The Happiness Index

Bhutan has troubles, but maybe it also has good intentions. It is trying to build itself with happiness before profit. Gretchen Legler over at Orion Magazine writes,

Westerners, in their dawning realization that money can’t buy happiness, often misinterpret [Gross National Happiness] GNH, holding out hope that Bhutan alone knows one last magic trick that will rescue us all from the dystopia of late capitalism. But GNH is more complex than that, and Bhutan is more than a Himalayan Disneyland. GNH is part of Bhutan’s plan for negotiating the wilderness of modernization without losing its soul. Every schoolchild, public policymaker, teacher, citizen, and civil servant has been asked to help create a society based on the four pillars of GNH: sustainable and equitable economic development, conservation of the environment, preservation and promotion of culture, and good governance.


Another thing that confuses Westerners, says Nyingtob Pema Norbu, a GNH Commission planning officer, is the very word “happy.” In Bhutan, happiness is not a perfect life softly cocooned in pillows of cleanliness, security, and abundance. “I like to start by translating what happiness means in our language,” he says. “Ghakey—the first syllable, gha, is a word that you can use when you say you like something, when you say you love someone; it can also be used to describe a state of elation. The second syllable, key, means peace. When we refer to happiness, we are talking about harmony, striking a balance, so you’re not just focusing on individual emotion but the enabling conditions that will facilitate an individual pursuit of happiness.”

Read the whole thing over at Orion Magazine…

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