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Developing a just society based on equity and equal opportunities for all with respect for diversity.

Friday, February 20, 2015

WHO IS HAPPY?


By Hardi


Is this happiness?....Team RAINS asks.
Consider a person in New York, USA, a citizen of the nation with the highest Gross Domestic Product in the world. He has all the nice things around him, skyscrapers, profound economic infrastructure etc. But his position on the economic ladder does not allow him to access or enjoy some of these niceties of life. His place of abode is only through mortgage; in other words, he lives in a house which he does not own and he is in perpetual debt. His shelter can be taken away if he fails to pay for the mortgage.

Consider another man in Sandema in the Upper East Region of Ghana; the GDP and per capita income of his nation make him a citizen of a poor, undeveloped country. But he is not in a rented place; his house is a mud house with a thatch roof, certainly not as nice as the rented abode of the man in New York, but it is his own. He does not owe anybody for his place of abode and is not in debt. But his home does not have the things that will make him as comfortable as his counterpart in New York City.

Are you happy?, he asks...
Between these two, who can be said to be poor? Everybody’s view is certainly a matter of perspective. But this is the reality of development; it defies a universal definition, and this is just one of the complexities in poverty and development.
Another complexity is the relationship between development and happiness. Recently, the United Nations has been publishing the “World Happiness Report”. Interestingly, it turned out that the most developed nations are not necessarily the happiest; of course, the poorest are not the happiest either. US has the biggest economy in the world but it did not rank 1st in the report. 

The question to ask is “what constitutes happiness?”  Hana will say it’s a tough question; whilst Will loses his voice in an attempt to answer. Tina believes it depends on the individual person, but she can’t answer as a person. (Hana, Will, and Tina are ICVs and UKV respectively).

So who is happy? Is it the one with the fattest bank account or the one with good family support (social and emotional)? Is it the one who owns a mud house or the one living in a rented air-conditioned apartment?
'who is happy?'..Hardi asks!

Well, the truth is, one cannot really tell because a lot of variables go into people’s happiness just as there are several aspects of people’s lives; it is possible to find someone socially satisfied but financially distressed or financially okay but emotionally unsatisfied. So the man in New York although is living in a rented apartment can be happy even though he is in debt; and the man who is in Sandema, even if deemed poor (although he has his own house), can also be happy.


In a nutshell, development is a very complex issue. Whereas it is easy to perceive everybody from a developed country as rich and everybody in a poor country is seen as poor, several complexities compel us to be more critical in what properly constitutes, in terms of definition – universally or particularly - poverty and development. What should be noted is that development is shrouded in value judgment, so it is too subjective to be universal. Same applies to the concept of happiness and this is why a simple question like “who is happy?” can be very tough.