This I believe
All human beings strive to be happy. That is why America’s founding fathers made happiness a guiding principle of the new nation. Yet in this era of material affluence, many citizens have lost their individual joy. Modern society also seems to produce fear and suffering at alarming levels. This is not fertile ground for happiness and liberty. I believe America needs to recommit to individual, community and national goals based on this simple, basic principle of happiness.
Individual happiness is not hard to understand. The Dalai Lama writes that the path to personal happiness is to identify those things that make us happy and those that cause us suffering. By cultivating the things that bring happiness and minimizing that which brings suffering, one can attain personal happiness. This simple truth is not so simple to achieve, but the formula is no mystery.
However, by simply desiring less, we can reduce a lot of our personal suffering. By appreciating the gifts already in our lives, we can become happier. This goal of happiness is achieved in a multitude of small steps. It is attainable over time. Individuals must assume this responsibility and stop waiting for happiness to come from a higher power. This is a fundamental basis for a better future. Happy individuals are better equipped to create positive communities and restore America to the path envisioned by the founding fathers.
Communities can be defined by geography, faith, ethnicity, or any common interest. As with individuals, such communities should be free to pursue their happiness as long as it does not interfere with others pursuit of the same. America is a diverse collection of immigrants and natives. This requires a level of tolerance beyond what is needed in a homogenous society. The right to never be offended is not in the Constitution. Unless we allow communities to grow in an environment of freedom and happiness, the fruits of diversity will never fully ripen.
National happiness can be attained in the same methods used by individuals. If a policy creates more suffering than happiness, it should not be adopted. Our leaders should focus on policies that build up America, not just maintain the status quo. Our founding fathers did not want an elite few to decide such matters. That is why they called for a government of the people and for the people. They rejected an elite ruling aristocracy in favor of elected body of citizens who could best represent the various viewpoints of a diverse society. Sadly, this is not what exists in modern America.
Our world is largely controlled by small corporate elites and professional politicians. The corporate leaders create greed-based policies like golden parachutes (which are often achieved from cutting jobs and benefits). This “golden” profit would be better spent to cultivate happiness within the company rather than enriching a single individual who is leaving the organization. Profit-based enterprises will not regularly apply the principle of happiness unless outside forces compel them to do so.
A government of the people and for the people could provide the necessary incentives or punishment to encourage ethical business practices. Corporations are created and regulated by our laws. Unfortunately they are regulated by a government currently composed of professional politicians more concerned about power than the needs of the citizens. This concentration of greed-based power, in our businesses and government, takes America down a dangerous path leading away from the founding principles that made our nation great.
Spin doctors, corporations and pollsters have greater influence over political campaigns than common citizens or a moral compass. This has led to bad policy and a national dialogue of ten-second sound bites and half-truths. America needs a government that debates the merits of specific policies to bring real benefits to its citizens. The current trend of less time in session and more time raising campaign money would make the original American revolutionaries sick with despair. We need real campaign reform to eliminate this root poison in our national politics. Without such change, America will continue to move away from happiness at all levels.
I believe that the overwhelming majority of Americans would agree with the ideas expressed above. We must simply find the courage to speak out and make the change. By continuing to accept materialism and the fear-mongering politics of the present regime, Americans will allow our nation to continue on a path away from liberty and happiness. If we take action to become more satisfied with our own lives, we will create more positive communities. These communities can then take on the elites that presently rule our economy and government. By reaffirming our nation’s founding principles, I believe we can propel all American citizens into a more positive future.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.