Thursday

soap box 2: happiness

i think about happiness a lot. excuse me while i bash this out. i'm not sure if there will be a point to this at the moment, so please give me the benefit of a doubt in this, the second of my attempts to appear intelligent. i'm going to discuss three related concepts: water, money and happiness.

let's start at the begining with water. water falls from the sky. it is free. you cannot practically make more of it or less of it.

water is, however, mutually exclusive. if i have a cup of water, that's one cup of water in the world less for you. but what's interesting is that when i've finished with the water, you can have it when it falls from the sky again.

this is like money. money is mutually exclusive. but money has no value in the bank; it's just credit. it has to be spent to realise it's value. and all you can do to spend it is give it to someone else.

let's expand on this, as clever people say when they're explaining things. assume there are two people: one grows fruit and the other vegetables, and in a classic economist over-assumption, these are the only two products in the world. there's no need for money here, they just swap fruit and veg as they see fit. let's say there's a ratio of two veg to one fruit. now, these fruit and veg are truly mutually exclusive, and if i consume one, you can't. ever. no need for money now. when an extra person joins the community growing cotton, things get more complex, but still no need for money.

one night, these three are all round the veg grower's, drinking spirits distilled from fruit and veg. they are happy. they are having a good time together.
but imagine a situation where the original two are happy together. when the new person with her cotton turns up, they hate her. they've worked this clich├ęd barter economy for decades, they're not going to let an upstart like her cash in on their fun. they don't want to share their happiness. so they hurt her. they make herleave. it's the only way they can be happy.
this situation is sadist position, of getting off on someone elses misery. this is not healthy happiness. happiness is not mutually exclusive. me being happy doesn't stop you being happy. us being happy together is best of all.

to stretch the analogy, this is the difference between chimps and bonobos. chimps are cruel, nasty, bitter creatures who rape and bully and make themselves feel better only by taking it out on a smaller chimp. this hierarchy is built on the most miserable runtish chimps of the lot, right at the bottom, who are so unhappy they die quickly, and are then forgotten (please excuse poetic license). bonobos, on the other hand, share their love. conflicts are resolved by having sex. and at the heart of this dichotomy, i read, is resources, i.e. food, which are more plentiful in the central forests where bonobos live than the fringes where the chimps live. what a wonderful parable to teach us. happiness isn't dependant on money, it's dependant on food. and true happiness is that which makes other people happy too, not at their expense. we can all agree on that, can't we?



there are so many constructive things i could have done with this evening, but i've completely wasted it. it all went wrong with that dark matter documentry, a vacuous stream of graphics and the simplest science. that finished over an hour ago. maybe that's why i've had such a massive desire to get drunk the last couple of nights, because i knew i'd feel like this anyway. there's nothing like drinking, on your own, when you really want to. but for one reason or another i've restrained myself, and just got bored instead. it's too late to continue staring at this screen anyway.

and my right index finger feels like it's been burnt with bleach, but at least my athlete's foot has nearly cleared up.

i need to get out of here. i can't go anywhere in manchester without being reminded of happier times.
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