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In February 1968, US Attorney General Robert Kennedy, brother of JFK, noted that America’s gross national product had risen above $800 billion a year without those figures measuring “the health of our youth, the quality of their education or the joy of their play. . . the beauty of our poetry or the strength of our marriages, the intelligence of our public debate or the integrity of our public officials . . . It measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.” GNP looks good on paper but money isn’t everything, aww.
Half a century later, the United States of America stands at No. 14 in the UN’s World Happiness Report, trailing Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Finland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, and Sweden. And yet the two richest men on the planet are Americans, besides which the US is the home of Disneyland, “the world’s happiest place,” and Hollywood, the world’s busiest fantasy-entertainment machine. Why aren’t more Americans happy, or, why aren’t Americans happier?
The report listed caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance as the most important happiness factors, which the top four countries have an abundance of. Filipinos climbed up the “smiles scale” from 82nd in 2016 to 72nd this year, which Malacañang quickly claimed was due to their satisfaction with their President’s performance. It could also be that Filipinos take to heart economists’ forecasts of their country being well positioned to reap more good news. Most of my friends – they are happy people – think we should rank higher than No. 72, given our resiliency, sunny disposition, and how we kid ourselves and laugh even while the powerful and greedy are robbing us blind. GDP is a great tracker, but can it decipher what’s in our OFW dreams? Or quantify a fresh graduate’s joy at landing that first job?
One year after RFK’s reflection on what makes life worthwhile, Bill Bradley wrote: “The Dow Jones is at record highs but such numbers are not the measure of all things. They do not measure what is in our heads and our hearts. They do not measure a young girl’s smile or a little boy’s first handshake or a grandmother’s pride. . . They tell us little about the magic of a good marriage or the satisfaction of a life led true to its own values.” (Jullie Y. Daza)