It is the dominant attitude of modern west that the goal of society should be to provide best possible living conditions for the largest number of people. Unfortunately, there are big problems with this philosophy, namely:
- Since it’s impossible to make everyone truly happy, modern west tries to define universal standard of a “good life” and then enforce it onto everyone in the society. For that to work, people must be seriously nivellated so that everyone thinks the same, wants same things and has same values and attitude towards life. This means exerting very strong influence and forming people’s personalities from a very young age. In other words, to teach people what kind of life they should want and convince them it was their own idea. I think I can summarize all this in one sentence: “Fit in or fuck off“. Such forceful shaping of psyche to fit the “universal standard” leads to frustrated personalities and various kinds of psychological issues. For example, numerous people are blindly following the “standard program” of life: school->university->office job->marriage->kids->house&car. They do everything “right”, they follow procedures, they adhere to all social norms and try to fulfill all the expectations of society/peers/parents, and yet feel miserable and frustrated most of the time. Maybe that wasn’t really the life they actually wanted after all?..
- “Happiness” is a very subjective thing and most people actually have no clue what actually makes them happy, which leads to widespread unhappiness and dissatisfaction with life in wealthy countries despite the fact that those countries strive to make people’s lives ever easier and more entertaining. Statistics of depression, drug use and psychoactive medicine use in places like America show what a colossal failure those efforts to make people happy really are. In fact, it seems that easier/wealthier and more entertaining life is NOT a recipe for happiness at all.
Unfortunately, not many people realize that and so far most universal response to various chronic feelings of unhappiness seems to be entertainment. While entertainment definitely has it’s value, trying to solve unhappiness with entertainment is about the same as trying to solve loneliness with prostitution.
- Trying to make sure no one is ever offended and everyone is always respected. Obsessive “make everyone happy” approach resulted in this ludicrous over protection of people’s sensitivities where we condemn and punish not only verbal harassment but also restrict and censor very deserved criticism and genuine comedy. And when you start putting comedians in prison for comedy that wasn’t even intended to offend anyone, you’re on the highway to state-mandated repression of free speech. Such kind of “thought control” denies people the right to express their emotions towards certain issues (and other people) in a healthy way: comedy and reasonable criticism. Those things act as a “safety valve” to prevent pent-up rage from accumulating. When you seal this “safety valve” shut by denying the right to criticize and make jokes, that pent-up rage explodes in very real acts of violence. This is how you get otherwise normal people joining extremist groups.
It seems that current generation grew up in such a safe, peaceful and subdued environment that they think the most horrible thing you can do to a person is tell something “not very nice” (or make a joke) about him. The generation of fragile, hyper-sensitive little flowers whose delicate personality can be damaged by mere words. I wish they would learn one old and wise saying, which goes: “You can’t offend someone who doesn’t take offence“.
- Overpopulation. Those who subscribe to such “modern western” attitude want to save, protect and provide adequate food/water/clothing/housing to all the people on Earth. Unfortunately, this causes those “saved” people to reproduce even faster, making the problem worse and ever harder to solve. It is like trying to get out of the hole by digging even deeper. Such “good Samaritans” send resources to Africa “to save starving children” when instead the only thing they should be sending is condoms (and other contraceptives).
But it’s not just about Africa and other third-world countries, this also affects people in wealthier first-world. In order to feed huge number of people industry has to come up with cheaper, faster and more effective ways of producing and distributing food. They have to stretch natural food resources more and more. This means using cheaper synthetic surrogates instead of natural products, adding preservatives to extend shelf-life and processing food beyond all recognition. In the end we get food that is mostly artificial and unhealthy. And while as a result of this there may be much less people starving, everyone is forced to consume crappy food that just slowly makes them sick.
You simply can’t provide “greatest happiness for largest number of people” without implementing some kind of serious population control to limit that largest possible number.
So what’s for us to do?.. How do we actually find happiness in a world where our life is seemingly safer, easier, wealthier, more convenient and pleasant than ever before in the history of humankind, and yet most of us are still not very happy? Well, one of the most universally effective responses seem to be: find yourself a purpose. You can argue if purpose is same as meaning, but that’s beside the point. I think meaning arises from purpose — you create meaning by finding a purpose to pursue, to work towards, to strive. You can see it as your personal cross to carry, or you can see it as a brightest star to reach towards. In any case, exercising your powers and abilities to their fullest extent in order to pursue your personal purpose almost always gives birth to a deep feeling of meaningfulness, and that, in turn, creates a state of happiness.