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Are the British a nation of Victor Meldrews?


I don’t say this in a judgemental way but cats are pointless. During the war, when people were training dogs to sniff out bombs and dolphins to use the telephone, they tried to get cats to help but cats couldn’t be bothered.

Give them a choice between victory for the Allied Forces or clean ears and they’d go for clean ears. Dogs want approval, dolphins like to show off. But cats? Cats place pleasure above duty. I quite like that about cats - they like to be happy. It isn’t a useful or helpful happiness but it is happiness nonetheless.

I like the fact that politicians are putting happiness on the political agenda. I don’t trust it but I like it. I have often been called naive for banging on about our propensity to create joy being more important than our capacity to make profit. But let’s be honest - it is telling that research is saying that, despite the fact that people are wealthier than they were 50 years ago, they are not any happier.

Maybe the British people enjoy being miserable. How else would you explain Nick Clegg, rail fares, wage freezes, the M6 and Westlife? Perhaps a government that is going to foist happiness on a reluctant population is heading for disaster. Maybe an anti-happiness stance is the way back to power for the uncertain Ed Miliband?

‘Maybe the British people enjoy being miserable. How else would you explain Nick Clegg, rail fares, wage freezes, the M6 and Westlife?’

There isn’t a formula for happiness. No doubt there will be soon and, when there is, some pharmaceutical company will try to patent it. But you can’t produce it in any scientific or industrial way. The best we can hope for is that circumstance might help enable happiness. And maybe the causes of this happiness may be socially productive in some way. More love, peace or laughter? As opposed to more self indulgence, greed or destruction? Because happiness - while being a wholly good thing that should be encouraged - is not necessarily an end in itself is it?

Politicians should stay away from happiness lest they break it. If they want to have a positive effect on the world, rather than try to grow happiness, they might like to start thinking about ethics.

Should there be a difference between a good political decision and a good moral one? I don’t think so. Any political project that is not founded on a pursuit of doing collective good is ethically questionable. How can we say this is a morally sound government when anything that services the public - from healthcare to education - is devalued, punished and insulted?

Nurses know winter hits the weakest hard, which makes it a struggle at the best of times. If we want to help people be happy amid the cold and snow, we should stop talking about how to measure or value happiness and start ensuring its possibility by growing our health service, not punishing it for costing money.

Surely, the shortest route to collective happiness is to try to do the most good? Isn’t that achieved not by servicing the ever dominant and increasingly abstract “economy” but by clarifying how to do the most good for the most people? It is time we started fighting back to bring the ideals of public service back to the fore.


Readers' comments (8)

  • Now Mark there was a cat that won a RSPCA bravery medal in the war whilst serving on board a ship. Now he wouldn't have enlisted if he didn't think the fight against fascism was worth while would he?

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  • Just got to love that cat. Hitler was a dog person wasn't he?

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  • of course we're a nation of Victor Meldrew's, that's what makes us British!

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  • i am long since of the opinion - as a dog person - that cats regard us as staff at best and lower beings on an everyday basis.

    are we missing something here?

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  • Very well said Mark, can we make you Prime Minister instead of that other guy

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  • Yes the british are a bunch of racist miserable people. Its the essence of Britishiness

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  • Grumbling seems to be an unattractive and inherant British character trait. No matter whether they have it good or bad they seem to prefer whingeing and passivity to taking some initiative and doing anything to change the source of their miscontent which makes one think they take more pleasure from moaning than from anything that works well for them. They alway presume that if they grumble and demonstrate their discontent enough others will get up and do something for them so that they need not be further involved until they find something else to grumble about.

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  • I love the grumblers .. they motivate me to focus on the positive aspects of my life 'real' issues - most grumbles seem to be about (in no particular order )weather, VAT, beer prices, petrol prices ... it's all relative and part of our great British culture! Some sections of our society do seem to have a bit more to grumble about than others - often they are the ones that grumble the least and deal with life with a well developed sense of humour! There are lots of them in the north-west and after a long time away am enjoying the warmth and wit of the grumblers this end of the country!!

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