The gang was watching Bhutan: Middle Path to Happiness the other day. The video on PBS looked at how Bhutan has been trying to take a middle path to living in the postmodern world. Bhutan has faced the development question and looked seriously at the damage potential of development. It has chosen a “Middle Path” encompassing the desire to develop, but not to alter tie culture and way of life. This is the Middle Path. Not the past, but not a future focused on being a different kind of place to live.
They seek a balance. How can one work with the world’s pressure to conform and produce while maintaining the beauty of life. This is a balance they seek to maintain. They believe the path to happiness is to maintain their lifestyle and its adjustment to the mountains, but take steps into the 21st Century only as they can be taken without damage. Build a hydroelectric power plant, but have it underground. It sonly outward signs are the rocky tunnerls at each end as the water enters and leaves the process. It appears like a mountains stream. The look to the outside is one of nature, while getting access to power.
Their King stepped down in favor of his son so that the country could engage in democracy. While some citizens seemed ignorant of the process in the video, the impact was a life that conformed, not to the outer world’s desires, but the world they know and are content with.
The goal is to be content. They have been so, and they will be so.
Which brings this to the gang’s issue. While one finds various attempts at showing national happiness indicate America must be a happy place, the reality of America is that this is one massively unhappy nation [Example at New Scientist]. Argument, discord, murder, hate, and more go on without end from coast to coast. If happiness is being content, the inner values of America hold no importance to being content. Change and contentment are not likely bed mates. They could be, but the chances are very poor.
The Hippies of the 1960s maybe had it right. American society is too high speed and driven by poor human values. People are important, not goods. A society that is driven on growth and change cannot bring contentment except in media driven mesmerization that one is content if one is confirming to the current themes of life in society in making money and doing the “right” things. Is that contentment if one is up to date on what the stars are doing and which politician is in trouble today? Is a nation ahppy if the values of some are the laughing stock of others? Is one content if one knows which people where have been killed by which lunatics? Can contentment ever occur in a world of constant unsettling change.
The sad answer is a no. The hippes and the Bhutanese may have it right. Change only what is good and let the things one is content with alone. Those concepts have no place in postmodern America. Sad.