Happiness in Bhutan: A Lesson in the True Meaning of Wealth

One reason why a person feels poor is not because he has nothing to eat, but because he is inferior to others. Charles Handy once said that the poverty of modern people comes from the eyes of neighbors—this is called relative poverty. In Bhutan, this small country founded on Buddhism will give you another experience.
  Once, I went to Bhutan with some business friends and had an interesting experience there. My good friend, Chen Nianxuan, an “extraordinary woman” from Taiwan, helped me make an appointment with someone. He is Gema Ula, the national teacher of Bhutan, who is equivalent to the king’s adviser.
  Bhutan is a country that believes in Buddhism and is founded on Buddhism. It is one of the few or even the only countries in the world that uses GNH (National Happiness Index) to measure the level of development and progress. During this process, Gema Ullah participated in the formulation of the development plan for the entire national happiness index.
  Our friends who went with us were all very shocked. They did not expect that this country thinks so carefully about the issue of happiness. They divide the happiness of the entire nation into nine dimensions: the economic development of the country counts as a part of it, which probably does not exceed 30%; Survey or national statistics to see the trend of change; the third is the time spent by the people on prayer and meditation, because Bhutan is a country deeply influenced by Buddhism; the fourth is the time when people are angry; fifth, if I remember correctly , including forests, that is, the proportion of green land area to the entire country… Bhutanese use this method to examine whether a person is happy in this country, and every year the entire country’s policy revolves around “how to improve people’s happiness index”. If a Bhutanese gets angry 26 times in a year, then he is an unhappy person and someone will help him. There is also a special department to conduct research based on the state of happiness of the people across the country—including psychological state and external state—and then make continuous improvements.
  The whole Bhutanese concept of happiness feels utopian and beautiful to us; on the other hand, we kind of question whether this happiness is sustainable. Gemaura said that people’s happiness actually comes from the satisfaction deep in the mind. Gema Ula said that in every Bhutanese family, if someone has no land, the king will ask him to cut 80 trees in a designated area to build a house according to the roster of the people of the whole country, and the rest of the land will be used to grow food. Interestingly, the Royal Airline of Bhutan has only two planes, so their King also takes them when he visits other countries. Bhutanese often meet the king on the plane and take photos with him.
  The overall economic development of Bhutan is not very modern. Some people drive SUVs (sport utility vehicles), but the number is not particularly large. A princess’s house is about the same size as ordinary people’s houses, and the decoration is similar. Gemaura has three separate houses in one courtyard. I asked him how his living standard was, and he said that in Bhutan it was relatively ordinary and in the middle. Later, we went to many ordinary Bhutanese people’s homes. As he said, there was not much difference. Generally, the homes of ordinary people in Bhutan are a small three-story building, a bit like the buildings in Tibetan areas in China. The bottom floor is for cattle and sheep, the middle floor is for people, and the top floor is for shrines for worship. of.
  Only then did I understand why the word “home” is under the word “pig”. That is to say, under the “宀”, the lowest layer is indeed animals. What’s interesting is that when we walked into the homes of ordinary Bhutanese people, they didn’t particularly resist, nor were they particularly excited. They thought it was normal, as if everyone should know each other. After they invited us to drink tea, we left in a flat manner, neither coming nor leaving with great excitement.
  In Bhutan, there are many pilgrims from all over the world, and many people prostrate their long heads on the road. We are all taking pictures and making videos. We asked them how much their property was. Many people actually have very little money in their families. If it is converted into US dollars, it may be one or two hundred US dollars. The material property of the whole family is only of this order of magnitude.
  We always feel that the happiness of a country and a person should be combined with economic life, because the ultimate goal of economic development is to make people happier. To solve the problem of human happiness, classical economics is how to deal with the relationship between public welfare and private welfare, and how to improve the overall happiness and welfare of human beings. The American “Fortune” magazine, before the 1990s, the Chinese translated it as “Happiness” magazine, and now it is translated as “Fortune” magazine. The English word “fortune” means luck and happiness, and it also has something to do with getting rich—if you get rich, you will be very lucky. So it has both the meaning of “wealth” and the meaning of “happiness”.
  In the eyes of Westerners, wealth is connected with happiness, but which one is the main body and which is the subsidiary is worth pondering. Some people think that wealth is the main body, and happiness comes with money; others think that happiness is the main body, and wealth is a condiment. This is superficially obvious, but economics has been obsessed with this problem.
  In 2002, Daniel Kahneman won the Nobel Prize in Economics, he belongs to the school called behavioral economics. The biggest difference between Kahneman and previous economists is that he cares about experience, happiness, irrational and emotional factors when people make economic decisions, and regards economics as a study of happiness, not just Discuss the knowledge of wealth and growth.
  In fact, many people have overlooked that all wealth growth is to make people happier, but now we spend too much time discussing GDP and economic growth, and ignore the purpose of growth.
  Kahneman believes that the most important thing is happiness, and made a metaphor of “happiness waterwheel”. There are small buckets on the waterwheel in the countryside. When the waterwheel keeps turning, it will bring up the water, but when it stops, there will be no water at all. Southerners compare money to water. Money has to be transferred continuously. If it stops, there will be nothing left. But if there is a small bucket of water, it is not turned, but it is placed beside it, and it will always be there. Modern people’s sense of well-being has to keep turning in order to have this feeling of wealth. Once it stops, it will be gone.
  Whether it is philosophy, economics, ethics or religion, the issue of happiness must be addressed, because this is the ultimate concern of human beings. We chase money, status, etc., what is the ultimate goal? This problem cannot be avoided, and it has become very common in modern society.
  The more developed the economy, the lower the personal happiness. Some economists have calculated that after reaching the indicators of 6,000 US dollars, 8,000 US dollars, or even 10,000 US dollars, people’s happiness will have diminishing marginal utility with every increase of 1,000 US dollars. To a certain extent, the sense of happiness will not only decrease, or even reverse, but will make people more painful. The current economy has finally turned into a competitive economy, that is, a sense of poverty among people, and everyone feels that they have no money.
  An economist said that if money is used to measure happiness, this method is easy to understand and easy to operate, but its trouble is that there are always people who have more money, so anyone will feel that they are a poor person. A concept is introduced here, called the sense of relative poverty and the sense of absolute poverty. Hunger and cold, no tiles on the top, no place to stand on the bottom, this is called absolute poverty. Modern people’s sense of poverty is not a sense of absolute poverty, and fewer and fewer people have this sense of absolute poverty.

