Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Happiness and Utopia ~ excerpt 1

Here is the first excerpt from my unpublished book. The book was titled Worldwide Happiness ~ the necessity and easy of creating global utopia. Now, I think I will title it Happiness & Utopia.

The three major paradigms


I see three major paradigms used by people today:

1. The survival paradigm: The belief that the world is the source of both opportunities for survival and dangers to survival, and that people are competitors for survival. There may be teamwork, but the underlying thoughts and feelings are about competition—the struggle to survive into the future.

2.        The dependent happiness paradigm: The belief that the world is the source of happiness, and that people are competitors for happiness, although there may be the option of sacrificing yourself for the sake of others. Again, teamwork can be in the mix, but the underlying thoughts and feelings are about competition—the struggle to obtain happiness in the future.

3.        The liberated happiness paradigm: The belief that the world is for expressing and augmenting our innate happiness, and that people are collaborators for happiness. Of course, the lines between these blur and all three can pop up in a single day. Also, we have moments where we transcend paradigms. But these three categories are nonetheless very useful.

Survival paradigm


The survival paradigm is the prevailing paradigm in poor, corrupt, and war-torn countries. It is about seeking survival and security using competitive methods. It is the natural response to the world as described by Darwin. That world is what Hobbes called “the state of nature” in which life is “nasty, brutish, and short”. Clearly, the survival paradigm had value in the early phases of our species’ development because it was a realistic response to real or imminent dangers. Today, it has value only in emergencies and during their immediate aftermaths. 

Much of our human past can be seen as a growth phase for our species. Up to a few centuries ago, we lacked knowledge and technology, so we relied on the basic instincts of “me vs you” and “us vs them”. We fought for basics like money, food, and land because we needed them for survival and we lacked efficient alternative means to secure them. 

Indeed, what we derisively call “human nature”—selfishness, violence, power-tripping—is not an eternal human state of naughtiness or animality; rather, it is just the initial survival phase of individual, group, and species development, and it is the first step in the process towards expressing our greater potential. Competition and aggression are needed to protect life in its early phases, therefore they are good. They are prerequisites. The establishment of survival prepares us for further strides. 

Dependent happiness paradigm


The dependent happiness paradigm is the prevailing paradigm in developed countries. We often compete for money, possessions, prestige, and partners because we think they are sources of happiness, and competition is the only way we know. We compete against people, businesses, and countries. We try to get more for less in our interactions.

This paradigm can be seen as an unnecessary, yet inevitable, experiment. It is unnecessary because it can never work, and it is inevitable because we did not know any better when we adopted it. Since it is about seeking happiness using the old survival paradigm’s method of competition, it is inherently flawed. As I shall explore throughout this book, we need others to be happy if we are to be happy ourselves, and we need others to collaborate in manifesting our greater potential, so competition works against happiness. Seeking happiness through competition is a contradiction.

Furthermore, the primary source of happiness is within, not in the world, which makes competition for happiness in the world a deluded undertaking (unless it’s just for fun, as in sports). In fact, competition is a painful detour from the road to happiness. Defeating others for career advancement will not make you truly happy. Your country defeating other countries in war or in profit-making will not make you truly happy. In reality, if everyone else is competing, then that creates multiple conflicts that will cause you to compete as well, thereby spreading stress and unhappiness.

Note that an alternative label for the dependent happiness paradigm could be the compromise paradigm. When I ask people, “Would you like a happy world?” they invariably say, “Yes.” But they think it is too hard to achieve, and they see others competing, so they think they have to compromise. This means they lower their expectations. However, upon deeper reflection, they might see that it is futile because it is contradictory—you cannot be truly happy in a competitive world. So they live with the stress of that contradiction while the hope of a better world vibrates below the surface.

Liberated happiness paradigm


A liberated happiness paradigm arises only occasionally. It normally arises when we are feeling good. Then we are inclined to generosity and wanting to see others happy. We want to express our wellbeing and to enjoy life with others. It can happen when we are hosting a party, or after winning the lottery, or when we are relaxing on the weekend. It can sometimes happen in creative projects or work projects. The vibe of grasping and struggle to get somewhere else is gone. We are already happy and we are just naturally expressing and augmenting that happiness.

After emergencies have passed, instead of replacing the survival paradigm with the dependent happiness paradigm, I think we should consciously opt for a liberated happiness paradigm. In my view, this paradigm is about realising happiness by understanding that happiness is the natural state, and by understanding life’s most important pattern: the movement from protecting potential (survival) to manifesting potential (happiness). Then we can replace competition with cooperation because we will notice that cooperation is free of the wastes and harms caused by competition, and it is more effective for manifesting our potential.

Big implications of global awareness


Given the recent advancements in knowledge and technology, a new liberated happiness paradigm can spread easily across the world. These days, most of us have at least a basic understanding of what is happening in other parts of the world, and a basic understanding of our relationship to the planet and the rest of the universe. Even in poor villages there’s usually one television around which people gather and see something of what’s happening in the world.

It seems to me that we are right in the middle of a great leap in a new, profound, and inevitable evolutionary process. We are already considering issues in a new enlarged context, at least sometimes. Now, the time is ripe for us to consciously complete the move from the survival paradigm and the dependent happiness paradigm to a liberated happiness paradigm, i.e. from preparation and experimentation to fruition. We will do this if we embrace the fact that we are all in the same boat of global awareness and we need to make it a happy boat for our own sakes. And since survival is mostly guaranteed in developed countries, their citizens already have a solid basis from which to express their greater potential, so they possess the opportunity to lead the way.


  1. Hi Martin

    I like the excerpt from your book!

    It is enjoyable to reflect on happiness and human motivations. The fact that everyone likes to be happy suggests that it is the natural state. I agree that happiness is an expression of human potential.

    I think that technology does have a part to play in breaking down obstacles to happiness. We are already seeing how it allows us to open up our world and gain knowledge and global awareness.

  2. Hi Jennifer,

    Thanks for commenting.

    Yes, if happiness is the natural state, then the existence of unhappiness must mean that we are doing something wrong.

    Global awareness has come to humankind rather suddenly. And living standards and education have risen sharply. So the opportunity for a positive leap is now possible. However, I have been doing a few courses at university, and it is interesting to see that even intelligent teachers resist the idea of quick improvement in the world, even to the point of recommending and rewarding compromising answers in essays. Yet we are in the midst of remarkable improvement. It's like we haven't fully grasped the implications of what is happening before our eyes.