When did we dupe ourselves into believing that somehow happiness is not an inalienable right? Happiness is not a privilege, it is a basic need of the human being. The Declaration of Independence purports man’s inalienable rights as “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
The pursuit of happiness. Naturally happiness isn’t just a box that can be handed to a person, is not a transferable material thing (though one might argue the television was/is an attempt). In this way of course it seems unreasonable for a nation to promise happiness to its citizens, to hold it as a crucial tenet of the society itself.
But is it unreasonable? What doesn’t a country stand to gain from a citizenship of happy people? How is happiness not one of the top aims, if not the penultimate of any governing body?
Now, since we live in a nation which refuses to structure itself to ensure the basic food, shelter and health care which a wealthy industrialized nation ought to provide for its people, it shouldn’t be all that surprising that happiness isn’t considered a necessity.
It is embarrassing the levels of poverty that exist is this country. It is embarrassing the lack of basic health care that a large portion of United States citizens live without. It is embarrassing the amount of people that live in less than adequate housing. It is embarrassing the structure of the public education system in this country. We, as Americans, have plenty to be embarrassed about.
The human being functions best when it is happy. A happy person works harder, loves better and is more apt to progress forward towards a better tomorrow. Not only do we not feel responsible for the happiness of our people, “the pursuit” suggesting that it is left on their laurels, we provide the direct opposite. We taint our citizens’ minds, especially the children, with horrendously distorted perceptions of happiness and truth. Equating “the pursuit of happiness” with X amount of dollars, material possessions and audacious sexuality. In essence, we train ourselves to make synonymous happiness and carnal pleasure.
Do we have so low an opinion of ourselves as humans, and for the complexion of the human condition, that the height of humanity is material accumulation and sexual conquest? Is sexual liberation gaudy jaunts of sexuality, oftentimes partnered with alcohol consumption? Is the measure of a human life’s worth the amount of money and possessions and fiscal power/responsibility that person carries over/for other people? Is that the best we can do?
I’m embarrassed that this country has so many people who can barely feed themselves and their families. I’m embarrassed that this country has so many people unable to provide the most basic health care for themselves and their families. I’m embarrassed that we don’t pay more attention to our schools, our childrens’ learning, our country’s future. I’m embarrassed that we allow popular culture to dictate happiness as the possession of money, objects and aggressive sexuality. I’m embarrassed because I let it happen, we all let it happen every day.
We have slowly and systematically skewed the definitions of truth, happiness and liberty in the minds of our people decade after decade. To the point where we have been turned against one another. To the point where we blame the individual, as if it is their own deficiency if they are unable to progress in our society, or at least provide the most basic human needs for themselves. We label criticism of our system of life as ungrateful complaining, as un-American socialist laziness. We have allowed ourselves to sink into a complacent tide of submission and commercialism. Commercialism of the state, commercialism of the community, and most sadly commercialism of the self.
I refuse to accept that this is an acceptable America. I refuse to accept that this is good and defendable. I refuse to admit that we are trying our best. I refuse to allow that this is the ideal set forth by the ideas which formed this country. As it stands now, being an American is nothing to be proud of, and it is only we, the people, who are able to make America something to be proud of. And most importantly, I do not believe that we are truly happy.