We write an awful lot about politics and other societal ills in these editorial spaces, but sitting in a park on a sunny morning, watching people relax and listening to the birds chirping and grass growing, it all seems so very far away.
In many ways, it is. Worries about whether construction projects are going to be union or non-union, crime rates, good and bad decisions by city councils, even the problems of homelessness and drug abuse, all fade away as we slow down.
It doesn’t mean those problems are gone, or meaningless. They are very real, requiring real thought and real solutions.
But in the discussion, the arguments and the details, the real goal gets lost.
We rarely speak about it, but the overall goal is creating a world where we can all share equally in what the U.S. Declaration of Independence calls “the pursuit of happiness.”
Since we don’t all agree on what brings us happiness, we do need all those rules and regulations, even etiquette, to ensure we all get along, and that one person’s pursuit of happiness isn’t taking away from someone else’s.
It’s not easy to figure out what creates happiness. Too often, we replace that pursuit of happiness with the acquisition of status symbols and other forms of instant gratification like Facebook likes.
We need to have a larger—a more long-term—vision, especially on the part of our politicians and bureaucrats. Politicians have their own version of likes: our votes. Sadly, too often they are willing to pursue election or re-election at the expense of good policy, instead pandering to whatever they think will get the most attention, like fighting a carbon tax, without offering a reasonable alternative.
We need laws, we need solutions to the problems, but we should always have that long-term vision of creating a better place to live for everyone.
The easier path, of course, is to continue on as we have been, crushing the earth under our pipelines, pollution, enough plastic garbage to form islands in the oceans and such. Or we can slow down, relax, and figure what really brings happiness for everyone in the long term, like building affordable housing instead of McMansions for the one per cent.
And then, make sure the politicians know what we want. Their happiness comes from being in office, let’s make sure they know what they have to do if they want to stay that way for a long time.