The Earth is a wonderful place for humans to be living in at the moment. Humanity has an abundance of the necessities of life! There is an abundance of food available which is shown by the fact that the human population is expanding and getting fatter. There is an absence of major war as shown by the fact that there are 20,000 atomic bombs and none are exploding over cities. There is an absence of disease as shown by the fact that people are living longer than ever before in history. There is an abundance of entertainment as shown by the fact that we are awash in free books, radio, TV and Internet. There is an abundance of money as shown by the fact that Bernard Madoff could steal 50 billion dollars and no one noticed.
We already live in heaven—we don’t have to wait for it. The problem seems to be that people are unable to realize just how good the things they already have available really are. The Happiness Scale has latent within it the reason why so many people are not feeling as happy with the current state of affairs as they might be and perhaps as they should be. On that 15 step scale happiness is defined as a belief that a hoped-for state of affairs is coming into existence. It is a scale of ascending expansiveness and longevity of happiness. At the bottom of the scale is what is termed Survivalism with the primary goal being the survival of the physical body and if possible the personality. It has only very short term goals and is totally self centered on pain, exhaustion and death. Few people are at this very bottom level of the Happiness Scale for very long because either they die or they move into the next level up, labeled Anarchism, which seeks immediate freedom from all imposed limitations on thought, and behavior is primarily motivated by flight from pain. The next level, Eroticism, does seek pleasure: it is maximizing the immediate pleasures of the body, emotions and personality but without thoughts of time, the consequences of behavior or other people. It is totally self centered and in the moment. The next level is termed Hedonism and the motivations do take time into consideration but only to the extent of maximizing the totality of pleasures of bodily sensations over an extended period of time. There are some social relations but they are motivated by the anticipation of personal pleasure.
The levels of happiness and human development so far mentioned account for some modest percentage of humanity but most adults move onto striving for higher levels of happiness. At these levels there is more human interaction and longer term benefits and milder but more sustained forms of pleasure. The next several levels are where most people’s aspirations for happiness lie and their hoped-for states of affairs are routinely coming into existence.
Here we have people striving for social harmony in groups of like minded people cooperating in completing some group activity. It is labeled Beatitudoism and at its core is an intimate connection with some group ideal which is attained through the use of group-work and ritual. These are people engaged in the world of work and organized activities and although they may find it tedious sometimes it provides them with structure, goals, a place in society and money. In the modern world condition they have a place and feel relatively happy and content with their condition. The next level, called Socialism, is the joining with a group and its goals for the maximizing of its and one’s own personal well being. This organization is more voluntary than the worker’s somewhat compulsory employment and includes such things as political parties, churches, fraternal organizations and conservation organizations. These people can feel considerable happiness in the present world because there are many causes which clearly need their support and so when they join with these quests they can feel closer to a grander meaning in society and larger self worth. Epicureanism is rated a bit higher because it implies the person has somehow achieved these other happiness goals and can put their attention on maximizing total pleasure through the possession of artfully prepared items of beauty. Perhaps they acquired their freedom from labor in some other way such as inheritance rather than personal industry and are really rich Hedonists. Those self made Epicureans are probably much happier with their success. The next higher group begins to be difficult for many lower people to understand because it seems to require considerable outlay of effort for a seemingly modest return in happiness. Stoicism is using virtuous behavior: courage, physical and ethical, as the ideal lifelong goal. People who choose such a life are typically thought of as monks, or social workers doing good for the world in itself as an achievement. Some of these people rise to the higher state of Energeiaism by using their personal virtues to the best ends available to the individual and the group. By the time we have reached this type of personality structure and motivations we are down to a very small percentage of the general population.
The people that are even higher on the scale have such a different conception of happiness and the hoped for state of affairs coming into existence that it is unreal to the people very far below them to comprehend it. Probably any person three or more levels above an observing individual’s chronic state can not be understood. These people can be talked about but there is no comprehension; it might as well be a totally foreign language. What would Constitutionism mean to a person living the life of a Hedonist? Why would the analysis of social bodies with the intent of creating better, healthier societies mean anything at all to a Hedonist? Those concepts are all too abstract and too related to distant times and places for a Hedonist to ever waste a moment’s thought upon.
Almost all people are in the middle steps of this happiness chart almost all of the time and they are reasonably happy most of that time. Those people at the upper levels of the Happiness chart have not been discussed but they have already achieved to an acceptable degree all of the necessary levels below them so they are probably okay with whatever degree of success they are having with their life quest and can be called happy.
It is the people at the bottom of the scale who are most likely to be unhappy so if we can somehow estimate the number of people in the first four levels in a given society we should have an estimate of the general unhappiness of that society. Obviously those in the Survivalist and Anarchist modes are most likely to be unhappy but there are few of them except in times of war or severe social chaos. The next two levels, Eroticism and Hedonism, have many adherents and much of public entertainment is aimed at satisfying those needs. So I would suggest that how much effort is aimed at those needs by the media is a good proxy for measuring the general unhappiness of their target audience.
My suggestion for raising the general happiness level of a group is to keep the people’s attention focused on a worthwhile goal which they can attain by sustained group activity.