“All animals are equal. But some animals are more equal than others.” – George Orwell, Animal Farm.
We all want to live happily and lovingly with everyone around us. Still, annoyingly, some people achieve this noble goal better than others. People in some countries, as it turns out, are far happier than us.
But we don’t have to hate them for that.
Instead, we can adopt their cheery path, starting with figuring out what the hell they’re doing better.
The Jolly Countries
While every unhappy country is unhappy in its own way, probably, happy countries are apparently all alike.
The countries starring in the world happiness reports at all times are mostly the Scandinavian countries (Denmark, Norway, Sweden, Finland and Iceland) as well as New-Zealand, Australia, Canada and the Netherlands. What do all of these lucky countries have in common?
Not luck, obviously. Any way you look at them, there are countries with a better fortune- with more natural resources, calmer history, more money, or much better food.
All the happy countries, however, chose a better way of life. They are all highly equalitarian, have an expanded social welfare safety net, and they are all very democratic.
The egalitarian, interdependent way of life makes the people of these countries much happier simply because practically no one feels lonely – no one has to face life alone. Everyone knows that when they’ll need help (due to unemployment, sickness, childbirth, old age, etc.), the public, organized by the government, will be there for them.
They don’t only declaim that “united we stand, divided we fall.” They live by it.
And they don’t have to suffer the annoying cognitive dissonance of constantly knowing that the people around are struggling and suffering. These countries’ residents have the enormous peace of mind that comes from knowing that they did their best for their fellow people.
So, slightly higher taxes are a low price to pay for a steady sense of safety and a clean conscience.
Besides, contrary to other countries where everybody feels discriminated against, and rightly so, in the joyful countries, nobody feels that way. Not even women. Everybody there is equal and respected.
As far as people are able to, anyway.
On top of it all, showing off how rich or successful you are is considered vulgar in these weird cultures. Therefore, people are fairly free from the rat race of proving their numerical value. Instead of devoting their lives to compete with others, they can devote them to the activities and people they love.
Much more fun, really.
The Lands Of The Living
Unsurprisingly, the people in the happy countries not only live better but also live longer.
One reason, evidently, is that serenity and happiness are major components of our health.
Another, obviously, is that some of these taxes are financing good health systems.
The third reason is clearer than ever nowadays. As you may have already noticed, these countries deal better with the Corona plague than most countries do. It’s not a coincidence. Financial security, which enables people to stay at home when they are sick, as well as cooperation with their uncorrupted governments, are two of several reasons for this success.
In the long run, these countries are not only happier but also more stable. In other words, they are stronger.
As equalitarian societies have always been. Since the dawn of time.
The Happy Paradise
Humanity spent most of its existence living happily in small groups of hunter-gatherers. Our ancestors were happy not only because they had to work only three hours a day to make a rich, healthy living, but also because they lived more equally than we can even comprehend nowadays.
As a matter of fact, no one had to work at all – each person could choose any minute what to do, or not do, and no one would have judged them. No one told any other one what to do, even if the other one was a child.
Unbelievable, but still, it worked. It’s still working happily in the remnant groups of knowledgeable hunter-gatherers that we, the depressed civilized people, call primitives.
In our collective memory, we remember this way of life as the Garden of Eden. We vaguely remember that there was a time we lived joyfully in nature. However, we gloomily know that we can’t return to this lifestyle.
Because, as we recall just too well, we have banished ourselves from paradise. (Humanly, we blame it on someone else.) By our agricultural revolution, we cursed ourselves not only to eat bread by the sweat of our faces, and to live shorter, unhealthier lives, but also to build grim hierarchic societies. (James Suzman shows that in his article, How Neolithic farming sowed the seeds of modern inequality 10,000 years ago.)
We stopped respecting everyone’s wishes. We started forcing the majority of the people to do what few other people desire.
Sometimes we do it through brute force. Dictatorships, for example.
At other times we do it through financial force, which pulls the strings of the media and the lawmakers to operate our thoughts and actions. The billionaires’ power, gradually and covertly, enhances the inequality of our resources, possibilities, and rights.
“Our broken economies,” as civil society leader Amitabh Behar puts it, “are lining the pockets of billionaires and big business at the expense of ordinary men and women. No wonder people are starting to question whether billionaires should even exist”.
People need freedom in order to be happy. Equality guarantees people’s freedom, while inequality takes their freedom away.
The Miserable Countries
In many of our countries, inequality is growing. For instance,
“While most Americans think of the US as being a country of great economic mobility and opportunity, its economic mobility rate is now one of the worst in the developed world.” (Business Insider, “Hedge fund billionaire Ray Dalio says capitalism is failing America.”)
This growing inequality amplifies the conception of “every man for himself.” This alienated conception is disastrous for society, and it generates increased loneliness, despair, bullying, violence, and hatred.
Everything that makes us unhappy, in fact.
Everything that makes us sick.
But getting sick in an unequal society is a very bad idea.
“Of all the forms of inequality,” Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote, “injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.”
Moreover, unequal healthcare is probably the most dangerous inequality, as we recently had the dubious pleasure of finding.
In the more unequal countries, such as the US and some third-world countries, the government doesn’t provide sufficient healthcare, and many people don’t have enough money for health insurance. Subsequently, when these people are sick, they don’t go to see a doctor. As there is also no social security network, the sick people have to go on working – and they infect others. That’s probably one of the reasons why the unequal countries treat the plague so badly.
If (or, in all probability, when) a worse pandemic will hit humanity, the countries which don’t take care of their have-nots are bound to suffer tremendously.
Maybe even go extinct.
Unless they will change their daft course of action.
Our Future Countries
We, humans, are all connected to each other. For us,
“a civilization is measured by how it treats its weakest members,”
as Gandhi said.
The survival of the fittest people isn’t the survival of the strongest – it’s the survival of the kindest.
So the equal, happy societies are also the most powerful ones.
Therefore, if we want to live happily, we better endeavor to be equal.
But even if we merely want to live, we better endeavor to be equal.
We better vote for leaders who don’t divide people but protect our democracies by minimizing corruption, ensuring free press, and expanding the social welfare security net.
We better share our resources to equalize and enhance our rights, our opportunities and our safety.
We better take care of everyone, everywhere, every time, for the benefit of us all.
To strengthen our societies.
To lengthen our lives.