Friday, February 11, 2011

A Nation’s Happiness

A friend sent me this article from The Huffington Post, “Buddhist Bhutan Wrestles With 'Shocking' Abuse Study.” It seems that the tiny Buddhist nation of Bhutan has a government commissioner charged with promoting "Gross National Happiness." They did a survey and were dismayed that most Bhutanese women think it is okay for their husbands to beat them. The most enlightened and encouraging statement I found in the article was, “Bhutan's Gross National Happiness index ... is based on nine components of happiness: psychological well-being, ecology, health, education, culture, living standards, time use, community vitality and good governance.”

This enlightened view stands in juxtaposition to some big challenges. In addition to finding that people think it is okay for husbands to beat their wives, “...the Bhutan Multiple Indicator Survey also found that more than one in four women believe HIV/AIDS is transmitted supernaturally; one in four children do not attend school and one in five children are involved in child labor.”

There is always that gap between the envisioned ideal and the reality of where society actually is. In spite of that gap, we can be thankful for those ideals to work toward. Here in the USA, issues like family violence and child labor have not always been on the radar in terms of national efforts. Many may not realize that that oft used phrase, “rule of thumb” harks back to the limitation of how big a stick can be used to beat one’s wife (no bigger around than a man’s thumb).

Wherever the gap lies between the ideal and reality, I think we would all do well to pay attention to the nine components of happiness as Bhutan has outlined them. How would you rate the happiness index of your community?


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