"I just want to be happy"
January 22, 2020 9:52 AM   Subscribe

 


I'm only 5 minutes in, so maybe they mention it later, but the video seems to be overlooking the relationship between country size and happiness. Sure sure, rich countries are happier only up to a point, but the happiest countries are all uniformly tiny. The government is a lot more able to support their population (through free healthcare, baby boxes, etc) in part because they only have to serve 5 to 17 million people. Larger countries have more money overall, but their governments also have more bureaucracy to slow things down.

I posted it to Projects a while ago, but I did some fun explorations with the World Happiness Data, if you want to see some pretty graphs!
posted by hopeless romantique at 10:14 AM on January 22 [8 favorites]


As a Finn, low inequality and low corruption would be my two main picks. They're largely the result of a culture and governing principles that try to lift everyone up, as opposed to a system that tries to make it possible for a select few to wildly succeed at the cost of everyone else's well-being. Finns can be melancholic and pessimistic like nobody's business, but as someone put it in the YT comments, traveling abroad tends to show us how good we have it. I mean seriously England, Canada and Australia in particular, you're rich Western nations, how have you not cracked things like having adequate water pressure in your showers for chrissakes
posted by jklaiho at 10:16 AM on January 22 [45 favorites]


Finland has adequate water pressure in all showers?? No wonder you folks are so much happier!
posted by eviemath at 12:17 PM on January 22 [21 favorites]


Finland still get like 10 months of winter and the only music available is death metal so I...actually I'd still rather be in Finland.
posted by Young Kullervo at 12:28 PM on January 22 [21 favorites]


It's the fjords, they have pushing power
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 12:29 PM on January 22


I don't think there is much power of any kind in Danish fjords. Despite the one in the TV show Vikings, they are about as far from being similar to Norwegian fords as they could be.
posted by biffa at 2:03 PM on January 22 [3 favorites]


RobotVoodooPower: "It's the fjords, they have pushing pining power" FTFY
posted by chavenet at 2:13 PM on January 22 [7 favorites]


Healthcare and not being shot to death at school/the mall/work/on the road/in church/just walking around/etc etc etc are the opiates of the masses.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 2:59 PM on January 22 [29 favorites]


I mean seriously England, Canada and Australia in particular, you're rich Western nations, how have you not cracked things like having adequate water pressure in your showers for chrissakes

Canada can't even provide reliable clean drinking water for its indigenous communities, I don't know why you would expect us to have good water pressure in showers.
posted by chrominance at 3:00 PM on January 22 [17 favorites]


> Sure sure, rich countries are happier only up to a point, but the happiest countries are all uniformly tiny.

what if we gave city-states another try would that be good would that be a fun thing
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 3:14 PM on January 22 [6 favorites]


Move to Singapore and find out.
posted by sjswitzer at 3:17 PM on January 22 [7 favorites]


I'm only 5 minutes in, so maybe they mention it later, but the video seems to be overlooking the relationship between country size and happiness. Sure sure, rich countries are happier only up to a point, but the happiest countries are all uniformly tiny.

I watched the whole video, and it's not about size or homogeneity, it's about having a social safety net.

Canada in the past, also ranked highly for happiness - while also being both a medium sized country and also one of the most diverse countries in the world (with a significantly greater % of people born outside the country than the US). Things were not perfect - the situation regarding Indigenous rights is a national disgrace, as noted above - but it's only as our social safety net has been frayed that our happiness has gone down.

Absolutely EVERYTHING mentioned in the video - the freedom, the leisure, the security - comes from having a strong social safety net and strong regulations to protect workers.
posted by jb at 3:45 PM on January 22 [54 favorites]


it's about having a social safety net.

You don't say.
posted by Literaryhero at 4:58 PM on January 22 [6 favorites]


I mean seriously England, Canada and Australia in particular, you're rich Western nations, how have you not cracked things like having adequate water pressure in your showers for chrissakes

Hey I shower under a mere trickle of water here in Australia and I like it...

