Extracts from a Brazilian (not a Brazilian’s) diary: III

  • How happy were you yesterday?
  • How anxious were you yesterday?
  • How satisfied are you with your life?
  • To what extent do you think the things you do in life are worthwhile?

So asks The Office of National Statistics, as part of the UK government’s assessment of its people’s ‘well-being.’

Well, yesterday, despite my current escapist relocation – where I awake in already stinging sunshine to freshly-brewed coffee and fresh-cut mango, an early (veritable Sunday roast) lunch, and relax, and ponder ‘happiness’ (‘Continuous small achievement…’) – I was, after having lost three hours worth of work something I was working on (Don’t ask; just don’t ask.), well, you can guess. Not the best day for me to respond to such a survey. (I was having a cracking time the day previous. Can I use that?) I suppose, in asking 200,000(?) people, it will all even out, so the day in question is rendered irrelevant and a true picture of the nation’s collective well-being (strange phrase, don’t you think?) will emerge. Not convinced, mesen’.

I tell you what makes me happy, BS. It’s not having people I don’t know or don’t like asking me whether I’m happy. I’m only happy to be asked whether I’m happy by people I know and like (and am happy are really interested), and not some Psalm-quoting stranger on a train. I’m happy depending on who’s asking and when. I imagine that ‘Mind your own business’ is not on the scale of 1 to 10. Does it account for the ‘Uncertainty’ factor: once you start to analyse how happy you are, then can you give a truly objective rating to a wholly subjective state… a rating that will vary depending on… who is asking!. “Tudo bem?” (’Actually I’m as miserable as sin, but I don’t want to talk about it / I won’t bore you with tedious negativity, so…‘) “Tudo bom, obrigado”. Or does anonymity effect to render us more open and honest, or less guarded (like a pseudonymous blogger)? Presumably, as is the way with these Likert item-scored social science questionnaires, the questions cross-qualify in order to nullify ’incorrect’ or confused responses. (Is ‘anxious’ an antonym of ‘happy’?) Does it make you feel happy or anxious that your government is psycho-analysing you?

I wonder that there’s an element of “Thank you for asking? I feel so much better now. Isn’t it wonderful that our leader takes such an interest? He must be a very nice man.” Do me a favour! This PR careerist attempting to sell us his ‘Big Society’ vision deliberately misses the point that we already have (had?) one – it’s called the Public Sector. Just that, instead of paying (often poorly) good, hard-working people (in the main – there are always, grant you, exceptions) who do (the dirty) work for the public, for communities, for people’s health and well-being, education, etc, without aspiring to bloated personal fortune, fame and power (Oh, and science… in the main), he wants us to believe that much of this essential work should instead be done for nothing. Because the country apparently can’t afford to pay us all, many of us should become sacrificial volunteers. WAITT, while the wealthy (legally) re-squirrel their wealth among their untouchable tax loopholes and investments, and patronise the feck out of we inconsequentials.

Good luck with your survey, BS. I wonder how it will affect government policy. There’s a lot of information to be had from such analyses. I’m sure it will tell you just what you want it to. Which ought to make you very happy.

As for me, perhaps I should try and ignore (some of) what’s going on back home. Of concern here is whether I might have mis-specied the previous post’s bird. I’m not wholly sure whether it’s T. melancholicus, and not T. albogularis, the White-throated Kingbird. And here’s another I’m not sure of: ‘Arapaçu’, the Olivaceous Woodcreeper, Sittasomus griseicapillus (I think).

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