Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Public Policy for Happiness = Fresh Fruit!

This has been a year chock full of new ideas for me. Two years ago I do not think I could have listed everything I bought to wear from memory counting on my hands. I also had a hard time affording really nice fruit and vegetables – enough to eat them at every meal and as snacks. A red pepper was a once a week treat. Strawberries, good tomatoes, kiwi, eggplant, blueberries etc. were on special every once and while but not often and rarely out of season. And a huge bunch of herbs for fifty cents? Unheard of! Now, there were also a million wonderful things in my life before moving to Turkey – a critical press, public libraries everywhere, doctors who wore rubber gloves, etc. but I have certainly become aware of room for improvement in areas that were not obvious to me until I left.

My experience has led me to notice what is lacking and appreciate fully what is right in N. America, and specifically the US. And somehow, much of this is centered on evaluating what seems to make others and myself happy, oddly enough. So while there is so much that the US gets right, I have realized that the US gets in badly wrong in some fundamental ways and that in my mind these shortcomings have a lot to do with the perceptions of happiness that are foisted upon us in the US. I say “foisted” because I think there is zero encouragement to discover ones own happiness as the government, the media, policy makers, etc., seem to all be in cahoots to convince us of what will make us happy. Namely, fuel-efficient cars, organic food, super-smart children, a big house with an extended mudroom, healthcare at premium prices, lots of clothes, tax breaks, high definition television, espresso machines that use funny pellets, more education, and just generally, stuff. I say “foisted” too, because if someone doesn’t want all of this, they are eccentric, a hippie dippy type, a loose canon, maybe a curmudgeon, call it whatever you like, but they aren’t quite right.

Anyway, I have come to realize that I don’t want a lovely, big house with an extended mudroom in the front; I would rather have fresh fruit and vegetables at an affordable price all of the time for myself and everyone else. And in lieu of high definition television, give me public libraries! I have started to realize public libraries might be worth celebrating as much as the freedom of speech on July 4th. I do want something akin to super-smart children, I must admit, but I want them to be interested in knowledge for knowledge’s sake – not because it will give them a higher income or result in their achieving more. I just want them to be curious. It has been a valuable exercise to live abroad and gain a perspective that while at times challenging and frustrating, has caused me to re-evaluate my own ideas about happiness.

With the recent discovery of Will Wilkinson's Happiness and Public Policy blog, I am starting to think that there is hope after all. I never knew that people study public policy and happiness. I am very, very glad that they do. I am hoping that public policies concerning the high cost of fresh fruit and vegetables in the US are very high on the list of quality of life measures!

1 comment:

Terry said...

I like your thoughts, and hope as you age that you don;t become a ranting conservative as so many people do. We all only need some money, not gross amounts, that cause us to buy things we don't need.