“I don’t think I have ever sensed a national population so unhappy, so angry, so divided, so disturbed even, as how your country appears today” said Sid (Buddha to most other folks)
“Yes Sid, but, with respect, your perception is not so enlightening because the unhappiness is so tangible everywhere, at work, in shops, on tv, even in wine bars” said Dr C
We were sitting in our customary bar when Buddha (Sid to his mates) had joined us and got right to the heart of things as usual.
“Ah, but the enlightenment is NOT about sensing the unhappiness, it’s in understanding that the obsession with Brexit is not the cause of the unhappiness, it was merely the catalyst that has exposed the complete distrust in your government and elected representatives. It has split your citizens into quite different camps, or tribes, so entrenched that they don’t realise that leaving the European Union is no longer the issue, in fact …. it was NEVER the issue!”
“Sadly you are right Sid, in fact I am convinced that whether we leave or don’t leave, have another referendum or not, leave with a deal or on WTO terms, the unhappiness will continue” I replied. “But I’m also starting to think that the rise of new political parties whether left wing, right wing or centrist, whether pro Brexit or anti, will not improve the situation because the whole culture of our political system is a pile of crap, infested with self serving, ignorant, arrogant, people of zero integrity”
“Your thinking is correct Dr B, you used the term political system and with your experience as an organisational psychologist the word ‘system’ is the clue and the solution to the problem. But, new parties as you describe, or coalition governments is certainly not the answer.”
“Well, in my experience Sid, the first step is to understand the components of the ‘system’, those things that holistically combine to regulate and direct things whilst gaining the commitment of the people within the system. The problem at the moment is that The Economy is taken as the ONLY component worth thinking about as competing elements lobby government for more money; healthcare, education, police, welfare, roads, railways …… it’s incessant, nobody is ever satisfied …. or happy!”
“Those components you seek are well known” said Sid “particularly in Bhutan, but no other country has ever had the courage to take a similar approach of Gross National Happiness instead of Gross National Product. Here’s the Four Pillars of their system:
“That’s interesting Sid, I previously used a 4 component system for corporate organisations, each component interacting with and influencing the others. But it’s not enough, you need lower order criteria that make up the detail of your chosen components”
“Correct Dr B …. so here you go, these are the 9 domains associated with those 4 pillars, but also each of those 9 domains has 3 indicators for measurement of the status of the whole system. The Bhutanese have just the same issues as you do, the economy, trade, healthcare, education, transport etc BUT they approach these things differently to measure the success of their country”
“So this ‘system’ is well known and understood by every Bhutanese citizen; they know that their representatives are constantly working to balance the system overall and to increase the overall level of ‘happiness’ which is measured at regular intervals. There is no deviation from the agreed system that was created after the initial phrase, Gross National Happiness, was coined by Jigme Singye Wangchuk, the 4th King of Bhutan, in 1972.
“Your country has a polarised two party monopoly; socialism vs capitalism, nationalisation vs free market enterprise, and so on. People are ‘forced’ into voting for one or the other, there is no real alternative with either main party forming coalition-style governments occasionally to cling to power and personal agendas. Manifestos are written full of promises to attract votes but rarely adhered to once in power. If you had a set of “pillars and domains” as they do in Bhutan, then you could elect people irrespective of any party, then vote for an individual to lead a “cabinet” to implement the system. The best people would be chosen to be in that group based on experience from many walks of life, and NOT career politicians!”
“We probably agree on all this Sid, but there is going to have to be a real revolution to get anywhere near such a system. Unfortunately the only revolution we are likely to get is one that leads us into totalitarianism whether left or right wing politically oriented. But even though the whole concept of Gross National Happiness sounds exceedingly idealistic Sid, when you take the time to investigate the mechanics of it there is a great deal of pragmatism involved. I especially like the fact that they operate a regular survey and questionnaire policy to gauge opinion of implementation and progress, plus the fact that their constitution is centred on it and they have a number of institutions and centres researching and monitoring too.”
“Do you have any mates in Bhutan Sid, fast tracking of residence visas or citizenship application could be of enormous personal benefit ….. Sid …. wait, don’t go!”