Community and HappinessApril 6, 2010 Leave a comment
DISCLAIMER: Dear Progressive friends, I have not sold out! I still believe in economic justice and I remain painfully aware of the racialized outcomes of poverty.
I feel like part of my mission in life is to expand the lens with which we look at our quest for social transformation. One of the points I keep harping on is the point that happiness matters. And this is why a recent David Brooks column caught my attention.
In “The Sandra Bullock Trade,” Brooks refers to recent research on happiness to remind us that “the relationship between happiness and income is complicated, and after a point, tenuous.” Most of us probably understand this at some guttural level, deep in a place we often forget. But what I found powerfully affirming was the list of activities that do produce happiness:
- Socializing after work, and
- Having dinner with others
Most interesting of all, for those of us who believe in the power of community, is that:
If you want to find a good place to live, just ask people if they trust their neighbors. Levels of social trust vary enormously, but countries with high social trust have happier people, better health, more efficient government, more economic growth, and less fear of crime (regardless of whether actual crime rates are increasing or decreasing).
When I say let’s expand our lens, I’m not suggesting that we forget about struggle and a real fight for economic justice, but I do mean “to expand,” to do what we do and enlarge our focus. Couldn’t we bring relationship support groups to our communities? Research shows that “being married produces a psychic gain equivalent to more than $100,000 a year,” and this would help with the “sex” objective wouldn’t it?
What if we created spaces, projects and organizations that made it significantly easier for the people that we serve to “socialize after work?” What if we stopped working long enough to do some of that ourselves? And what if our organizing projects always included our authentically “having dinner with others?” (Here I’m not talking about eating cold pizza in a stuffy meeting room!) How do we concern ourselves with the acts that build community? How do we begin to understand that a movement concerned with economic justice must also concern itself with bringing people together in ways that truly matter? How do we create, nurture and hold the spaces where we can truly come together?