Friday, October 28, 2011

How economic inequality harms societies

What makes us happy? Based on hard evidence, Richard Wilkinson from the University of Nottingham argues that it is equality. The narrower the gap between the poor and the rich is and, as a result, the more equal a society is, the happier  citizens are. All of them, including the rich. 

Comparing data on life expectancy, mental health, crime, trust, obesity, and other symptoms, he also highlights social mobility in more unequal societies such as the US or the UK being surprisingly low. In other words, in such more unequal societies poor fathers tend to have poor sons, and rich fathers tend to have rich sons - without significant number of people getting higher on the social ladder between generations. As he funnily puts it: "If Americans want to live the American Dream, they should go to Denmark."

One source of unhappiness is constant comparison of one's social and economic status with those of other people who are richer and having higher social status than oneself. This attitude can lead dissatisfaction, unrealistic expectations and unfulfilled dreams that can cause frustration, depression and unhappiness in the long run. Yes, a few in every country may succeed to get richer and more important through had work and luck, but the majority likely fail to follow.

During my time in Bhutan, I saw young teens in Thimphu trying to adopt a Western lifestyle represented by pricey "stuff" like electronic gadgets and branded clothes. I can only hope they won't wait for too long to realize that their own society and country have equally, if not more, valuable propositions and they can blend their strong traditions with modernity in a more balanced and satisfying way.

Here you can listen to the short, but fascinating talk of Richard Wilkinson on equality:

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Guru Rinpocse papucsa / Guru Rinpoche's flip-flop

Guru Rinpocse papucsa
"Tavaszra patkányaim kirajzanak a zöldellő mezőkre. 
Elcsendesedik az álom-padlás.
Csak Guru Rinpocse papucsa kopog ide-oda a hegyek között.
Keresi a párját.
Távolról átölellek, szivárvány-permetté változol és megfested
kiszáradt ajkamat.
Reggel van. A tiszta beszéd és a meleg tea ideje."

-- Thimphu, 2011. március 3, reggel

Guru Rinpoche's flip-flop

"By springtime, my rats have gone to the green fields. 
Silence fills in the dream-attic.
Only Guru Rinpoche's flip-flop makes sounds in the mountains, 
searching for its pair.
From distance I embrace you while you become a rainbow-spray coloring
my chapped lips.
It's morning. Time for clear talk and hot tea."

--- Thimphu, morning of March 3rd, 2011