That sinking feeling – Malaysia’s happiness index in deep crisis

We must place the people's happiness as our key measure of success in building a nation

Image: Wikipedia

As we remain glued to the daily evening feed of news on the Covid-19 infections and death counts, we may have neglected the people’s happiness level.  

National happiness counts in the battle against the Covid pandemic.

The glue that holds together the various areas of our nationhood – politics, social and economic progress, and environmental balance – is our happiness.

When our political landscape is riddled with humongous corruption allegations and legal battles, happiness sinks.

When our democratic political landscape is clawed away by a coup-styled, backdoor government, happiness takes flight.

Today, if there is a phrase to describe our current political predicament, it has to be ‘messed up’.

On the economic front, we have little spare money for national and household expenditure. Jobs are lost; bills pile up and loans cannot be repaid; businesses are folding up and people are living from day to day.  

Then, we hear allegations through the ‘unofficial’ grapevine of centuries-old caves being flatted, talk of mineral extraction inside huge forest reserves, sand mining and exports, and ‘secret’ pacts involving large sums of money.  

Our happiness levels can only sink further, as long as there is no official news from the government to prove that such allegations are baseless.

On the social landscape, we see our happiness slipping away like quicksand – quietly but surely.

The occasional reports of aid to the homeless and destitute, the setting up of food kitchens and even the government’s directive that all NGO efforts must now be coordinated suggest widespread suffering.

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We do not have reliable public statistics on suicide rates and people succumbing to mental illness.

We do not have reports by the month of the number of people who have sought medical attention in public hospitals – especially those who need specialist care and medical investigation or surgery – only to have their needs put on hold.  

Segments of the middle class are fast sinking to the lower-income group. This is a hidden truth.

The quality of education looks very much like a dream that has now vaporised, given the latest international rankings.

Meanwhile, religious divisiveness, increasing dogmatisation and religious-surveillance are contributing to sinking happiness levels.

And as we continue to lose our gifts of nature to business barons and vested interests – as our mountains are laid bare, as our rivers dry up or our caves eliminated – how can we ever be a happy nation?

Unfortunately, no one is seriously looking at the country’s happiness index.

Of course, we cannot compare ourselves to the kingdom of Bhutan, whose king puts the people’s happiness above all the other pillars of the nation.  

And we are far from the Maoris of New Zealand, who maintain a happiness-balance in their life philosophy of ‘when you care for the land, the land cares for the people’.

But the least we can do is to bring the subject of national happiness into our public discourse and policymaking and as a national priority. We must place the people’s happiness as our key measure of success in building a nation.

READ MORE:  Middle-income households slip into lower-income category

Failure to acknowledge that our level of happiness has plunged to perhaps its lowest level since independence is the first, sure step along the path to a failed state.

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Muhammad Abdullah
9 Jul 2021 9.54pm

Kalau di dalam kehidupan bermasyarakat didapati ada pula orang yang derhaka dengan ibu bapa, bukan ibu bapanya saja yang yang tidak senang, semua anggota masyarakat memandang serong dengan orang itu, begitu juga kalau ada rakyat yang tidak taat dengan pemimpin negara, banyak orang yang marah, padahal setiap hari orang ramai, sama ada rakyat jelata mahupun orang yang dikatakan istimewa, DERHAKA DENGAN ALLAH, tidak begitu ada orang yang marah dan tidak senang, begitulah mentaliti umat Islam di akhir zaman ini, TUHAN TELAH DIPERKECILKAN.

Dr. Suranthiran Naidu MN Naidu
Dr. Suranthiran Naidu MN Naidu
23 Jun 2021 1.22pm

The Rakyat do looK to the govt. to deliver the needed goods for a reasonable life, going forward.It appearS, continuing to sweep the problems away and assuming ignorance, WILL NOT do any good for the nation, AND the perpetrators of harm themselves.The GOVT.of the day NEEDs to do TRUE heart searching,for the good of their own posterity even.Without bias,take in ALL Msns with real,good qualifications+good character. The King n Rulers,the Father-heads of OUR land, despite and in accordance totheCONSTITUTION as such,together with the GOVT, NEED to be truly proactive now,to get things moving forward.DISCIPLINE, NURTURING LOVE THE NATION, EDUCATION, COMMON ACTION FOR ALL.We NEED to together help build back our nation-NATIONAL ONENESS SPIRIT.

Khoo Soo Hay
Khoo Soo Hay
15 Jun 2021 6.28am

National Happiness must not be just related to health. It should include political happiness, meaning political freedom, implying free from racial and religious constraints. We must cultivate a free thinking citizenship, to enjoy what the world can offer, whether American, Europe, Russia, China or India. The proof of a successful country or nation is whether the citizens are happy with the way the governments run the country, economically as well as health and politics.