Wednesday, March 15, 2006

#247 - Happy Is as Happy Does

My, oh my. What an interesting report. Pew Research Center has published a report titled "Are We Happy Yet?" that purports to gauge how Americans are feeling these days. If I may skip briefly to the bottom line, I find most interesting the idea that nearly 84% of all Americans, based on the sampling, report themselves to be "Pretty happy" or better. In fact, 50% said "Pretty happy," while 34% indicated that they were "Very happy."

That 84% figure becomes significant in an election year because, according to liberal doctrine, a majority of Americans are required to be pretty miserable so long as a Republican sits in office. (Any office, by the way... it's certainly not limited to the White House. All campaigns down to Municipal Dog Catcher are based on the premise that constituents must be miserable. Why else would anyone run?)

Oddly enough (and of great concern to Democrats, I'm sure) is the idea that of those in the "Very happy" category, 45% were Republican, while 30% were Democrats. (The fact that 29% were reported as being "Independent" points out a slight mathematical, um, irregularity of 104%, but I'm sure there must be a rounding error in there somewhere. We programmers love rounding errors.) The report even makes the case that this happiness advantage really has little to do with who is in power. The numbers, according to Pew, have remained more or less consistent since 1972. This means they've had two Democratic administrations in which to get happier than the Republicans, but have yet to overtake them.

I'm not entirely certain why Pew chose to concentrate primarily on the "Very happy" category. Some might think that "Pretty happy" wasn't bad. "Pretty happy" might seem to indicate that things are under control, at least. It acknowledges that life may be a constant struggle, but that we can derive happiness even when circumstances seem to conspire otherwise. If you were to catch me off guard and ask the question, I might be inclined to say "pretty happy" as opposed to "very happy," but I would also tell you that "pretty happy" also means "quite satisfied." And it would be true. I am, on the whole, satisfied with my life, even as I realize that things could be better. My wife and I, for example, could be healthier than we are today. On the other hand, I think it improbable that we could possibly be any happier together as a couple. That, for me, is the definition of satisfaction. I'm pretty happy, and life is good.

Now, it could be, I suppose, that I'm merely delusional. Perhaps I'm choosing to overlook all the tribulation and sickness in the world today. But I doubt it. I worry constantly about such things. I'm always worried about our ongoing war in Iraq, and the war on terror in general. I see no real end to it in the near future, and, yes, I wonder whether Iraq has become the quagmire our opponents claim it has already become. But I am comfortable with the idea that combating terror is our current Cold War. It probably won't end in the next decade. My girls may very well become adults with the understanding that Islamic extremism has become their communism. I worry, but that doesn't mean I'm not happy. Perhaps it's because I refuse to feel guilty for every wrong found in the world today. Democrats, on the whole, don't have that ability. Maybe that's why they're so unhappy. Maybe they're so busy trying to ascribe blame for every evil in the world that they don't have time to enjoy the lives that are their gift from God. Who needs that kind of life?

The Pew report, taken at face value, seems to offer some sort of formula for those who wish to achieve "Very happy" status in this life. In no particular order, these are the attributes of a very happy person:

  • Be a Republican

  • Attend church weekly or more

  • Be married (Woody's enjoinder: It helps to be married to your best friend!)

  • Have money. The happier ones earn $100K or more. I guess I'm still satisfied with "Pretty happy."

  • Health and education count. Health may be obvious, but "education" is less so, in my mind. I don't have a graduate degree. However, I am constantly expanding my personal knowledge. I think that counts.

Taken as a package, I find the report to be a nice vindication of the life I lead. I am a happily married, church-going Republican with enough money to meet our needs. Does it matter to me that I am more or less happy than anyone else? No, not really. I gave up on comparing my life with anyone else's just about the time I hooked up with Mrs. Woody. We're so busy building our happiness together that I guess I just don't have time to worry about the comparisons.

Happy as charged.

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