Politics

Political Effort and Happiness

By Michael Cumming
Published July 15, 2011

Happiness requires effort. People who do little tend not to be happy. People who go through terrible things are not necessarily miserable. Often they can be the happiest people around.

The great Italian humanist Primo Levi is a good example (though I believe he did suffer from depression later in life). Despite the fact he witnessed the Holocaust he was able to write a very moving literary account of his experiences in Auschwitz. I imagine that writing this must have required great effort. But we are so much richer as a result of his efforts.

I think about politicians who promote reactionary 'solutions' such as starting wars, policies that further stigmatize the poor and the disenfranchised, or even such relative trivialities as taking out bike lanes in car-clogged cities.

Are they following their own political ideology? Certainly. But another explanation is that maybe they're just being lazy. They don't expend the energy required to recognize the destructiveness of their words and actions. They don't attempt to come to better-integrated solutions because such solutions are hard to come by and require effort-sometimes Herculean effort. If they did expend this energy they might realize that the most productive path may require subtleties of thought.

Creative paths or policies tend not to destroy value. They enhance it. Not just for you and your pals, but for everyone. Politics need not be a zero-sum game.

Reaction takes less effort than creative thought because it depends so crucially on received opinion. Received opinion by its very nature is passive. Excessive passivity suggests laziness.

Sometimes the best idea is not the intuitive solution-it is often the counter-intuitive one. Quantum physics is the craziest thing you could ever think of, but it appears to run our universe.

To see the value in counter-intuitive solutions requires lots of thought and a consensus between other sentient beings that good ideas might sound crazy, but they also might just work.

First published on Michael's personal website.

Michael Cumming is a designer, writer and photographer concerned about sustainable design and urban development. He has training in Architecture and Computational Design and has lived in several cities in Canada, the US and Europe. He is delighted to have settled with his wife and two children in the Strathcona neighbourhood of Hamilton. You can view his website or follow him on Twitter.

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By Undustrial (registered) - website | Posted July 15, 2011 at 17:31:20

Are they following their own political ideology? Certainly. But another explanation is that maybe they're just being lazy.

A very good point. The "local" costs of spending a lot of time writing policies often outweighs the "global" costs of the decisions themselves. At least for decision-makers. Think about prohibition (of any kind). It's a very easy policy to write ("no"), but usually virtually impossible to carry out. Why does it continue? Because for those in power, it's easier to stick with the status quo than to find a balanced and fair solution which works for everybody (which is never easy).

Really creative solutions involve widening the base of people involved in making these decisions, so that people who are actually involved in paying the broader costs can speak up about them. Also, creativity usually comes best from a diverse range of voices.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted July 17, 2011 at 17:27:40 in reply to Comment 66261

Really creative solutions involve widening the base of people involved in making these decisions, so that people who are actually involved in paying the broader costs can speak up about them. Also, creativity usually comes best from a diverse range of voices.

Well said, Undustrial.

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By lawrence (registered) - website | Posted July 17, 2011 at 17:29:42

Michael, perhaps you would be the right person to direct the question I posed in response to Trey S's comment on the recent Stadium build blog post.

Is this sort of thing possible? If so how? If not, why?

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