From Shaman’s Rock
By Jim Poling Sr.
Some good news: Despite weather disasters and war the world apparently has become a happier place.
The annual Gallup Global Emotions Report shows people around the world generally more positive in 2022 than they were a year before. More people felt well-rested, experienced enjoyment, and smiled or laughed than in 2021.
That finding is supported by the market research company Ipsos which says global happiness is six points higher than one year ago. It says 73 per cent of adults across 32 world markets describe themselves as happy.
I‘m taking all that with a grain of salt, or more likely a shot of whiskey.
The happiness polls show pockets of unhappiness that are deeper and wider than the pollsters realize.
Gallup, an analytics and advisory company, has reported steadily rising negative feelings since 2006 when it reported a negative experience of index of 23. The index rose steadily to a record 33 in 2021 and remains there.
Gallup also found that 41 per cent of people last year experienced worry while 32 per cent said they experienced daily pain.
But this year’s increase in global happiness is driven by a few unlikely areas. Latin America, notably Brazil, Peru, Argentina and Columbia, has seen a remarkable year-over-year happiness increase. Western counties are showing decreases with the number of Canadians feeling happy down six per cent in the last year.
In 2012 Canada was listed as the world’s fourth happiest country. Last year we were rated 15th happiest.
The reasons why Canadian happiness has fallen so far should be fairly obvious. Ask anyone close by you and you’ll likely hear complaints about high food prices, absurdly high housing costs, increasing crime and violence and a feeling that governments have made little progress in solving those issues.
Unhappy feelings will continue until political leaders start tracking the wellbeing of their citizens. The standard political game now is to smile into the cameras, and talk about statistics on inflation, Gross Domestic Product, unemployment and other statistical trends.
They should spend less time tracking statistical dumps and more time face to face with the people they are elected to serve. Listening to people and tracking their wellbeing will get governments a lot more insight into solutions than will bare statistics.
Jon Clifton, the CEO of Gallup, has said that the job of leaders is not to make people feel happy.
“The role of leaders should be to reduce misery,” he says. “And the problem in the world today is that misery is rising.
“Measuring how people feel must be a priority of world leaders if we are going to reverse this global rise of misery.”
Good thoughts but governments alone cannot improve our lives or our sense of well-being.
Canadians have assumed that governments can effectively provide everything people need, from protection of rights to preventing violence to maintaining a strong economy.
We should no longer assume that. Few of us are even aware of what the issues are or how our governments are approaching them. We’re information lightweights.
People today view important issues in video-clip form. We are too busy to gather and absorb details that make a complete story. We form opinions with little information.
Perhaps we just get tired of hearing problems. Global warming is killing us. The health care system is failing us. The grocery company czars are fleecing us.
The news often is so depressing that we turn to the lighter stuff.
A stunning example of how we look away from important happenings and give more attention to lightweight matters was shown recently by London, England’s Guardian newspaper.
The Guardian reported that a Google news search found that the news media ran more than 10,000 stories this year about Phillip Schofield, the British television celebrity who resigned over an affair with a young colleague. Another Google search recorded a global total of only five news stories about a scientific study showing the likelihood of major world crop losses caused by climate change are being dangerously underestimated.
Giving less importance to the real world in favour of celebrity gossip won’t help to find solutions to the serious problems facing the world.
We all have to get better informed.