08/01/2007 The God We've Left Behind
What is human happiness? I'm reading Forbes magazine and thinking about this issue. The conservatives in the financial sector see any attempts at limiting free trade or imposing standards on the “free” market as the work of Satan. So I ask; have we come to a point in society where economists now are the ones to show us the path to happiness?
In our schools, we wage war over whether or not to give our children a humanist education or a Christian one. Why have the humanists won? Could it be because corporate America needs engineers, researchers, “creative” accounting? And if the religious “right” get their way, they will be allowed to brainwash kids into believing that God's demands are primarily sexual. Human happiness is furthest from their minds. Who is fighting to teach our kids to be happy? Is happiness about chasing dollars? If there is happiness to be had in poverty, would any of us know it?
If we go to church, can we get a break on health insurance costs? Or if we practice yoga? Or if we have someone pray for us? Or if we have regular sex? Or if we masturbate? Or meditate? Health insurers will chip in for your gym membership, but how far does, “Preventative Care” go? If they reimburse us for leading a healthy life, why not for these things?
As conservatives in the financial sector wail about regulations and barriers to free trade, many of the people that vote the same way are swayed by the very same issues. The simple term, “populist” underestimates their beliefs and intelligence. Though they believe in a free America, they also believe in living a life based on family, hard work and not taking more than you need. In them, the Christian ideal finds it's last vestiges. Yet their so-called allies deride the idea, telling us that shipping jobs overseas leads to a better life for everyone. Measures of income, gross domestic product and standards of living prove it. But for people who don't want to spend all their energy and creativity developing new streams of income, things are more complex. The old standby of, “let them eat cake” has transmogrified into, “let them be entrepreneurs”, and few of those reading Forbes Magazine has their jobs going overseas.
It is a not a matter of process to look back and ask ourselves honestly, “Are we really better off with the progress we've made?”, but perhaps it should be. But as the Christians charge into Iraq, the humanists find new medicines, products and websites, and the capitalists find new ways of making money or losing their shirts, is there a place for someone to ask?
What would it look like if we built our society from the ground up based on what would make people happy, rather than economic factors? Well, what are the things that make us happy? Friends, family. A fulfilling job. Physical health.
So how strange would it be if therapy were part of the curriculum? For health, physical education would be a big part of the picture. Instead of being once or twice a week, it would be every day for at least an hour and a half. “Lunch” would be a class, we would learn good eating habits. Math and science would be limited. You need to know how to balance a checkbook, no more. Instead, networking classes and philosophy, theology. Worship and prayer would be involved, yoga, chanting, dance classes. And students would be encouraged to spend as much time pursuing their passions. Whether that means baseball, being president, or being a janitor.
And age would have nothing to do with it. The old idea that information should be free, all would be welcome in each class. Adults, parents, just people who want to know. Each school would come equipped with a large socializing area where the free exchange of ideas and information would be encouraged via shows, programs (Like Live talk Radio) and town meetings. Classes would be given at all times of day, adults would be expected to take classes rather than deciding that school is for kids. And kids would be allowed to get jobs.
Strange picture? A Brave New World. Such is the sound of trying to make things better. But it's always going to be human nature to play it safe, defend what we have. So human happiness will remain the stuff of fantasy, God a dream to be exploited.