What I would say to yer man (that’s my polite term for the PM) is this: why don’t you visit a drive-through McDonalds and talk to the talking post there; measure the post’s wellbeing. Then you can go to the first window where the person takes your money. They can’t actually interact with you when they are conducting the financial transaction because they are the disembodied voice in the post and they are now “talking” to the person behind you. They won’t really be able to look at you and you won’t really look at them. So you have one person, employed, hopefully healthy and with friends and family who might go home and volunteer and care and read Kafka for all I know (ticking yer boxes Dave), but in this role they talk to you through a post, and avoid all eye-contact. How is impersonating a talking post and not acknowledging each other’s humanity a measure of happiness?
Is it quicker for me to talk to the post and then hand over my money silently through the window as the employee talks to the car behind? No, it is not. There is not less talk or speedier talk, in fact, if anything, it is slower because I am deaf and can’t lip read the frickin post. What it does do is dehumanises us all. Just like the self-service checkouts at supermarkets, the petrol station cashiers who have to ask me every day if I want random doughnuts or coffee with that? I don’t, I never do, I never will. Caffeine is just so never an impulse buy when I am in here nearly every day of the week and live one minute away. Just like the banks that don’t want to talk to you or help you, or the teachers that are forced to invest as much time in the paperwork as their learners. Just like the parents that have to leave their children with low-paid childcare workers for 10 hours every day just to not afford a holiday and hardly ever see their children.
Measure the effects of all that Mr Cameron and you will know why modern society is an unhealthy and unhappy place for many people to live in. But those people who really aren’t very “happy” probably won’t ever answer your damn survey and so you’ll never know. So wouldn’t it be far better to spend your rabbit out of hat £2 million on finding ways to reduce the mental unwellbeing in the UK? We are, according to Oliver James, twice as likely to have a mental illness as our European neighbours, a statistic he puts down to “our materialistic values, heavily stimulated by the fact that for 50 years, we have spent twice as much on advertising to our population.”
Twice as much advertising = twice as much mental illness? Well it’s possible and looking at that would be a much better activity than asking the fucking obvious.
That is so obviously the last word isn’t it? But by way of a postscript I will share the parting shot of the ONS consultation questionnaire. It’s this gem:
Which of the following ways would be best to give a picture of national well-being?
Please choose one option only.
Single measure of overall life satisfaction/happiness
Small selection of indicators
Large set of indicators
Single index of national well-being (lot of information combined into a single number)