At a time when the importance of our economic fortunes is taking precedence over common courtesy and respect as the essential aspirations for society, it’s about time we all take a good look at ourselves. It comes down to the age old adage that money cannot buy happiness. Sure, it helps, and sure, we have to ensure that nobody has so little money that their standard of living and quality of life are so poor they cannot find happiness, but as a society, we do seem to be accelerating towards an age where wealth and status define us rather than by what makes us genuinely happy, or by our good deeds.
So, what does make us happy? It’s easy to believe that the answer is of a material nature; either that computer, that car or those shoes. However, to ascertain what actually makes us happy, we should really be asking ourselves what more than anything else we would want to save if most of our material possessions were destroyed in a house fire. If your phone was ruined it would be inconvenient. If your wallet and cards were destroyed you might be annoyed at having to face a mountain of paperwork; but what if the fire had taken your family, your friends and your health?
Most of us are guilty of taking things for granted. No matter how much we tell ourselves that we do care about those less fortunate than ourselves, in reality most of us don’t, at least not to the extent that we should. As a society we’re pretty much devoid of empathy. We’re pretty much devoid of natural and random acts of kindness. Why should I waste my time and effort to hold open a door for somebody, or to step out of their way on a pavement? Let it not be forgotten, ‘Time is Money.’
What an abysmally sorry state of affairs we’ve allowed ourselves to fall into. When we go out of our way to help somebody it makes us feel good about ourselves, right? That time you helped that little old lady with her shopping. That time you picked up that £10 somebody had dropped and chased after them to return it instead of pocketing it and carrying on with your day. It doesn’t matter if they’re rich or poor or fat or thin or polite or rude, if you help someone, not only does it feel good, but studies indicate that they are more likely to help you. Even if they don’t return the gesture directly, chances are that they’ll remember your good deed next time they’re presented with the same choice to make, and maybe, just maybe, they would then do the same.
Are we really so crass that we value money above the things that matter in life? Love is eternal, it’s strong and binding. Love is happiness. It makes us feel ‘nice’. Share some love, help thy neighbour, be the Good Samaritan, and you’ll go to bed feeling content. Sure, we may not be able to afford that iPhone upgrade, but do we really need it? There are a lot of people on this planet financially worse off than us. At the anti-capitalist Occupy movements of last year, a popular slogan was ‘we are the 99%.’ True, in the USA, or in Britain, those without fat cat banking salaries are the 99%, in terms of lifestyles limited by money. However, should we be angry that the 1% doesn’t pass their money on to us? We shouldn’t be so selfish. Yes, we are the 99% in terms of those in the developed western world, but simultaneously we are also the 1%, as, between us, developed countries own 99% of the world’s wealth. Next time you complain about how any government spends your taxes, ‘oh I think it’s terrible that now I have to travel 10 miles further to go to a (better) hospital,’ spare a thought for those for whom there is no hospital. The government has targeted that our foreign aid budget will reach a measly 0.7% of Gross National Income in 2013.
We should be embarrassed. Why is self-preservation number 1? Me, me, me. The lust for greater wealth than our contemporaries corrupts us at both a personal and national level. It’s a false assumption that the accumulation of wealth will make us happy. We are jealous of those with money, when really we should be jealous of those that are happy. Would you prefer to be truly happy yet financially constrained, or miserable yet vastly wealthy? There is no quantifiable value of happiness and love. You cannot buy it, you can only feel it. Be Happy with your lot. Everyone can change the world one good deed at a time.