HUMAN RIGHTS Are We Happy Yet?

The pursuit of happiness is regarded as every individual's right, particularly in the United States – but it's a slippery concept and subject to myriad interpretations.
Happiness can be found anywhere, anytime.

The U.S. Declaration of Independence in 1776 proclaimed that all people have “certain inalienable rights,” – among them “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

At the dawn of the modern era, happiness was awarded a place of honor as one of humanity’s most important rights. And one that we should be free to pursue as we see fit.

The U.S. version of the pursuit of happiness was mainly understood in economic terms: All people should have the right, independently of birth and social status, to attain prosperity or even great wealth.

But happiness is about more than money or even shelter. It depends on the individual. Some find their happiness in sex, others in the church or mosque.

Religious fanatics have always had difficulties with happiness.

The war against homosexuality by religious conservatives in the United States shows that not all people share modern views on all issues. There are people who define “values” not only for themselves, but also for others, in order to deprive them of part of their happiness.

In ancient times, almost every philosopher considered finding happiness to be our fundamental purpose. The Greek word “eudaimonia” – often translated to mean “bliss” or “blessedness” – was a more comprehensive concept aimed at life in its totality, a sort of human flourishing.

The philosophical schools offered different answers to what exactly constituted happiness. The Stoics tended to seek it in public life, the Epicureans more in the private sphere. But almost everyone agreed that happiness and virtue belong together.

 

Happiness in the World and Germany-01

 

Religious fanatics have always had difficulties with happiness.

The ancient philosopher Epicurus, who in fact argued for a quiet contemplative ideal of life, was caricatured and attacked by Christians for centuries as an unrestrained drunkard fixated on nothing other than sensual pleasure. His later followers, for instance among the French aristocracy before the revolution, sometimes pursued this distorted ideal.

During the Enlightenment and in emerging liberalism, upon which the U.S. Declaration of Independence is based, more weight was given to the principle that each individual can pursue his happiness as long as it doesn’t harm others. It is an idea that conservatives sometimes stumble over.

For people who watch television today, advertising and the media often give the impression that happiness means nothing more than sex and money.

In Islam, there has been a conflict for centuries between joyless orthodoxy and gentler tendencies more open to happiness. The orthodox wing even seeks to forbid music – and there is a revealing anecdote here.

As the story goes, a strict ruler once forbade music, and one of his musicians fell to the ground dead. When his body was examined, his heart was found to be made of red stone ― all of his blood had flowed to his chest and hardened. The stone was removed and turned into a ring, which eventually came back to the ruler. When in an unobserved moment the ruler hummed softly to himself, his robe turned red and the hardened blood in the ring flowed once again.

For people who watch television today, advertising and the media often give the impression that happiness means nothing more than sex and money. This is especially the case in the United States, where the idea is hammered home through incessant ads for breast enlargement or cures for erectile dysfunction.

In truth, however, the happiness sought by most people is similar in most cultures. Almost everyone desires prosperity and security, love, frequently children, and friendship. Otherwise, they want to be left alone.

 

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