The Pursuit of Happiness – Part II

May 31, 2010

(To increase the font size of this essay – hold down the Ctrl key and press +)

One reason why I have been spending so much time on the whole subject of happiness may have something to do with my vocation. I write reports. And for the most part I work all by myself. Usually everything I need is handed to me in a crisp manila envelope – I don’t know who my clients are as they are represented through an intermediary who doesn’t seem to like me very much (not only does he think I am an upstart, he suspects, I am banging his secretary on the side, he’s spot on; on the second count) – usually the questions are direct and poignant. I reckon my clients are very old people. I say that only because most of the time following each report submission; there are usually follow up questions concerning many of my math equations scribbled on the side of my original reports – a question mark; elaborate further, give details, assumptions? Nothing beyond a mere paragraph and it’s always scribbled in pencil – once took a sample to a stationer in Paris somewhere in the 5th arrondissement, the hawk nose man rubbed a bit of it off and rolled it in the ball of his index finger and thumb only to exclaim as if suddenly greeted by an old friend, “Ah! This is old, very old.” – “how old is old?” I asked. The stationer replied curtly, “These days we are not allowed to sell them anymore .The lead in the graphite is way too high.”

 Recently when I got back one of my reports – written by the side was a comment, “can you find out whether they are happy?” Sounds innocuous enough – only one problem there; I’ve never been asked that question before – don’t even know where to begin – I guess what my client is trying to ask is what’s the cost of fear?

The only reason why I’ve brought fear into the picture is because I can’t think of a better anti-thesis to the whole idea of happiness, except perhaps fear – fear for lack of a better word is the reason why so many of us plan our lives. We pay our taxes on time to avoid the FEAR of fines. We regularly sign up for health checks, to insulate ourselves against the FEAR of our own mortality. We circle the parking lot at least 3 times to seek out those pesky coupon aunties, for FEAR of getting a traffic summons.

Even in the seemingly safety of our hermetically sealed imaginary secret garden, FEAR, the serpent lurks reminding us all, how open and vulnerable. We mull over our job. Even blogging these days is under siege.

I guess what my client is asking me is; what is the cost of living in FEAR?

What lies at the root of this mania and paranoia? There are a number of possible explanations. The first is undoubted due to the changing face of the business environment in Singapore and around the world. Fear is endemic these days in the vast majority of the developed countries where things are not as clear cut as they once was. The age of boom & bust and witnessing our hopes turning into mud or our watching helplessly as our stock portfolio melts away has had a sobering toll on our sense and sensibilities. Gone are the days when we expect past performance to be an indication of future expectations! For one we are less trusting of organizations and even less faith these days, is placed on leaders. After all most of us know those levers to power are connected to nothing. Not even if they regularly tell us they are the best that money can buy. It just doesn’t cut it these days. Most of us have lived through the debacle of Enron, Arthur Anderson, NKF and Shin Corp, know only too well, the valence between the best people, best decisions do not necessarily lead to best performance. It’s at best an illusion that has everything to do with our imagination rather than reality.

The other reason that has scoured much of our confidence is job insecurity. Despite the good times, we have all seen it before – hordes of people who have to down size or retune their lifestyles because they can no longer command the salaries they used too. It’s tough these days in the age of globalization to feel really secure and assured, none of the macro-economic arguments cut much ice with the people thrown out of work. They never have and never will – people don’t want to believe they have an expiry date to their usefulness and no amount of retraining or re-education is going to augment that limitation. Those who are at the point in time dislocated by the forces of competition have a right to feel life in modernity is nothing less than destructive and feral and though much of the job of policy of makers is to explain, they simply need to buy into the idea of going one step further to understand much of the fear that exist today can only be relieved by making the losses bearable.

This naturally throws out the question: what needs to be done to effectively dismantle the climate of fear? What steps are required towards re-engineering systems and processes which can either augment or serve to mitigate the losses of globalization to make the losses more bearable?

Policy makers need to appreciate the cost of living in fear is not only huge but a diservice to the whole idea of innovation and creativity.

When we fear and live in a state that is the direct opposite of happiness – some thing deep inside us just curls up and dies; whenever we succumb to fear real or imagined – it doesn’t enable us as much as disables us.

The cost has to be exhorbitantly high as our children don’t dare to dream beyond the narrow confines of the tried and tested yellow bricked road for fear only falling off the edge, and so are incarcerated to only the unimaginative sameness of what came before – if they fail, they fail traditionally.

The economy hemorrhages because of a lack of entrepreneurialism. And managers and professionals pay the price for their own paranoia, hanging on to unsatisfactory jobs for fear of the unknown, toeing the corporate line rather than cutting their own path for fear of rejection and persecution – because they are too preoccupied with towing the line.

Result: nothing imaginative ever gets produced and we are nearer to the goal of craving out sustainable competitive advantage.

As F. Roosevelt once proclaimed, the only thing to fear is fear itself. These words have never rung truer today than ever before. It’s time to stop fearing – it’s only when we do this can we really aspire towards true happiness.

Darkness 2010 – The Brotherhood Press 2010

“I know what I am about to say right now may provoke many to write in demanding my head on a salad bowl; but you should never ever marry someone below your station – never.

If you’re a man; you should ALWAYS marry up – that has to make perfect sense as it has alot to do with the whole idea of balance of power and the concept of mutual agreed destruction – I’ve always wondered how did the West and the Communist bloc preserve the whole idea of peaceful co-existence for nearly 60 years?

If you really want to know it had nothing to do with mutual respect and everything to do with fire power – one reason why we enjoyed peace for nearly 60 years had alot to do with the whole idea of balance of power – the whole idea of Nash equilibria – I mean, I can prove this mathematically – I am not kidding!

And that simply means if you marry a woman with no education and just because you like the way she looks – the chances are somewhere down the line in 10 or 20 years; you are definitely going to screw around with someone younger and leave her high and dry – why because firstly, she has zero earning power and that simply means she has no power to protect herself – she cannot inflict damage on you!

Ironically, if you marry a woman who earns let’s say more than you and is better qualified and who has probably a 5 year age advantage – the chances are you will never ever fool around – never – that’s not because you are born good – you’re still thinking about sex 24/7, but you can’t do anything; because if you’re caught with your pants down; she will probably take your spleen along with your liver out – that simply means that’s a great incentive to remain faithful – that’s why every sensible man should seriously consider marrying up and not down – the case is stronger for you; as you happen to be a very attractive man.

If you marry up; the chances are you will lead a healthier life and she will stop you from doing really stupid things and you will never self destruct- because left to their our own devices – boys will be boys and we are all just walking disasters – but if you are married to a really strong woman; she will demand every cent you earn and give you only $10 a day as pocket money – so how the hell can you get up to mischief with 10 bucks is really beyond me? Make sense right? It all boils down to balance of power- so take my advice marry her – I will be your best man – that’s happiness. As you can see; I’ve thought long and hard over this matter brother…..long and hard.”

Darkness 2008 – Captured by an auto-bot crawler in a thread in Ekunaba – The Brotherhood Press 2010. 



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: