Gross National Happiness

Bhutan, which is famous for, among other things, sheltering its people from TV (until 1999) is drafting its first constitution. For a country that has shunned most technology and been fairly repressive of free speech, it’s interesting to see that they’ve put their draft constitution online in PDF form, and are taking public comments.

The impression I got of Bhutan after watching a documentary a while ago was that the country was a paradox – repressive yes, but the people were happy in a way that the film makers described as untarnished — the Luddite approach had an Amish aspect, intended to keep life simple and pure. The government was repressive, but the documentarian commented repeatedly that the people seemed exceptionally joyous and warm (albeit hungry for information from the outside).

From Article 9, this makes me smile:

The State shall strive to promote those circumstances that will enable the successful pursuit of Gross National Happiness.

Orville Schell with more on the GNH and the introduction of technology to Bhutan.

Music: Holly Golightly :: Indeed You Do

5 Replies to “Gross National Happiness”

  1. Yes, Bhutan is a paradox.

    It is nominally Buddhist, yet adultery is rampant and not frowned upon, human rights are consistently violated by the government, and the people refuse to listen to constructive criticisms of these facts.

    My conversations on the Bhutanese IRC network were among the most disturbing, juvenile, and ill-tempered I have ever encountered. I left when it became clear that trying to keep the peace and stop the consistent profanity and requests for sex were going to fail.

    The southern Bhutanese (who are of Nepali origin rather than Tibetan) were stripped of their property, their rights, and their possessions. The southern Bhutanese tended to be better educated and were becoming more numerous than their Tibetan counterparts.

    While they were not forcibly ejected from Bhutan, would you stay in a country that took your house and all your property? They didn’t, either. More than 100K now live in refugee camps in Nepal.

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    Bhutan, like most places, has a long way to go before they live up to their stated convictions. Allowing the southern Bhutanese to return and welcoming them into the process of Constitutional ratification would be a great first step. “Gross National Happiness” should not apply only to particular ethnic groups. But I think that’s about as likely as asking the DrukNet users to stop swearing like sailors and asking for sex.

  2. The State shall strive to promote those circumstances that will enable the successful pursuit of Gross National Happiness.

    Great idea; but I’m guessing “the State” “getting out of the way” is not on the government of Bhutan’s list of permissible (or perhaps even contemplat{a|i}ble) options.

  3. Bhutan is no paradise. The western media is mad about anything which is unknown. Gross Domestic Happiness is a hoax. Most Bhutanese are suffering. Only fertile land keep them from starving. They are also not as much enterprising as the southern Nepalese stock. Hence they evicted them. The population figure is also a fraud against international community. Real figure is three times the official figure. The royalty is never a royalty but usurp of power in recent history. But no doubt the people of Bhutan in general is good hearted and innocent. So much for now.

  4. Every country has it’s problems and no country is paradise. Each society has to decide whether they want to live in a “nearly everything goes” society where all the responsibility lies on the individual (putting huge burden on parents) to instill proper values in the next generation, or whether they want to live in a society in which boundaries are strongly defined. Every negative comment about Bhutan can also apply to the Amish communities in America. Yet, the low attrition rate of young Amish leaving the church is testimony to the value of some greater structure to the society. The Bhutan king fills a similar role.

    One wonders if a struggling Bhutan farmer who must work hard to grow their food yet has the security of strong family ties and the freedom of doing things on their schedule is actually less happy than the average American “workin’ for the man” whose future can be altered by their company’s profit-driven axing of jobs, who spends more time communiting in their car than being with the family, and who is bombarded without end by junk mail and other solicitations in that always-hopeful effort to get the last cent out of the other’s pocket.

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