Friday, 26 November 2010

Smile, what's the use in crying?

Who doesn't love this new 'age of austerity'? It's got us all tightening our belts so much so that we suddenly know how Dita Von Teese feels every time she gets dressed.

It also means that the politicians have to find new ways of validating their track record, since traditional measures like GDP give a decidedly negative view. That's why it was revealed this week that David Cameron intends to measure the kind of prosperity that's hard to capture in an Excel spreadsheet. Rather than prosperity and wealth, he wants to start collating data on how happy we all are.

The problem is, we're not a nation known for our ebullience. That's why the most common conversational topic is the weather - because nine times out of ten it means we've got something to complain about. Even now, the threat of a couple of inches of snow has people in the north battening down the hatches for a second ice age.

It's the same with our TV shows - our most popular soap opera is EastEnders, the televisual equivalent of Ritalin. And talent shows like X-Factor and Strictly Come Dancing simply enable us to celebrate the least talented performers.

Nonetheless, the Office of National Statistics has been asked to develop a new way of measuring people's sense of well-being, based on the spring in their step, rather than the bulge in their wallet. So now, the British public will be asked questions like: "Overall, how happy did you feel yesterday?" and "How much purpose does your life have?"

If there's one sure-fire way of sending the entire nation plunging into abject depression, it's by getting them to consider the meaning of life. The Pet Shop Boys once sang 'Happiness Is An Option'. That may well be the case, but I think most of us would prefer to abstain.

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