I just watched the Prime Minister’s interview on the BBC on GNH, and although short, the interview represents something important- that we are making a mark globally. Of course those of us who like to subscribe to online news on Bhutan have our inboxes flooded with the New York session and know that Bhutan is making a splash.
Our papers obviously have their own comments on this. Here is a cartoon that appeared on Bhutan Observer that I pulled from the Opposition Leader’s Blog.
Here’s one from Kuensel, that I pulled from their site.
I don’t really have to elaborate on the cartoons or what they mean. I have found articles in various papers that seem to reflect similar thought. Basically asking, “Why is the Prime Minister busy selling GNH in other countries while we are suffering so much back at home?” I’ve come across comments and tweets asking exactly that.
My question is a little different. “Why is everyone so cynical?”
Seriously, why? The way people talk, Bhutan sounds like the most terrible place on earth. Apparently we are jobless, penniless, high on drugs, on the verge of killing each other, and drowning in heaps of garbage while we are at it. I’m not saying we are Shangri-la, (oh, how I hate that tag) but honestly, are we THAT badly off? Sure, it’s our job to look at what’s going wrong, to bring it out, think of solutions, and try to solve problems we have. Sure, we all have a role in ensuring our new democracy is a success, and part of that is done through criticism, by making sure that we bring out issues and discuss them, thrash them out until we have solutions. But isn’t being proud of who we are and what we have part of it, too? And sure, this government is not perfect. I have railed enough about various government policies in this blog.
But isn’t this really about Bhutan, and it’s development philosophy, and not the Prime Minister or his party?
I would see this as a proud moment for Bhutan. A small country like us has nothing much to offer to the world. We won’t be sending anyone to unexplored planets of the solar systems yet, it’s unlikely that we will invent the next great gadget, and given our recent match results, we won’t win the Football world cup for at least a century.
But we have given the world GNH. Skeptics and cynics may say what they like, but this idea, this simple but brilliant thought, that we can and should, as a country, prioritize happiness while on the path to development, captures the imagination and interest of so many people. It has made headline news on BBC.
It is a proud moment for us all, that this concept came from our King. People say now that they are tired of ‘GNH talk’, that ‘certain people have hijacked GNH to their own ends’, that they are ‘against quantifying happiness’.
I’m not tired of GNH. Honestly, I don’t care if people are using GNH to their advantage. It still remains what it always was, an ideal, a novel way to look at development, and at some level, life itself.
For me, GNH means spelling out our priorities in three letters. It means choosing to grow in a certain way, in a wise way, so that later, we don’t regret what we have done, we don’t lose some things that we may never get back again. It means not allowing happiness to be a casualty on the road to development. To me GNH is about governance- I don’t know or care about how happiness can be measured, and I am happy with the fact that the country I live in not only has a policy to prioritize happiness, but it is the country that came up with this idea.
And even though it seems obvious that any country should consider the happiness of its people before making any policy or law, if no one else has ever thought about it yet, then the world needs GNH even more.
And talking about the rupee crisis, unemployment, drug abuse, corruption, youth violence, garbage, and all the other problems we have is our way of ensuring we are walking that GNH road. We need to keep bringing out all these issues, we need to keep looking for solutions, we need to keep asking those who should make a difference, including ourselves, at times, to make a difference.
I think we can do that without becoming bitter cynics who always look for the dirt, even in the best places.