There's been some requirement (?) to include flow restrictors in showerheads though you can remove them yourself in much the same way you can try to remove the pollution control devices on your cars. I know the government made diesel cars here shut down eventually if you refuse to refill the urea tank but I suppose you could get it hacked. The government tells you when you are allowed to water your garden, restricts you to cleaning your driveway or deck / porch just once a year, and that's during normal years, during drought years you aren't allowed to water your garden or wash your car at all, you just let it die. Driest continent and all, and then people try to plant imported grass that needs thousands of liters of water per week to survive, crazy.

I'm making a garden mostly from natives that should survive without watering.
posted by xdvesper at 5:27 PM on January 22 [3 favorites]


I don't think there is much power of any kind in Danish fjords.

Being from a small island in one of them, I disagree strongly. There are some hella currents sometimes.
posted by Dysk at 7:24 PM on January 22 [2 favorites]


overlooking the relationship between country size and happiness

What big countries have in common is that they're basically empires. They have urban centers that control and financialize the resource frontiers which are usually peopled by displaced or concentrated indigenous groups and semi-transient (over time scales from a few years to a few hundreds) industrial communities.

Any larger city in Canada is roughly like any European city. Everywhere else is precarious, oppressed or both. A lot of towns, especially in the West, are basically incorporated man-camps.

My hometown's chamber of commerce always used to put on the ridiculous clown makeup of forward-looking can-do optimism, but everyone knew that the whole outfit was riding on the fickle wave of commodity prices (which ultimately broke). Exploitation and precarity are ingrained in the culture. It's a miserable fucking existence.
posted by klanawa at 7:45 PM on January 22 [12 favorites]


city-states it is then
posted by Reclusive Novelist Thomas Pynchon at 8:53 PM on January 22 [3 favorites]


According to a friend who lived in Finland for awhile, it’s because everyone deals with their feelings during the long-night season by getting drunk and writing manifestos. (They lived there in their early 20s, yes.)
posted by centrifugal at 9:01 PM on January 22 [3 favorites]


I've only ever heard of one melancholy Dane.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 9:18 PM on January 22 [14 favorites]


So, as some here may know from my comments, 6 months ago I left everything behind in the states, after living there for 35 years, and moved back to Denmark. So this video was very relevant to my interests, and touched me personally.
For a variety of reasons, some personal and some societal / political, I became pretty depressed the last many years in USA. I really did not know how to get out of it.
But now, even though I am still completely alone, and living a frugal monk-like existence, it’s like a curtain had been lifted from over me.
There are so many small daily things that make one happy.
All stress was drained out of my life.
I am going to write an essay about the difference between the two lifestyles. Maybe I’ll post it here.
posted by growabrain at 10:03 PM on January 22 [44 favorites]


Please do, growabrain!
posted by Harald74 at 12:46 AM on January 23 [6 favorites]


I came in to say what klanawa said better than I could have.

Also: in Denmark, and in this case that includes Norway which was part of the Danish Kingdom then, there was a huge effort to strike down corruption during the late 18th century, which included absolutely no mercy death sentences for corrupt officials. Eventually that created a trust in the state and its workings that was carried over into democracy and its institutions. It's been eroded quite a bit since the 2000's, but fortunately there seems to be a big push-back now. Trust in the state meant that the gradual construction of the welfare state, starting from the worlds' first universal public schools in the early 19th century to a big effort between the 20th wars and still going on is seen as natural and positive by all except a tiny group of libertarians. Even the populist far right supports taxes and welfare.
Trust in general is a thing that makes everyone happier. For years, I didn't lock my front door. I rarely lock my car during the day. And I live in the densest part of the country. Mostly, we can trust everyone we meet are honest and want to do good.
There's also a cultural thing. The "pursuit of happiness" is not written into our constitutions. We don't expect happiness, neither are we expected to achieve it. So when we are asked to think about it, we are pleasantly surprised to discover we are content.
Reading what I just wrote I see that a lot of this applies to Japan as well, and my old (Swedish) professor always insisted that there was a lot in common between Scandinavia and Japan. Still Japan doesn't score as high on those happiness surveys. I think it's because there is less pressure to perform professionally here. I don't know Japan well enough to state that definitively. But for instance, I teach my students not to do more (or less) than is asked in the course, if its 10 hours a week, that is what they should spend; stressed students are not good students. This is university policy, though not all professors discuss it as much as I do. And it is a huge surprise and relief to Japanese students.
posted by mumimor at 1:14 AM on January 23 [10 favorites]


