معمارِ حرم باز بہ تعمیرِ جہاں خیز
از خوابِ گِراں خوابِ گِراں خوابِ گِراں خیز
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ادھر آ ستمگر ہنر آزمائیں
تو تیر آزما ہم جِگر آزمائیں

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Pursuit of Happiness

The question that is with us today is what is happiness? What causes happiness in anyone? Can anybody stay happy forever? Is the idea of “lived happily ever after” achievable? Is the pursuit of this state justifiable in light of morality and social cohesion?

Restricting this essay to happiness experienced by common people and thus not involving in metaphysical levels of happiness, happiness is a state of mind. Psychologically happiness was defined by Martin Seligman as a ‘positive’ emotion. Actually happiness is a very fluid concept and is thus attributed to many a things. Its common connotation is a smile or at a louder end is laughter.

There can be many a causes for happiness. These causes range from sexual gratification to achieving something that has been strived for. A poor man becomes happy when he receives money. A sick person gets happy when he gets healthy. Parents from animals and humans get happy when they see their offspring. A person who has been wronged gets happy when he receives justice. A singer gets happy when he makes a good tune. This list can go on forever. In short people find happiness in many varied things from many aspects of life.

Down at the bottom happiness is a state of mind. In more metaphorical terms it is stated as the state of heart, but we know that heart is a mere pump for the blood and incapable of thinking and contemplating. In light of this it would be justified to attribute happiness to the mind.

Happiness as it is experienced by people is that it is momentary. For a certain moment there is a peak of happiness and after that moment this happiness decays until it reaches equilibrium state or normal state. The time taken for happiness to subside is dependent upon many a factors which includes personality of the person and attachment of thing that caused happiness to the person. As experience tells no matter how favourable the circumstances are, happiness does always settle. Another interesting aspect of happiness is that when you start receiving its cause on regular basis, after some time it ceases to cause happiness although if its supply is abruptly stopped it does cause pain, unhappiness or disturbance whichever way you would want to call it.

If it is established that case of happiness is always as stated above then what does notion of “lived happily ever after” imply? Is this state of happiness possible? From the analysis of happiness stated above it can be easily construed that no such state is possible. Nobody can stay in the high state for a long period of time let alone living there forever.

So if nobody can stay happy for a long period of time it should also imply that a person for the same reason cannot stay unhappy for a longer period of time. If this is how our emotions behave then there must be some state in between these two extremes. There actually lies a hazy area in between these two extremes where lies normal state of emotions. If we are to point out a centre of these two extremes, portion of hazy region above this centre and closer to happiness can be called contentment while the corresponding region on the other side of this centre can be called disgruntled state.

As per natural inclination people desire state of happiness for themselves. This state as discussed earlier cannot be maintained for longer period of time. Existence of desire and unavailability of the desired gives birth to another question that can happiness be made or created? Can happiness be induced using some external agents?

Well happiness is created using entertainment industry. This entertainment industry implies everything including television, movies, sports, casinos, pubs, etc. External agents can and are also used to induce “artificial happiness”. Drugs, alcohol and other intoxications are used for the purpose of inducing artificial happiness.

The use of entertainment industry and drugs for creating artificial happiness invites questions regarding moral and ethical issues related to these industries. Is the entertainment industry morally and ethically justified? Should people be allowed use of drugs to gain get “artificial happiness”? Is the use of drugs justified under the pretext of keeping the population happy?

As far as entertainment is concerned it should be regulated so that it forbids ‘inappropriate’ content on television. The definition of ‘inappropriate’ content would of course vary from one society to another, depending upon their values and customs. The media should be regulated in such a way that it does not allow any content that would be damaging to children’s minds and inculcating in these feeble minds some ‘wrong’ values. These ‘wrong’ values are those values that are not in line with prevalent values of the society or the values which those ruling would want to induce in the society. Example of this can be that supposedly there is some society where cheating is rampant. Those who are ruling think that this is a ‘wrong’ trend and thus should be stopped they should apart from making legislations should also make entertainment sector to not to glamorize or show content that would give ‘positive’ light to it. Rather they should stay in line with government policy and try and educate people about ills that such habits bring in the society.

