The life of evangelical churches and their spiritual leaders has been portrayed in some recent films and series. Can they help us start conversations?
Six countries sign an agreement to create the “Coalition for Happiness”. Among its members, there are countries where Christians are increasingly persecuted: the United Arab Emirates, Mexico and Kazakhstan.
What if, instead of through Soma - the drug that author Aldous Huxley described in his novel ‘A Brave New World’ - happiness could be reached through politics?
Six countries: the United Arab Emirates, Costa Rica, Mexico, Portugal, Slovenia and Kazakhstan, have come together to create the “Coalition for Happiness”, an initiative that seeks to generate messages focused on social welfare from public policies.
“We aim to begin to rethink happiness as one of the objectives of the government”, Paulina Terrazas, responsible for the Special Projects Unit of the Office of the President of Mexico, told news agency EFE.
THE DEFINITION OF HAPPINESS
According to the psychologist of evangelical faith Daniel Sazo, “everything begins with the definition of the concept of happiness”.
“If we define happiness as the pleasant sensation provoked by a specific stimulus at a certain time, we could say that it is the state that an individual experiences when eating a good steak after eight hours of work”.
However, “if happiness is seen as a process in which the individual manages to find a way to transcend, it would be impossible for a government to achieve social happiness, because what for some would be an advance towards that transcendental goal, for others it would be a loss”.
‘THE HAPPY TWENTIES’
Bearing in mind that the signatory countries of the coalition are under the umbrella of capitalism, like the great majority of the rest of the states in the world, their concept of happiness cannot avoid relating, at least in part, to the foundations laid in the ‘Happy Twenties’.
It was a decade of great economic growth and widespread prosperity, driven by consumerism and an industry based on mass production.
“Feeling happiness at all costs has become a business for the big companies that, selling happiness through products, have turned the citizen into a consumer who never has enough”, Sazo explains.
The psychologist believes that “we are in a paradoxical social situation in which many are happy at certain times but never satisfied in the long term”.
POLITICS AND HAPPINESS
Additionally, “to detach the citizen's welfare from the political action and its result is perverse, because they must always be integrated", political scientist Olaf Bernárdez, points out.
According to Bernárdez, “the idea of the coalition does not have to be bad in its origin, but it can pervert and dissociate what should be a public policy, whose main goal is the well-being of the citizens”.
PERSECUTION OF CHRISTIANS IN THREE MEMBER COUNTRIES
The United Arab Emirates (UAE), the country that has hosted the coalition's signature, is the only one in the world that has a Ministry of Happiness.
Known for its oil reserves, the state has been repeatedly denounced by Amnesty International and ranks 40 on the World Watch List of Open Doors.
“The fact that the coalition is born where it was born, and with the initial support that it has, makes me think that it can be a ‘paint job’, rather than something really effective”, says Bernárdez.
Mexico is just one place above the UAE in the World Watch List. According to Open Doors.
The Central American state registers practically the same level of cases of violence against Christians as North Korea, which leads the index and only exceeds it by two tenths.
In January, the government of Kazakhstan presented a project to reform the Law of Religion, which would increase the restrictions and limitations of minorities, including the evangelicals. Kazakhstan ranks 28 in the Open Doors World Watch List.
THE RISKS OF LETTING THE STATE TO DEFINE HAPPINESS
The other three countries of the Coalition, Costa Rica, Slovenia and Portugal, do not appear on the Open Doors List, but are exposed to another series of challenges.
Hot topics such as corruption, protection of the environment, as well as moral issues, like abortion or gender ideology, place these countries in a very complex position to define the meaning of social well-being and happiness.
That is why “it's good to remember that there are serious risks in letting a political or state entity determine what is best for its citizens. Huxley's novel will always be there to warn us that if something as subjective and ambiguous as happiness becomes a state issue, it is possible that one day we will be censored for not collaborating or being part of the unstoppable progress towards the happiness of the nation”.
“AN ESCAPIST SOLUTION”
“Sometimes the search for happiness can become an escapist solution to situations that could help us mature if we could face them without avoiding them, despite how uncomfortable and emotionally painful it may be”, Sazo adds.
In addition, “if the ultimate goal of an organization is to give happiness to everyone, I think it would be interesting to ask if it is really necessary to be happy twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week”, the psychologist concludes.