what if we gave city-states another try would that be good would that be a fun thing

Sorry, best we can do is burbclaves, hope you can afford to live in a good one.

I teach my students not to do more (or less) than is asked in the course, if its 10 hours a week, that is what they should spend; stressed students are not good students.

Someone needs to explain this concept to my boss. I do all of the work that exists to do, and in my performance review last week, I was admonished to "take initiative" and "be proactive" to make more work for myself. My boss is a workaholic who sends non-essential emails at 3pm on a Sunday.
posted by Fleebnork at 4:52 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


I moved to Singapore, and then to Finland. My opinion is that we don't make a big deal out of love and romantic relationships. The critical question is can you survive winter looking at my face?
posted by Mrs Potato at 4:55 AM on January 23 [1 favorite]


Oh look, the CPI 2019: GLOBAL HIGHLIGHTS just came out. Remember it's about perception rather than facts, but so is the happiness index. If someone is good at doing graphs and didn't stay up all night to watch the impeachment hearings, it would be interesting to compare the corruption and happiness indexes.
posted by mumimor at 5:42 AM on January 23


Still Japan doesn't score as high on those happiness surveys. I think it's because there is less pressure to perform professionally here.

My wife and I have often talked about why Japan scores so low on happiness surveys (well below the US, for example) despite having a lot of positive lifestyle points in theory (low crime, decent healthcare, much lower wealth inequality, etc).

There are a couple reasons that stand out, but the main ones are high social pressure and high self-criticism. Japanese people rate among the lowest in the world on self-esteem, because criticism is common and praise is rare. There is a constant feeling of judgement and pressure (my wife often reflects on how nice it is that this doesn't exist in the US, to which I have to response "well... I don't think most Americans would view it that way". But compared to Japan, I think she's right, nonetheless).

Also, I think the bar is high in general. Many times I've had the experience of having a conversation in English, only for them to apologize because they can't speak English. By which they mean, "I can't speak English perfectly". Anything less than perfection is often viewed as failure. This is not a recipe for happiness, I would think.

[So I think you're partially right, but it's not "perform professionally" per se, but just an extremely high standard and harsh judgement for failing it, in many areas of life. Even things like maintaining personal appearance, dressing 'appropriately' for one's gender/age, etc, etc]

It seems like Scandinavia manages to have the positives (low crime, healthcare, etc) without the extreme pressure and judgement, which definitely sounds like it would result in high levels of happiness.
posted by thefoxgod at 9:17 AM on January 23 [4 favorites]


thefoxgod, that is very interesting. I remember once seeing one of my Japanese students without makeup for the first time. We were actually in Japan, but she had known me for a while, so she knew I wouldn't judge her and we were heading for the countryside very early in the morning. That day I realized how hard she had worked to just arrive at school every morning. (Make-up wasn't just a bit of mascara, I understood then). Don't misunderstand me, she is a very beautiful person without makeup and in jeans and a sweatshirt. The point was that she was until then always, always making an effort at everything.
She was in every way a lovely example of what I've experienced: she arrived in Denmark with little English and limited skills. She was accepted because my boss was fascinated by her very Japanese femininity (yes, ugh). But during her time here, her voice went deeper, she laughed louder, she became a fraction more bossy in a good way, and her work became exponentially better with fewer hours, ending with a straight A for her thesis project, which we had never expected when she arrived. I met her parents who were amazed and delighted.
posted by mumimor at 9:53 AM on January 23 [2 favorites]


I forgot to mention capitalism in my little rant above, so here it is: "capitalism."

