional representation. If a constitutional amendment was passed that revises Article V of the constitution, it could be easier to pass future amendments and also possible to have a fair, safe, and orderly constitutional convention in order to create a better national constitution. In other articles at my website, I discuss in greater depth how these policies can be implemented.
So, self-determination, grassroots democracy, and decentralism need to be created at the local level whenever possible, and unity at the international level must also be created–a unity that benefits average people in the world instead of billionaires and mega-corporations. Thus, there could be unity with diversity–peace on earth and Gross International Happiness, if the necessary steps are taken.
As mentioned above, true happiness cannot be fully enjoyed or attained while there are others who still suffer. Happiness and joy are found in helping others. The greatest form of individual achievement is that which promotes the common good. In summary, we should strive for altruism, democracy, radical egalitarianism, world peace, and ecological wisdom as the five key values.
If most people believe that the ideas and values shared in this essay are utopian and far-fetched, then they will be. But, on the other hand, if an ever-increasing number of people accept, share, and promote these ideas or similar ones–the vision will eventually become a reality.
The problems of our nation and world seem insurmountable. Instead of succumbing to helplessness, hopelessness, and bitterness, we each must take a proactive or solutions approach. It is good that individuals pray and long for world peace. But we must also work for world peace with a specific common vision and a united plan of action for achieving it.
Achieving world peace is also thwarted by the fact that average people are preoccupied with their jobs, raising a family, and religion–whether it is Christian, Jewish, or Islamic theism or New Age pantheistic oneness. Striving to create world peace in an economic, social, political, and ecological way is not something the average person is currently concerned about. Of course, forming healthy interpersonal adult relationships and nurturing healthy children are extremely important in life. We must have inner peace, or integrity of character, before we can create peace in the outer world. Furthermore, it is sad that most people fear losing their jobs (if they have one) so much that they would not dare try to start a labor union or advocate workplace democracy in order to get fairer wages and better benefits.
Many Christians would be highly skeptical of any emerging world peace (if and when that day arrives) because they would automatically assume that it was a deception of the Antichrist who is expected to make his appearance in the Last Days. New Agers, on the other hand, might be equally distracted in believing that when a significant number of individuals make a psychological shift to “cosmic consciousness,” it will somehow translate into economic and social justice. And conspiracy theorists would likely think that any emerging world peace must be the sinister New World Order coming to fruition.
To prevent unnecessary distrust and paranoia, how should emerging political organizations and movements be evaluated? They should be evaluated on the basis of whether or not they maximize democracy.
It takes specific and direct political activism to create political change. Individuals who are focused solely on acts of loving-kindness and spiritual disciplines are not doing enough. Conversely, making better laws without simultaneously transforming hearts and characters is equally inadequate. The spiritual must become more political, and the political, spiritual.
In spite of all of the enormous obstacles to creating world peace and Gross International Happiness, those who have the capacity to care and be concerned will be the ones who can make it happen.