Saturday, November 16, 2013

UST-AB DevCom Lesson 1 Nov 19 2013: Gross National Happiness (GNH) - Measure of Growth and Development

Dr Abe V Rotor
Living with Nature - School on Blog
Paaralang Bayan sa Himpapawid with Ms Melly C Tenorio 
738 DZRB AM Band, 8 to 9 Evening Class, Monday to Friday

 Relate GNH with GNP and HDI, in essay on one short bond, handwritten. What has this knowledge and awareness to do with communications? To your career in media?
Have you heard of a measure of growth and development based on people's happiness? 

Well, it is called Gross National Happiness (GNH) by Bhutan, the proponent of the idea.   It is more than people's welfare which is the aim of Human Development Index (HDI).  And it is a radical alternative to Gross National Product (GNP) which is a broad and unqualified gross measure of a country's economic growth.  

The illustrate, if a country's GNP is 10 percent - which is quite high - to what extent does this annual gain contribute to people's well-being in terms of health, education, income, housing, and the like which constitutes HDI?  Then we ask, in what way and to what extent does this material gain and social welfare make people happy? (GNH)  

Bhutan's bold attempt to quantify national well-being and achieve sustainable development (Gross National Happiness Index) is opening the eyes of the world to the paradox that rising incomes don't bring happiness (Easterlin Paradox, named for American economist Richard Easterlin).  

This is a long known fact but it was shrouded by an apparently progressive capitalistic world  in the last three decades - until recently – when economic crisis gripped the most progressive countries led by the US and members of the European Union, now affecting other countries, among them the Philippines. 

The paradox is steadily being felt in China as it replaced Japan as the second biggest economy of the world. And the new tiger economies as well -  Singapore, Korea, Taiwan, including India which is an upcoming technology giant.  

Unhappiness has been the cause of depression, and depression often leads to self-destruction. Rising incomes, if taken as an analogy to Easterlin Paradox, increases the rate of depression and therefore suicide.  Thus the highest rate of suicide in the world has been observed in highly industrialized countries like Japan, the US and UK, with victims that include young men and women in the prime of their careers, and set to "conquer the world" but have failed to meet their aspirations.
GNH is a Eastern alternative to pressures of the materialistic Western world. The new measure aims at reducing pressure of living on the fast lane. It reduces the influx to cities and consequential buildup of urban marginal communities. It holds on to time-tested, community-based living. It is an alternative to a stressful life, and pressures of competition.  

To make GNH workable, Bhutan is adopting a program based on four pillars, namely

  • sustainable economic development
  • conservation of the environment
  • preservation of culture
  • good governance
Since 1989 after the dissolution of the USSR liberating former member-nations to self-rule,  and the termination of the Cold War that polarized the world into two ideologies - democracy and socialism, the world unfortunately has not devised a formula to equate prosperity with happiness.
What is happiness sought for by a people, by a nation or region? It is really more than material benefit.  It is more than growth of institutions.  Of high rise buildings and wide avenues. It is something that elevates the human spirit on a higher level, albeit religiosity.  It is something that speaks of now and tomorrow, of the welfare of our children and children's children. 

Translated to the individual person, happiness may be gauged by his answers to these simple questions often encountered in daily living.

  • "How many people can you count on for help in case you get sick?" 
  • "How often do you eat meals together as a family?"
  • "How restful can you be after a weekend?"
  • "How comfortable are you with the level of household debt?"
  • "How satisfied are you in your present work.?"
  • "How often do to take time out with the kids?"
  • "How comfortable are you at home? In the neighborhood?"
  • "How secure are you with your income?  Savings?"
  • "How fulfilled are you your career? Livelihood?  Vocation?"  
  • "How satisfied are you with you community's governance?" 
  •  "How satisfied are you in sharing your talents and resources?  
  •  "How well preserved is your natural environment?  
Maybe we might as well ask
  • "How happy did you feel yesterday?"
  • "How satisfied are you with life today.?
These are sample questions raised in surveys conducted in Bhutan and other countries . The results differ of course, Except Bhutan, the result of the survey may be summarized as "Most people feel disconnected from the dominant economic indicators." 

Bhutan's vision of happiness has nine components, namely    
  • Psychological Well-being 
  • Health
  • Time Use
  • Education
  • Cultural Diversity and Resilience
  • Good governance 
  • Community Vitality
  • Ecological Diversity and Resilience
  • Living Standards                 
Which leads us to analyze the current unrest in many parts of the world, their cause and effect.
  • Arab Spring in the Middle East 
  • Occupy Wall Street in the US
  • Miners' protest in South Africa
  • Oil protest in Nigeria 
  • Austerity Protest in Greece and Spain   Even political protests in post-Mubarak Egypt, in war-torn Iraq and continued conflict in post-Bin Ladin Afghanistan, are symptoms of people's unhappiness. So with Israel-Palestine unresolved conflict in Gaza, and short-lived people's protests in Russia, Tel-Aviv, and elsewhere in the world are traced to human's unfulfilled goal of happiness.  
Never has the issue of happiness, originally too personal and private and subjective, been brought out into a world forum likely to escalate into global referendum. And it took a new democracy with less than a million people perched on the Himalayas to herald what makes a beautiful life - happiness.   

"Gusto ko, Happy ka."  ~  

Reference: Time October 22, 2012 The Pursuit of Happiness

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