Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Wealth and happiness

I liked this excerpt that Father Bob has posted up on his blog, which is occasionally a good read, sometimes rubbish. Apparently from a book called Affluenza (great name for a book-meaning the sickness we get from having lots of money). Highlighting is mine.

"Australian's are three times richer than their parents and grandparents were in the 1950's, but they are not happier. Despite the evidence of a decline in national wellbeing, governments continue to put the interests of the economy first. Our obsession with economic growth and money means other things that could improve our wellbeing are sacrificed.

In the community there is a widespread belief that the values of the market - individualism, selfishness, materialism, competition - are driving out the more desirable values of trust, self-restraint, mutual respect and generosity.

Despite this anxiety, most people today feel alienated from the political process. The main parties seem too alike and have given up trying to build a better society.

The challenge of our age is to build a new politics that is committed, above all, to improving our wellbeing.

We often think of wellbeing as happiness, but it is more than that. It is also about having meaning in our lives, about developing as a person and feeling that our lives are fulfilling and worthwhile.

Our wellbeing is shaped by our genes, our upbringing, our personal circumstances and choices, and the social conditions we live in. Our collective wellbeing is improved if we live in a peaceful, flourishing, supportive society. Promoting wellbeing should be a political as well as a personal task.

Wellbeing comes from having a web of relationships and interests. Family and friends, work, leisure activities and spiritual beliefs can all increase our wellbeing. The intimacy, the sense of belonging and the support offered by close personal relationships are of greatest importance. Having more money matters most to the poor and to people who lack other sources of wellbeing, but for most Australians it counts little towards improving wellbeing.

Throughout history sages have counselled that happiness is not a goal but rather a consequence of how we live and that it comes from being content with what we have.

Today, we are sold a different message - that we will be happy only if we have more money and more of the things money buys. Human experience and scientific research does not support this belief."

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