Thursday, May 15, 2008

Unhappy Kingdom

Unhappy Kingdom-a TV proposal 30minute documentary

Depression in Britain has been increasing since the 1950’s. Suicide among young people is at an all time high, mental health institutes are over subscribed and the use of anti-depressants is raging out of control. The nations workplaces are staffed by thousands of stressed out, debt laden workers. Yet the British government still prides itself on granting development aid to raise the well being of people in poorer countries. But, if the surveys are correct and Blair’s cabinet has not succeeded in fulfilling its own peoples needs, how do politicians determine what will bring happiness in other countries?

A highly energized Tracy Ward ended her acting career when she married into wealth and privilege to become the Marchioness of Worcester (soon to be the Duchess of Beaufort). Her extensive travels across Africa and Asia radically changed the Marchioness’s perception of the world. She became convinced that a woman living in a remote tribal village in India actually has a better quality of life than she does living in 21st century Britain.

The Marchioness asks-‘In India the sharing of work with the community, whether it be planting, harvesting, weaving or building a home, is a pleasure rather than a chore. Does development have to mean sacrificing a good quality of life to acquire a high standard of living? And who is really richer – a tribal woman or me?

Is this just the romantic notion of a woman surrounded by the comfortable trappings of the aristocracy? How would she fare amongst the harsh reality facing over two billion people living on less than US$2 a day?

The Marchioness will enquire amongst her own circle of peers, which include economists, celebrities and land owners, how they measure both their own and the nations happiness. Is it gauged by the average income or worth of their possessions? Perhaps it’s the amount of available time to spend with friends and family? Ask a corporate leader and they point to GDP statistics. Ask a politician and they quote the World Bank’s ‘Wealth Index’. But is the United Nations ‘Human Development Index’ with its wider indicators on education provision, human rights records and life-expectancy more accurate as a happiness indicator?

With this question in mind, the Marchioness will embark on a journey into the folds of the Himalayas. She will explore how the Kingdom of Bhutan has a very different vision of development, far beyond economic motivated growth. The Bhutanese Government gauge their nations growth in terms of Gross National Happiness (GNH). Under the GNH policy, compassion and co-operation are deemed just as important to achieving happiness as competition is. The individual is always considered at the center of all development efforts.

After interviewing the King of Bhutan about his GNH policy, the Marchioness will then trek on foot for days into the isolated villages of the Himalayas. With little hot water and no comfortable beds, she will rough it along the route trying to convince the audience that her view of undeveloped people as having a higher quality of life goes beyond just romance.

But will the harsh realities of a peasant farmer’s life scraping out a living in sub-zero Bhutan change her views?

Copyright Paul O’ Connor 07973 298359/ 01792 455900 paulo@undercurrents.org

No comments: