Wiser philosophers, including the Buddhist Alan Watts and others, have exposed how even the pursuit of happiness is useless unless one can somehow form an authentic persona. The real problem was first unearthed by Watts in his masterpiece, ‘The Book on the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are’, on pointing out that from the time most of us are tots we’re saddled with false egos, and false personas in order to fit more easily into a fucked up world. The end result is that on account of this process of maladjustment we end up fucked up and can’t accommodate to any prolonged period devoid of our little pet toys, devices, crutches or stimulants. "Happiness" then is automatically tied to the never-ending consumption of such piffle or the consumption of simulated emotions akin to love - given a false persona is incapable of experiencing the real thing.
“The lowdown on life is that our normal sensation of self is a hoax, or at best a temporary role that we are playing – or have been conned into playing – with our own tacit consent, just as every hypnotized person is basically willing to be hypnotized.”
He adds most tellingly (ibid.):
“The most strongly enforced of all known taboos is the taboo against knowing who or what you are behind the mask of your apparently separate, independent and isolated ego.”
“The very society from which the individual is inseparable, is using its whole irresistible force to persuade the individual he is indeed separate! Society as we know it is therefore playing a game with self-contradictory rules. Just because we do not exist apart from the community the community is able to convince us that we do- that each one of us is an independent source of action with a mind of its own. The more successfully the community implants this feeling, the more trouble it has in getting the individual to cooperate.”
He goes on to observe that society has “pulled this trick on every child from earliest infancy” and the child – because it lacks the power of reason at an early age – is unable to resist the social indoctrination.As a result of this indoctrination, of course, the seeds of toxic societal conditions are born and sustained. The unemployed beat up on themselves ceaselessly for not being “good enough” to support their families or get any kind of a decent job. Since the society has conditioned them to believe they alone are to blame for their situation, they willingly accept the onus as opposed to placing it on a dysfunctional society that gives all its best rewards to speculators.
Children in school may also beat up on themselves for failing a standardized test, despite the fact such tests for their own sake have nothing to do with genuine education and are in fact detrimental to real education (as Jiddu Krishnamurti has noted)
More generally, anyone who aspires to the pinnacle of his or her trade, profession or artistic talent and somehow falls short is condemned to believe he or she is a "loser". If one has not achieved the "mountain top" as it were, then it was all for naught. Via such an irrational narrative and other ways (see 'messages' below) our own dysfunctional society sets us up to be deprived of even the pursuit of happiness - because it is itself incapable of recognizing the necessary and sufficient condition to attain it.
Thus, people – too many – have been bamboozled into thinking, believing they’re lonely, isolated centers of being. Worse, this superficial façade is accepted as the real self – when it is actually a false one, a pretender. It is an artifact created, as
The inherent problem is that a self constrained and operating under these conditions cannot experience anything like "happiness". This latter then becomes more of cruel, macabre joke- a perverted "carrot" to be dangled at the end of the proverbial string to enforce compliance or delusion.
The irony of it all? While we are told it cannot be "for sale". the actual fact is that in our screwed up false society that's the only way it can be on offer - to artificial, false beings. No better illustration of this has been found than in William Davies “The Happiness Industry: How the Government and Big Business Sold Us Well-Being”
Which describes how happiness has become a major preoccupation and commodity to be peddled by the powerful with corporations, politicians and their auxiliary therapeutic industry seeing concrete financial benefits to promoting this happiness facsimile among workers, voters, and ordinary citizens.
The message to workers: Think happy thoughts even if your job is pure drudgery, i.e. merely working on an assembly line or flipping burgers
The message to voters: Don't demand or expect 'the world' on a plate when you vote, only what can be practically delivered by our bribery system
The message to citizens: Cease thinking or believing in negative distractions like conspiracies or powerful networks arrayed against your interests. These will only lead to misery!
By resolutely imbibing these messages we cease to be authentic beings in our own right, but instead appendages to the false state or culture wherein the fake happiness is esteemed as a virtue that transcends all our divisions of culture and creed. The ultimate capitalist prize if you will. How so?
Well. because the "self- help" pabulum can then be peddled as the solution! This meshes perfectly with the Neoliberal market meme that the fake happiness is an "individual matter" and hence, the larger market society can wash its hands of any individual responsibility. Never mind the society itself is toxic, as Watts points out, and seeks to pander the false self credo at every turn.
But see, the rise of self-help during an economic depression or recession is not new, and neither is pushing people to anti-depressants if they can't cope - instead of digging into the underlying societal toxicity. For example, not having a genuine universal health care system in place, as opposed to a pseudo-system based on for profit insurance companies. (Note to all: "Obamacare" is NOT a true socialized medical insurance program. It is actually a revamp of a program Nixon first advocated with the insurance axis involved. Thus, it is a REPUBLICAN health care program recycled!)
A genuine universal health care program or single payer program would more resemble what we now have for Medicare, so that program would be "Medicare for all". Instead of people having to be shocked with sudden rate rises, denied coverage or going into bankruptcy over a medical issue (sure to make anyone unhappy!) their essential needs would be taken care of, excepting dental and eye ware - as the case with Medicare. As for being "too expensive" - not at all! Merely redirect the 2.4% of 4.9% of GDP now going to the military and it's paid for.
In line with the above, it is clear austerity measures are also going to make many people unhappy, even miserable. Anything that undercuts a citizen's ability to make it or survive will engender dissatisfaction and mental stress. Even if defining happiness may be elusive, we know certain things can create unhappiness! For instance, In their analysis of how recessions affect public health, David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu demonstrated the precise ways in which austerity policies lead to deteriorating mental and physical health, and unnecessary deaths. They also indicated alternatives whereby recessions can be an opportunity for improvements in public health. Which route is chosen is ultimately a societal question, determined by whether the society believes citizens are all "on their own" or part of a larger whole wherein localized pain, grievance or dysfunction compromises the whole