Another aspect worth consideration is that people should not be allowed to view ‘inappropriate’ content even if it adds to their happiness. A very good example of this is pornography. Although it would add to happiness of people, the entertainment industry should not be allowed to show such content for the reason that it damages the moral and ethical fabric of any society. People after consistently being in audience of such entertainment, would be demeaning to themselves and would cause ills in the society. It would increase their restlessness in the society and would compel week minds to choose even illegal routes to satisfaction such as rape. This therefore would become never ending quest for happiness and there insatiable desires. It would also increase crime in the society not only the related ones but all types of crimes as those whose character would fall to such depths would not mind other crimes either as it would mean easy money for themselves as well. Apart from immorality the recent trends show as increased inclination such as bestiality. Trend such as these are, in my view, a direct result of pornographic industry which has put societies in never ending quest for happiness and desires.

As for “Artificial Happiness” which is induced using drugs, such drugs should be banned from the society which induces artificial happiness. The reason for this as that all these drugs are addictive, because as per human nature anyone who experiences nirvana never wants to return to real world. This is how consumption of these drugs increases at initial stages. This is a psychological effect or addiction. Later these drugs make body of person addicted to themselves, at this point amount of these in blood increases to alarming levels and the person feels like dying if not drugged. Although at initial stages it was giving happiness to the user but at later took over the control of his body and this does also lead to death apart from other problems to the person as well as the society which has to pay for wrongs of this person.

A question that comes out of this is what is wrong with any drug being addictive or a person being addicted to any drug? The answer to this question is that whenever somebody is addicted to anything to such an extent that it is a matter of life and death for him, then the person would be ready to go to any limits in order to achieve this ‘life saving drug’. To add to worries, most of these drugs reduce productivity of its consumers who are so absorbed in the nirvana that they cannot be bothered to do anything else. The reduction in productivity means a reduction in their incomes. This scarcity of monetary resources leads them to think of illegal ways to gain wealth so that they can satisfy their addiction. These illegal ways would be cheating, thefts, robberies and other such crimes. This means that the whole society has to pay price for addiction of these individuals.

Another issue that can be raised is whether those who are already rich should be allowed such addiction? This is another no. Reason for it is that first of all it creates inequality in a society in form of different laws for rich and poor. Then those poor who want to use these drugs would want to get rich by hook or crook. This would also increase the crime rate of the society. Secondly, a drug in order to induce happiness drives people out of senses and when out of senses they would end up doing undesirable things for themselves as well as for the society. These ‘undesirables’ include many issues ranging from vandalism to rape. No wonder there is law and order situation on Friday nights and Saturday nights in every country where drinking is allowed. Not to mention the morality has reduced and everything that makes you happy is right. In light of this argument population should not be allowed to induce ‘artificial happiness’ and such drugs should be banned.

Happiness in every person is transitive. Nobody can stay happy forever and neither at the same time can anyone stay unhappy forever unless the person deliberately wants himself in such a state. Happiness is basically a state of mind which although affected by external factors but can also be deliberately controlled without the use of drugs. If someone wants to stay happy all the time, the person in my view is misguided. People can stay content for maximum of the time as given in argument above. It is important to clarify that happiness though desirable cannot be maintained for a longer period of time and thus state of staying ‘content’ must be aimed it. If happiness is excessively pursued it buys person into the notion of ‘buying’ happiness which in itself is a dangerous concept and then has its negative externalities with it. It damages moral and social fabric of a society. In the same way excessive pursuit of happiness through entertainment leads to negative impacts on the society on the whole and individual in particular. This is also true in case of artificially induced happiness which does also damage moral and social fibre of a society in a worse way. In short people should try and stay content and not spend too much time and resources at excessive pursuit of happiness.