Over the Rainbow

Rainbow

On the way to town after work today, I saw a beautiful beautiful rainbow. It reminded me of one my absolute favourite songs, Judy Garland’s rendition of “Over the Rainbow”. No prizes for guessing which song’s on the repeat loop tonight.

Somewhere over the rainbow
Way up high
There’s a land that I heard of
Once in a lullaby

Somewhere over the rainbow
Skies are blue
And the dreams that you dare to dream
Really do come true

Some day I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemondrops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh why can’t I?
Some day I’ll wish upon a star
And wake up where the clouds are far behind me
Where troubles melt like lemondrops
Away above the chimney tops
That’s where you’ll find me

Somewhere over the rainbow
Bluebirds fly
Birds fly over the rainbow
Why then, oh why can’t I?

If happy little bluebirds fly
Beyond the rainbow
Why, oh why can’t I?

A New Spring Has Arrived

Spring is upon us here in Bhutan. I’m enjoying the warmer weather, despite the slight chill spell that has returned in the past week. The blossoms are out in full bloom throughout the town, a beautiful sight for one born and raised in the tropics. The blossoms also remind me that fresh fruit like apples and mangoes will return soon in a couple more months. I can’t wait to sink my teeth into a freshly plucked apple…

A New Spring Has Arrived

Monday marks Bhutan’s final steps in her march towards a modern democracy. It’s D-day tomorrow as Bhutanese all over the country head to the polls and cast their vote for the party that will form the new democratic government. Thimphu is unusually quiet over the weekend, as many leave the country’s capital to return to the villages across the country to cast their votes. Many shops and restaurant are closed and it wasn’t easy to find lunch in town today.

I wasn’t in Thimphu to witness the local National Council elections in January, so I’m absolutely thrilled about the opportunity to witness the birth of the world’s latest democracy tomorrow. Photo opportunities are a little tricky, so I’m keeping my fingers-crossed.

History will be made tomorrow, my friends, are you excited?

Money = Happiness?

Living in the country that coined the term Gross National Happiness (GNH), it was natural that this article “Worldwide, Residents of Richer Nations More Satisfied” would pique my interest. Recent Gallup World Poll data seem to indicate that Life Satisfaction, or Happiness to you can I, increases with average income levels. Does that mean that, contrary to common belief, money does indeed buy you happiness?

Gallup Poll Graph

Apparently not. Richard Easterlin postulated that “happiness at a national level does not increase with wealth once basic needs are fulfilled”. So how does that tie to the trends reflected in the Gallup data? The gains in life satisfaction is greatest in the lower GDP region of the graph, giving credence Easterlin’s theory. What is surprising though, is the consistent, though less dramatic, gains in life satisfaction with an increase in income for the richer countries.

The article explains this apparent contradiction by suggesting that when asked about their state of happiness, “people use a global standard.” Through globalisation and improved telecommunications, people understand how good/bad their lives are in relation to other low/high-income countries.

What does this mean for Bhutan? Technologies like the Internet and television are already bringing the world into Bhutanese homes. More Bhutanese than ever before are travelling overseas. Happiness is a moving target influenced by our exposure to global standards. As living standards improve in the world, what makes the citizens of this little land-locked nation happy today, is unlikely to bring them the same level of satisfaction in the years to come.

Much as I would like Bhutan to remain the oft-romanticised vision of Shangri-la, the pragmatic side of me (thanks to my Motherland, the land of the GDP-focused pragmatics) know it is difficult. Bhutan has already recognised the importance of the economy as it tries to find its own place in the global stage.

The global tides of change are here. And they are here to stay.