Saturday, 27 November 2010
Unlike the Norwegian National Day, 17th May, where nobody works, everyone tidies up their surroundings and themselves, parades about in national dress, and ends the day with a big knees-up, we in Scotland are rather stumped when it comes to 30th November. It looks like we’ll be spending the day shovelling snow.
However, this year I have vowed to spend a ‘wee mintie’ thinking about my nation, rather in the spirit of Hugh MacDiarmid’s ’Drunk Man Looks at a Thistle’. You will know that this long poem is an intellectual and emotional contemplation of the condition of Scotland. So, I thought I’d take a moment, and being too short of time to enjoy a wee dram, I’ll act out ‘Sober Woman Looks at a Thistle’ instead.
Apart from the fact that it will be St Andrews Day, I have another reason for this naval-gazing. We’ve all been asked to measure our happiness. Prime Minister David Cameron, wants us all, throughout the UK, to consider how happy we are on a scale from 1 to 10. He wants to measure our General Wellbeing (GWB) in addition to our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in order to evaluate the UK’s success. The office of National Statistics is charged with gauging our happiness, so that a ‘happiness index’ might be created.
The New Economics Foundation measured European levels of wellbeing recently and ranked the UK 13th out of 22. On a global scale, the NEF found Costa Rica was top of their Happy Planet index, a system which measures a combination of human wellbeing with environmental sustainability.
And, guess which nation was at the top of the Legatum Prosperity Index (a system which measures personal freedom, entrepreneurship, health, good governance and economic performance)? Norway, of course.
But are we Brits, and we Scots, really as unhappy as our low score in these studies might suggest? I haven’t noticed every Norwegian I ever meet being in a state of permanent euphoria any more than every Scot is in a state of misery (didn’t you know, the ‘dour Scot’ is only an act with which to irritate those south of the border? After all, being miserable can be enormously enjoyable....nobody can tell me the Drunk Man Looking at the Thistle wasn’t thoroughly enjoying himself).
However, I do sometimes wonder if we forget to notice when we are happy. We are all so busy, it’s too easy to concentrate on our problems rather than our successes. Perhaps we should be looking across the pond.
Recently, our American friends have been thankful, thankful, thankful as they sit down with their families to a Thanksgiving Dinner where all manner of gratitude is expressed from the personal to the global. In 1863, during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln proclaimed a national day of thanksgiving on the third Thursday of November. But its origins lay as far back as 1619 with a thanksgiving ceremony for the colony of Virginia. However, the ‘First Thanksgiving’ is generally recognised as taking place in 1621 when thanks was given to God for helping the Pilgrims of Plymouth Colony to survive. The settlers held a harvest feast which lasted three days and fed 53 Pilgrims and 90 Native Americans. It seems no surprise that the origins of thanksgiving are connected to nature, the earth and all that it provides.
We Brits, with our stiff-upper-lips, might be tempted to think Thanksgiving is a bit soppy, and all this talk of happiness is verging on the psychobabble. But I wonder if an official day for a nation to reflect upon the good things in life makes a population feel happier?
Would someone please research the statistics on that and deliver them to Number 10? Thank you, it would make me very happy and most grateful.
Posted by Returning Scot at 17:28