Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World - Eric Weiner

Thailand: Happiness is Not Being in Control of Your Fate

"This, I realize, is what life is like for most Thais. They are not in control of their fates. A terrifying thought, yes, but also a liberating one. For if nothing you do matters, then life suddenly feels a lot less heavy. It's just one big game." (p. 241).

At the end of Weiner's Thailand chapter, Thailand has what he refers to as a "coup lite". "Coups don't really fit into my search for the world's happiest places, and this is just the sort of unhappiness I've been trying so hard to avoid." (p.241)

When I reread these quotes, I realized that this is where I diverge from Weiner. It is easy to view life as one big game when you are, indeed, in control of your fate and you are just meditively thinking about the universe before you go back to your active life. Many Americans can make choices about their education, careers, where to live, and how to invest their money. However, many Americans cannot. This also applies to Thais. Sitting back and viewing what you cannot change as a game, is, I suppose, one way to stay sane. On the other hand, it is also a way to perpetuate your society's problems. It belittles the people who do try to make changes to improve society - they are not fun, they are not playing the game. And who decided the rules of the game? Usually not the majority of the people in a society - usually the minority in power.

This is a very Western view. Many non-Americans, and even many Americans who study Eastern philosophies, have found happiness by accepting life as something they cannot change. They have embraced their fate.

Do countries need coups in order to become happy? Do people need periods of unhappiness so that they can re-evaluate their lives and improve them? Would we all be happier if we didn't view life as a game and that the one who dies with the most prizes wins that game? We may be able to answer that question after my next post, which will be about Great Britain where happiness is a work in progress.

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