Gross National Happiness (GNH)

Master had delivered a stinging critique of modern societies in the post Idiocracy. The assembly was not over, as the subject was vast and disciples wanted more answers.

“Master, you always tell us that critiquing what is present is easy. Birthing new ideas and building new systems is always tough. So do kindly tell us according to you, how should the new society be structured? What should its guiding principles and institutions be?

Master took in a deep breath and answered thus:

“A good society should be able to meet its peoples basic material needs, look after their overall well being as also provide them with opportunity for growth and self actualization. All this should be done within a doctrinal framework of non degradation of its environment.

In other words any growth which is not holistic for its members, inclusive of all of its classes and sustainable in its environment, is not optimal for a society. It will create developmental anomalies leading to social fissures and ultimately to collapse of the entire civilization.

“Collapse of a civilization sounds very big master. Can you elaborate on that” asked another disciple.

“History is replete with examples of societies (Greenland Norse/ Ansazi/Angor Wat), empires (british/mughal/ottoman) and modern states (USSR/Yugoslavia) which did not manage their growth well and collapsed in one way or another. They either imploded in simplification, got absorbed into another culture or were obliterated in their entirety. The common themes underpinning societal collapses are overpopulation, environmental and climactic degradation, over-complexity and ideological stubbornness resulting in perceptive blindness of the oncoming catastrophe.

All of these factors are present in the way modern societies are organized. The fuse that they are on for the collapse is at max a couple of decades away. Either they can remedy the situation voluntarily or it will be corrected for them without their consent.

So how can we move away from this calamity course to a life sustaining one? The disciple in a back row wanted to know.

“In life we end up getting more of what we choose to measure. If we measure growth as abundance of products we will get more of gross domestic product (GDP). However if we redefine growth as overall well being of people, society and environment; then as a first step of change we should calculate something called gross national wellbeing (GNW). Through subjective surveys and objective data collation, this index should be a measure of factors effecting individual well being (material/physical/emotional), societal well being (nature of work/governance imperatives/distributive justice) and environmental well being (clean tech/resource depletion/planetary boundaries upkeep).

When we start to measure our world this way, we have a broader spectrum to frame our problems and better chances of solving them then from merely a narrow economic perspective. Remember, Utopia is not merely mass material sufficiency but a sustainable state of social and spiritual contentment for everyone”. Master concluded before getting up for his round of the monastery grounds.

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