Happiness Then and Now

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Peterson

Professor Whetham

English 102

8/25/12

Happiness Then and Now

My husband came in a few weeks ago and told me of a radio program he had been listening to on his way home from work. It’s an open forum talk show and one of the topics was on happiness and how it has changed. Fifty years ago there was more personable contact with one another. People just aren’t as happy now as they were back then. In this open forum people were calling in and discussing how happiness has changed in the last fifty years. People today isolate themselves with modern technology such as the internet and cell phones; they were saying that today we do not have as many friends as people did fifty years ago. Many people today do not even know their neighbors, and fifty years ago it was all about neighborhoods and family.

As Phil is telling me about this radio program, it made me think of The Happy Movie we watched in class. In The Happy Movie there was a clip where Dr. Tim Kasser Ph. D. spoke about happiness and how we Americans are just as happy today as we were fifty years ago. He stated people in America are told that to be able to be happy they need to lead productive lives and make a lot of money, but a national representative survey that the movie used, showed economic growth has more than doubled the wealth fifty years ago. People are living in bigger houses, driving better, faster cars, and making more money, however happiness has stagnated at the same rate of 25%.

Dr. Kasser spoke of “intrinsic goals” there are three intrinsic goals: personal growth (being happy with one’s self), family and friends (having close personal relationships), and community feelings (a sense of wanting to help others or helping out in the community). In the movie many people were portrayed, and out of all of them in The Happy Movie who had these intrinsic goals, it was a family in Denmark that intrigued me the most. The family consisted of a woman and her three daughters that lived in a type of community housing. They lived there with several other families that the mother had come to depend on. She had said that these other families in the community housing were like family to her and her daughters. They all live in separate little apartments but they cook and eat meals together every evening. All the children in the community housing go to school together, do their homework together and play together. If one of them fall and get hurt it’s not necessarily their mother that comes running to take care of them, this made the girls feel as if the people that live in the community housing are an extend family. The girls felt as if they have grandparents, aunts and uncles in these other families. In the interview the woman gave, she stated that she and her daughters had never been happier. That she had moved into the community housing fresh from a divorce and worried what she would do next. She felt she had been very lucky to get into the community housing with her children, and their lives were richer and happier from the experience.

People that put more importance into ego related things have extrinsic goals; these goals are money, wealth, and status in society. People like this have been found to be less satisfied with themselves and their lives. They are more depressed, more anxious; feel less vital and less energized. They feel more isolated. Many are found to have no friends or very few and they don’t feel family orientated.

If people are just as happy today as they were 50 years ago as The Happy Movie tells us, then what was happiness 50 years ago and what is it today? It has been said that the 1960s moved at a much slower pace, that people were all about family and neighbors, however the sixties were also a time of great change in America. According to the website American Cultural History the decade was called “The Age of Youth.” In 1960 John Kennedy was elected President, the unemployment rate was 3,852,000, and the average...
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