The quest for happiness has driven our species to take monumental challenges, grave risks and great sacrifices. Some succeed; some continue to strive while others perish.
A common perception is that people who live in wealthy countries are happier than those living in poorer countries.
A recent global survey has busted this myth, saying that people in Fiji are the happiest in the world. Yet, it is one of the poorest countries and has been under military rule since December 5, 2006.
Canada based Leger Marketing conducted the ‘Global Barometer of Happiness Survey’ in the lead up to New Year. The Survey had 52,913 respondents, with about 1000 men and women interviewed in most countries.
The result showed that despite prediction of global doom and gloom on the economic front, 53% of the people were happy and 13% were unhappy.
This network has been conducting the annual poll since 1977, focusing on the prospects of the economy but added a question in its 2011 Survey on ‘Happiness’.
It showed that the attainment of Happiness is aided by economic hopefulness but refused to be subdued by economic gloom.
Generally, nations struggling hard to move up the global economic ladder produced many ‘unhappy’ people.
Surprisingly, China, with its booming economy, had only 25% net happiness, which is half of global average.
Comparatively, economically pressured Spaniards scored 55% net happiness.
In another twist, Afghanistan scored 35%, beating the US, which scored 33%.
The top five ‘happy’ nations were Fiji (85%), Nigeria (84%) Netherlands (77%), Switzerland (76%) and Ghana (72%).
Other countries of interest scored as follows on net happiness:
Australia 38%, Canada 47%, France 40%, Germany 68%, India 37%, South Africa 76% and US 33%.
New Zealand did not feature in this survey, something the New Zealand Government may want to undertake. Success of any government is best measured through the barometer of happiness.
Interestingly, people who were anchored to religion were much happier than those who claimed ‘no religion’ and those in the middle age had lower net happiness, including those unemployed or retired.
The findings are remarkably instructive on what makes the human species happier and the complexity of it will no doubt invite new studies to shed more light on an important subject.
It is evident that people derive happiness in different ways and happiness is not necessarily tied to anyone but a combination of different attributes.
Importantly, introduction of the barometer for gauging happiness is a worthy cause, awakening governments to take note and act appropriately.
The Survey originated in UK, with Prime Minister John Cameron commissioning a study on Happiness among Britons. It later became global with a simple core question, “Do you feel happy, unhappy or neither?”
The outcome was not definitive but certainly pollinated the human mind to probe on the elements that provide happiness to human beings.
Fiji, a tiny nation in the Pacific, afflicted with military coups since 1987, with high unemployment and poverty is the new happiness capital of the world.
Before the advent of the coup culture, “Fiji, the way world should be,” was the internationally acclaimed slogan.
Following the release of this ‘happy’ result, Fiji has regained its right to reclaim this slogan and raise its banner before the comity of nations.
This ‘Happiness’ survey was expression of views of ordinary people and not of politicians who had masqueraded multiracialism.
The global survey refuted the myth that happiness and wealth were interdependent. About 45% of the people in Fiji live in poverty. For a majority of the people, life is a hard grind and they continue to struggle and endure.
But it has not robbed them of their happiness.
In Fiji, the culture of happiness is natural and a national heritage.
The people of Fiji bear adversities, including natural calamities and political upheavals (both abound!), in their stride.
A brilliant example
There was racism, practiced and actively promoted by the indigenous politicians for their own political advantage but the heart of the nation was pure.
It did not degenerate into violence or bloodshed and if Fiji can obliterate racism, the barometer of its happiness will rise even further.
The remark made by Bollywood star and leader of cultural group ‘Karmic Connection’ Micckey Narula following his recent visit to Fiji captures the true spirit of the South Pacific nation.
He said, “Fiji is such an amazing country. In India, we have a flower that has a strong fragrance; one small petal can fill a room with fragrance. Fiji is that small petal and the genuine love, generosity and warmth of the Fiji people is spreading across the world, touching the hearts of people from everywhere.”
I have always claimed that Fiji is a rare gift to the people of Fiji.
The spirit of joy and happiness is their finest inheritance.
Unfortunately, reckless politicians who sowed seeds of discord, malice and hatred among its peoples and preyed on their vulnerability, have robbed their prosperity and unity.
Fiji has not failed its people; its selfish leaders have failed Fiji.