George Bernard Shaw once said “democracy is a device that ensures we will be governed no better than we deserve”. Whatever political system we choose (Wikipedia lists 28 types and there are probably more), it will reflect who we are as humans, revealing both our imperfections and our potential for good.
This potential for good is an immensely powerful thing, and it is only the intense focus on imperfection that prevents us from believing that things can truly change – and in politics, belief is everything.
The Happy City Initiative believes we are in the midst of a global shift of understanding that heralds a new kind of politics and economics, both of which will be kinder to people and the planet.
Chris Anderson set up the TED talks as an antidote to the influence of news services which present ‘bad’ news as the norm, feeding a belief that things are much worse than they actually are. The success of his talks is a clear demonstration of the phenomenal power of inspiring, solutions focussed stories of achievement and learning, which feed optimism rather than fear.
Optimism, for many years an underrated characteristic, is mounting a real challenge to the power of cynicism. There’s plenty of evidence to show that optimists are better problem solvers, that successful entrepreneurs are optimistic and last month the BBC even reported how optimism may help prevent heart problems.
Points of reference like these are becoming much more common with the rapid development of interest in happiness and wellbeing – a practical subject that should surely be at the heart of every politicians agenda.
Bernard Shaw was right – we do get what we deserve, and the only way to influence what we get is to be involved in the democratic process. If people adopt the ‘happiness skills’ of positive psychology, appreciative inquiry, solutions focus and systems thinking, then the issue of whether we are led by a mayor or a councillor is much less important because we will be free of the yoke of fearful cynicism and partisan squabbles that dominate our politics today.
Happiness has the potential both to steer society in a meaningful direction by asking ‘what matters?’ AND to guide us in the way we behave so we can travel safely and successfully together. So turn out for optimism and vote on May 3 – once that’s done, it’s up to us to keep demanding happiness-focussed politics from the people we put in power. THEN we’ll finally have the government we truly deserve…