Is there anyone so miserable in the word as he who is exploited and abused by the thing he loves the most? Nah.
posted by klanawa at 10:50 AM on January 23


Let me add to @klanawa’s points:
Capitalism
Materialism
Consumerism
Greed
Mass Advertising
posted by growabrain at 12:00 PM on January 23


More, this is about drugs.

Btw, I was very surprised to discover that in spite its liberal policies, marijuana is still illegal here in Denmark. The explanations I read were unconvincing and confusing.
posted by growabrain at 12:13 PM on January 23




Btw, I was very surprised to discover that in spite its liberal policies, marijuana is still illegal here in Denmark. The explanations I read were unconvincing and confusing.

Yes, they are unconvincing and confusing. IMO, the simplest way to reduce crime in Denmark would be to legalize marijuana, and possibly all drugs. I have tried smoking a joint once, and got sick, and have never tried any other drugs, and I don't support drugs, but I have seen the devastating effect of the criminalization of drugs up very close in many aspects. It is my understanding that a vast majority of Danish politicians see it the same way, across the aisle.

I can see how that is a difficult political decision to make, given that our neighbors are adamantly against it. We have struggled with Scandinavian smugglers of alcohol and Scandinavians who come here to drink for more than a hundred years. The high levels of alcohol and drug use in Denmark, as compared to other European countries, are to a large extent driven by neighbors from prohibitionist countries coming in.
It's encouraging that Canada has taken the jump, but telling that it happened in step with some big US states doing it. So I guess it has to be a Scandinavian decision, rather than a Danish decision. Legalizing medical marihuana is a step, though.
posted by mumimor at 1:30 PM on January 23 [4 favorites]


The "pursuit of happiness" is not written into our constitutions. We don't expect happiness, neither are we expected to achieve it.

Or held personally, solely responsible if you do not achieve it (because you're a loser who didn't major in STEM and eat paelo while building an empire out of bootstraps or whatever the fuck our current excuse for the failings of unrestrained racism and capitalism is this decade).

Americans are unhappy, in short, because living and especially working in the US sucks, and always has sucked for a big part of the population. It's only because middle class whites are finally really starting to feel it that there's any sort of pushback on the reigning dogma.

France, for example, scores high on pessimism, but surprisingly high also on perceived happiness. There are lots of reasons for this of which I as a foreigner who is also not a demographics researcher am probably unaware; however, reasonable expectations about happiness and its prerequisites may have something to do with it. Neoliberal, US-style thinking about success and money and the relationship between the two is creeping in, especially amongst "well-educated" people my age / Zoomers, but there is nowhere near the endless appetite for material novelty I see in my American peers. This is because the things which actually make a good, fulfilled human life possible, like healthcare, education, healthy food, leisure, etc., haven't (yet) been totally commodified and placed out of reach of the normal person. French and, more broadly, Western and Northern European workers don't need the anaesthetic of endless consumption to mask the lack of basic necessities.

In conclusion: MUNICIPAL SOCIALISM NOW

I'll see myself out
posted by peakes at 1:48 AM on January 24 [3 favorites]


Any larger city in Canada is roughly like any European city. Everywhere else is precarious, oppressed or both.

I guess I missed that episode of Corner Gas.
posted by Harvey Kilobit at 8:13 PM on January 25 [1 favorite]


Well, there is a taxman oppressing Brent's dad in Dog River, but it's the folks of Wullerton (spits) who are The Worst.
posted by fifteen schnitzengruben is my limit at 9:15 PM on January 25 [2 favorites]


« Older Gutting the IRS   |   📴✉️ They designed an envelope to hide your phone... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments