Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Bhutan: The State of Happiness

I learnt tonight that in Bhutan, which is a state which has an absolute monarchy, the pursuit of happiness is valued as much as anything else. Every government policy is considered for its effect on happiness as well as its effect on gross domestic product.

It is strange how often I find things coming together in my life. For instance one of the things banned in Bhutan is advertising. Banksy, whose philosophy in life I have been thinking about a lot recently, makes several statements against this - in fact much of his art is a fight against advertisements - and it turns out that Bhutan have tried to stem the effect of consumerism in the country by banning hoardings.

TV was only introduced in Bhutan in 1999 - again something I mentioned in my post yesterday - specifically the effect of soaps and the way they reflect an individual's state of mental health. Some channels such as MTV have been banned in Bhutan because it was felt they did little to promote happiness.

Tobacco is banned - I expect that this would make many people unhappy - but after a few years they would become more happy - and furthermore, like my father, ardent anti-smokers.

Plastic bags have also been banned. This, I think, is an excellent idea. They ruin the landscape, in windy places like Patagonia, they are an eyesore. We recycle them in the UK but I am going to cut down my use of them - in fact try and irradicate them from my life completely.

They do not have traffic lights in Bhutan - but use policemen to direct traffic instead. Not sure about this one - I rather like waiting at a red light in the middle of the night when there is no one else around. I think it is bizarre and it appeals to me. I wonder if there was a policeman controlling the traffic maybe I would suspect him of being unfair - whereas with automated lights I have no such suspicion.

Inner spirit improvement (ie Budhism) is put on a par with material gains. For me the spiritual is still a search - and I haven't found it yet, and wonder now if I ever shall. But I know it doesn't lie in material wealth - at least I have never confused it with that.

There are strict conservation laws and sustainable development - brilliant! I feel like emigrating. Life would be harder, but I think I would be happier.

And on that subject - happiness - there was the first of three TV programmes on the subject on the BBC tonight - an excellent website accompanies it - which is where I got all my information on Bhutan.

One way to get happy, apparently, is to volunteer or to help people as much as you can.


Blogger Jonathan Wonham said...

Bhutan sounds idyllic. Yes, I thought about mentioning helping other people the other day. It could be more general than that though: simply getting involved with other people is a good start.

Another path to happiness is eating Carr's cheese melt biscuits with butter, cheese and Waitrose Spicy Garlic Onion chutney. This leads to an interesting happiness feedback loop as you have to go and do aerobics afterwards which further boosts feelings of well-being and makes you hungry for more Carr's cheese melt biscuits...

Thu May 04, 12:24:00 am  
Blogger Kay Cooke said...

I want to move to Bhutan ... Is it run by a benevolent dictator? I've always fancied living in a country run by a benevolent dictator ...

Thu May 04, 12:32:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jonathan: Thanks for the tip - shall definitely be following this one up. My mouth is watering as I type - very messy - drool all over the keyboard.

Cheifbiscuit: I'll see you there - I agree, there is something oddly attractive about the idea of living in a country run by a benevolent dictator.

Thu May 04, 10:25:00 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope you guys realize Bhutan is not an absolute monarchy, the king can even be kicked out by parliament, but no one wants to because hes such a nice guy, in fact, he stopped taxes for a year.

Thu Mar 08, 10:14:00 pm  
Blogger Clare Dudman said...

Hi Anon - it was an absolute monarchy when I wrote that article back in 2006.

In March 2008 the king gave his absolute monarchy up ( so we're both right! Or I was then, and you are now!

Thanks for bringing it to my attention - Bhutan looks a great place to live.

Thu Mar 08, 10:24:00 pm  

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