Sunday, March 16, 2014

The Economics of happiness

Before we attended this event, we had mentioned this topic to a few of our friends. Most of them were bewildered on how tangentially opposite topics, “Economics” and “Happiness”, were combined and curious to know what it is going to be about.

We decided to give it a try mainly because Bhoomi college was one of the organisers of the event. We had attended the organic gardeningworkshop a few days back at Bhoomi.

We browsed through the list of speakers and the talks for the day on the brochure that we received. Some words popped out – organic, localization, international speakers, sustainability. Most of these we understood but still how does economics fit in?

We reached the venue with an open mind to understand what it was all about. The conference was opened by Ms. Seetha Ananthasivan, one of the founders of Bhoomi . Seetha handed over the stage to Helana Noberg – one of the pioneers of the movement and the owner of the conference. Helena has written a book called “The Ancient Futures”  which portrays her work in Ladakh on traditions and cultures of the mountainous region.

The essence of the talks showed that Globalization is controlled by a select few world corporations which demean local cultures and practices to establish demand for their products, and give a false value to money. In the process, man, community, working together and traditional knowledge is thrown away for machines, efficiency, technology and competition.

The opening talk was by Sandhing Rinponche, a Buddhish monk, who serves as a teacher for Tibetians in exile. Rinponche reiterated this core theme of  Body vs mind; Individual vs community; material vs morality. Any activity without 4 principles- sustainability, reaching to the poor, non-violence , eco-friendly -violates the natural laws and leads to economic disparity and degradation.

“Real” economists were present at the conference – scholars who talked about social capital and social equity being converted to the business of “economic” capital.

Various alternate movements were talked about – De-growth in Europe, Transition town movement and the 5 star movements in Italy. All emphasized on empowering the local community to take decisions without dependence on a government and freedom for individuals to be what they want to be and free to do what they want to do.

It made us think about the effectiveness of India's education system and our working life.
What is the value of an education?
Do our schools make us think in the right direction or do they curb independent thinking?
What does education prepare you for – working in an industry or to stand for your unique beliefs and values?

The key message was to reduce our consumption and to understand happiness comes out of being a part of the community and not from chasing money which is just an illusion. There was also reference to “Corporations” who control governments. This idea was new to us – to begin to realize that India is controlled by not only the US/other powerful governments but someone higher in the hierarchy was unknown. (I have written about this here also – about Nestle). 

Alternate living, Buddhist economics, small is beautiful – concepts that are way different than what we strive for in everyday life. They need time for contemplation, to dig deeper into our norms and lifestyle to actually question ourselves – what does happiness mean to each of “us”?
Hopefully, you will find that your heart and head answer with peace, a sense of fulfillment, relationships and trust. That is the place where we want to go and where we should be headed.

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