  To give a typical example: Once I had a meal with a group of friends, some of the food was left over, and some of them didn’t touch a chopstick. We packed meals and gave them to some homeless people, but they didn’t like it, saying that it would be better to give them cash.
  The reason why a person feels poor is not because he has nothing to eat, but because he is inferior to others. Charles Handy once said that the poverty of modern man comes from the eyes of neighbors. This is called a sense of relative poverty. When people feel poor, it is not because they are poor, but mainly because of their neighbors.
  I used to always doubt whether those four- or five-storey bungalows built next to the golf course could be sold. The houses there are more expensive than other places, and the people who live there spend a lot of money. relative poverty. As it turns out, these kinds of homes usually don’t sell very well.
  This sense of relative poverty makes people feel that wealth is not rich or happy, but just poor, making people always feel that they lack something. For example, the price of oil has risen, and the taxi driver pointed to a state-owned energy company and said: I used to earn 2,500 yuan a month, but now I can only earn 2,000 yuan after these people do it. Taxi drivers often say that if they wake up in the morning, they owe the country more than 400 yuan. This actually reflects the living conditions of modern people. When a person is born or starts working, he owes money for everything, such as renting a house or a car. He has a lot of debts throughout his life, and he is always repaying the debts instead of gaining and increasing.
  Modern people’s sense of poverty has become simplistic and one-dimensional. Whether they are happy or not depends mainly on whether they owe money or not. If they don’t owe money, they feel relatively relaxed. But in fact, after the mortgage is paid off, the car loan is also paid off, one day when you visit and compare with your neighbors, they drive a Mercedes-Benz sports car, and you drive a modern sports car, you will feel very poor, so the happiness index will decrease. linear decrease.
  About 10 years ago, I interviewed some of the most famous advertising people and the bosses of several largest advertising companies in China, and asked them such a question: as an advertising person, he created so many desires for people and made so many people feel I am dissatisfied with life and need to throw away a good mobile phone and buy a new one. Do you feel guilty in your heart?
  The essence of advertising is to use the so-called fashionable sales methods to create a sense of relative poverty. The logic behind the ad is that life can be beautiful, but it doesn’t belong to you now, you have to pay to buy it, and after you buy it, it tells you that there are better things, and you become an unlucky person again. There is an example in “The Besieged City” that Westerners hang a carrot on the donkey’s front in order to keep the donkey pulling the cart forward, and the donkey is going to eat the carrot, so it walks very hard. When it walks, the carrot walks too.
  This is true of many marketing methods including advertising, as well as the overall economic operation method. More than two hundred years ago, Adam Smith realized this when he wrote “The Wealth of Nations”. According to this logic of competition, human beings will definitely produce more and more disposable things in the future. Because if something lasts for a long time, everyone has no desire to buy it, and if they are satisfied with this thing, the wealth growth of the whole society will stagnate, and the GDP growth will be very slow. Therefore, a trick, a hint, a set of value systems or a set of hidden rules must be implanted in everyone’s minds like implanting chips, so that people will constantly abandon what they have already obtained, or see clearly what they have obtained. What you want, but yearn for what you haven’t got yet, hang a “carrot” in front of you, and keep chasing after it.
  Looking back, the word “fortune” contains two meanings of “happiness” and “wealth”. Originally, wealth contained happiness, but now the logic of wealth has changed. Wealth is the constant pursuit of “higher, faster, stronger”.
  We keep zeroing out what we have already got, recognizing it, ignoring it, treating it as transparent, and then we always see what we can’t get. In this way, from an economic point of view, it is true that people’s demand is endless. The more demand, the more it will stimulate production, and the wealth of the entire society will increase. Conversely, people find that this logic of wealth interferes with happiness. Originally, wealth as a means can make people happy, but in the end it causes pain.
  The biggest logic of Bhutan is to cut off the flow of people and tell people that besides economic growth, happiness also includes a part of daily reflection and seeing the changes in their inner emotions. It breaks the one-dimensional dimension of wealth—digitization and visualization, and it opposes this logic of wealth. If you discover this, you are an enlightened person.

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