There’s no doubt that the U.S. culture is famous for its promises of happiness. As age-old as the idea of the “American dream” is the idea that working hard and making money to create the life you want will lead you to happiness and bliss. It’s made painfully obvious in movies, TV shows, billboards and ads everyday: The best way to find happiness today, at this moment, is to buy it; whether it be a new shirt, a new car or a candy bar. As the level of affluence in the U.S. has grown, it would seem logical to assume that our level of happiness has also risen, but in reality, our general sense of satisfaction with our lives has been on the decline since the '50s.
This disturbing truth is behind the creation of a new film by Helena Norberg-Hodge, Steven Gorelick and John Page, entitled The Economics of Happiness. Through firsthand experience watching isolated communities become a part of globalization, via industrial agriculture, plastics, etc., the filmmakers have compiled evidence to show that our consumer culture has played a huge role in our loss of general happiness. Before this “Western modernization,” traditional communities had more leisure time, participated in work and labor that had a visible, meaningful impact in their lives, and relied on neighbors and community members for help when it was needed. Economic globalization replaced these qualities with conflict, financial instability, and the idea that nothing was ever quite good enough.