The following is written by Susan Claire, A founder of Together Yes, Inc., who recently screening The Economics of Happiness in her town:
Last night was a ride through valleys of disheartenment and hills of optimism for me. My local organization sponsored a community screening of “The Economics of Happiness” by Helena Norberg-Hodge, Steven Gorelick, and John Page (ISEC, 2011).
Together Yes is our nonprofit grassroots organization, dedicated to sustainability and community building. As a founder, I viewed the film once to see whether it would speak to our fellows here in Norwood, Massachusetts. Then I saw it again at our event where I sat among my community and became more than an organizer and activist: I was a grandmother, a neighbor, a country girl relocated to the suburbs of Boston and longing for the simpler ways of my past.
The documentary, so beautifully filmed and interlaced with piercing and pertinent observations by social leaders and elders, began by contrasting industrially developed, crowded, and overworked populations with cultures living more slowly and communally (the divisiveness of competition at a minimum).
I felt unease with my lot in life, as I reminded myself that next morning I would hit the decks running (as always) and not stop until I went to sleep at night. I mourned for a little slow living in my own days. I reflected on the children in my neighborhood, and the benefits slow living might bring them; and I despaired of my town’s prospects for self-sufficiency.
Norwood is a goodhearted, somewhat conservative town. It is where I live, and it is my community. Norwood is where I begin each day, writing and working to promote community and sustainability. I sometimes feel like Sisyphus rolling his rock uphill, but I am not being punished. I am a willing volunteer.
Then, and timely it was, the film began describing the reasons for my malaise. Incentive took over as causes of economic upheaval, environmental degradation, and unhappiness were illuminated. While Together Yes has always worked toward the small and local, I was given clearer reasons for doing so.
How to do so became the question, and the documentary moved deftly into what’s needed. This last quarter of the movie lit a path. As I was introduced to small societies enjoying relative economic stability (some just building it and some not having lost it in the first place), working together almost as families rather than co-residents, and sparing Earth the onslaught of industrial growth, I firmed my resolve.
I was not alone; in the follow-up discussion of “The Economics of Happiness,” it was apparent that my neighbors experienced despair, information, and inspiration along with me as we watched the film. We didn’t come away with a prescription for action; each community must find its own way. However, we more certainly perceive the goals, and from there we can move forward.
There is an expression, preaching to the choir. Yes, most of us attending the film were already converted, were informed about the issues, were indeed already adherents standing with the choir. But the event, with its clarity of message, will perhaps cause us to sing more loudly and more often. With the singing comes a joy, and thus begins happiness.
I don’t know what will become of my town, as we are thoroughly indoctrinated by corporate and marketing proponents of the need for competitive economic growth as our saving grace. Our well-being is not of concern to these greedy and urgent efforts. Moreover, we live in the United States, arguably the most aggressive villain of corporate colonialism. Any progression toward “happiness” will necessarily result from personal and community effort.
I recommend and endorse “The Economics of Happiness” for individual and group viewing, and suggest time for discussion afterward. My support and thanks go to the makers of this film and the International Society for Ecology and Culture.