The Index of Happiness
By Hasala Perera
Sri Lanka has been ranked at 129 out of 149 Countries in the World Happiness Report published this year, even though we have come up one spot from 2020 (130th), in 2019 and 2018 we were ranked at 116, which is a 13 spots fall. Despite the beauty this Island nation has to offer and the free education and medical service we proudly boast, why are we Sri Lankans unhappy?
In contrast, another country that also gives free health and education, Denmark requires every working Danish citizen to pay around 45 per cent of their income in taxes, yet, it is one of the happiest countries in the world, ranking second in the same report.
This is because the Danish people have trust in the quality of the services offered by their government, which is clearly seen in their attitude towards their government’s taxation policy, they see their taxes as an investment, they believe that what they pay as taxes are been returned to them through the services provided by their government, which is scarcely the case with us. You would hardly come by a Sri Lankan who has an income tax file, let alone someone who considers his taxes as investments.
In addition to that, they are content with their living standards. Most Danish people ride bicycles rather than driving cars because they are well aware of their limitations and needs, compared to many Sri Lankans who although drive a range of vehicles that move faster and are more comfortable than bicycles, lose their mind in the middle of the road for minor scratches or dents inflicted on their vehicles from accidents caused by their own recklessness.
In Denmark, while travelling in a taxi in Copenhagen, the driver asked me if I was from India, when I said I was from Sri Lanka he seemed shocked. Throughout our journey he said the word ‘Sri Lanka’ time and time again and even inquired from where in Sri Lanka I am from. I realised then that he knew something more about the country than just its name.
“I have visited Sri Lanka 11 times”, he said. At this point, I was quite thrilled to learn he had visited so many times but that feeling soon died down as he went on tell me a rather sad story of his experience in Sri Lanka.
He shared the story of how his father had purchased a land outside Colombo, which was later inhabited by some squatters. This issue had him travelling frequently to Sri Lanka to deal with the court case that dragged on for several years until a gentleman offered to buy the land from him but for a fraction of its land value.
‘I just wanted to finish off with it,’ he explained his reason to sell.
This anecdote made me terribly sad and ashamed to hear. There was only so much consoling I could do to soften the hurt he had to endure. “When we were young we were told to be kind and nice to people but when we realise that others don’t have the same values...” he abruptly ended the sentence rendering me speechless.
“That was the only bad experience I had in Sri Lanka,” he followed up.
He happily took it as the ‘only bad experience’, even though he faced a trying incident. However, he was able to see beyond that. He spoke about good things that Sri Lanka had offered him. He was trying to see the positive side of things, a trait that is only found in happy people.
Values are no longer taught in homes or school curriculums unless a parent or a teacher recognises its importance and decides to pass them on to their children or pupils – an unhappy parent or a teacher can never instil good values to a child.
A country is considered happy only if its people are happy, the facts shown here prove that it isn’t the wealth, facilities or experience that makes a person happy, but the levels of contentment and the attitudes towards adversities that makes a person happy.