Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Happy Talking Happy Talk

Glorious news, people! A summation of the nation's hopes and dreams has been conducted and now everything is known about our innermost souls.

Apparently we're feeling a bit 7.4, though that was before they announced the economy had contracted 0.7%, so we might be feeling 7.33 now. Anyway, how are you today? 7.6? 8.3? 5.2? Personally, I woke up this morning feeling a bit 4.3, remembered that for the first time in weeks I had coffee in the house, went up to 5.2, realised the neighbour's yappy dog had gone somewhere else (5.5), opened the back door,  washing was dry (6.5) drank coffee, looked at to-do list, slumped to about 2.2, thought about difficult email I need to send to a friend who may be having a breakdown, felt a bit weepy about it - I'm not sure where 'weepy' is on the scale, is that like 3.1, or maybe 1.5? - decided to drop it, went out, and remembered that I'm not stuck in a ghastly office while the sun is shining (9.1). Anyway, it's all doubleplusgood, apparently.

In case you're wondering what I'm on about, apparently statisticians have for the first time calculated an aggregate level of well-being for the nation. This is on behalf of a wider 'well-being' agenda which will run alongside things like GDP (Gross Domestic Product) which can cheerily run on getting higher and higher, while we all get miserabler and miserabler. Presumably they're going to let it take over when the economy is tanking so ridiculously that they don't even want to release the statistics.

Before we blame the Tories, this was the last government's idea. Basically, they couldn't understand why we didn't like them more, since they had done so much for us, and concluded there was just something wrong with us, not them. We were congenitally miserable bastards. The refrain 'of course we are, we're British' meant nothing, and they hired a bevy of experts to try and work out how to make us less miserable.

Anyway, I should declare here that I am a person who loathes, instinctively, being told to cheer up. The phrases 'think positive!', 'God Loves You', and 'It's all meant to happen for a reason' make me want to punch someone in the face. Being told 'cheer up love' by men in the street makes me far angrier than having some proper obscenity slung in my direction.

Anyway, I loathe and despise this happiness agenda. But why, you wail, what could possibly be wrong with being happy? Well, a whole bunch of reasons, actually.

The first reason is that I don't own or control many things in life. I don't own the house I live in, even half the stuff in it. I spend a lot of time keeping my gob shut on what I'd really like to say. I do this because I need work, I need a bank account, I need to keep the landlord sweet. However, I do own my own thoughts. In the privacy of my own head, I can say what I like. And I'd like to keep it that way. Like me, you've probably worked in places the boss doesn't just want you to pay lip service to the company line - s/he actually wants you to believe it. And s/he will be sniffing around, to see if you have committed any accidental thought crime. It's ghastly, vile, and oppressive. Imagine that spread over the whole country.

Second, egotistically, I'd like to think I'm a bit more complicated than some damn statistic. You know, a mess of thoughts and hopes and dreams and fears that can't be easily described, let alone summed up in a statistic.


Third, everyone knows what makes people's lives worth living. Decent jobs which aren't too many hours, doing something useful. Decent housing which doesn't leak or freeze on you, and doesn't take your entire salary. People that care about you, whether that's a traditional family, or friends, or a community. Time to do stuff that interests you. Being looked after when you're ill. A feeling that you have some kind of control over your own destiny, and an absence of the horrifying sense that it's all spinning out of control. Not being bullied, or told to achieve things that are impossible, or scorned, or mocked, or ridiculed. Unfortunately for governments and their happiness agenda, most of these things are utterly incompatible with the debt-based turbocapitalism to which they are so hopelessly in thrall.

Last but not least, there's a purpose to getting pissed off. You know how you sit through that crappy job/relationship/flat for ages and moan about it but don't do anything? And then you catch your boss pissing in the waste bin/find the loser got off with your married friend/the ceiling fell in, etc, and you just give in your notice without knowing what's next? Yeah, that thing. You need to work up that head of steam to get sufficiently angry to actually move away from the shittiness. Too much 'think positive/count your blessings' and frankly, you'll still be there in 30 years.

To be honest, I'm amazed that what with bankers' bonuses and austerity and so on, we haven't all got to the handing in our notice stage already. I can't help thinking that somebody in Government must've had this thought too. Which is why they're all dead keen to work out how to keep you 'thinking positive' instead of just marching out. It's a lie and a scam, people, and... oh dear, I'm needing to punch someone. Sorry.

I haven't really got an excuse for including that Captain Sensible video, by the way. Except that it cheered me up, in a way that a statistic never could.

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