The Pursuit of Happiness

Presumably, if society wishes to return to even a semblance of what was once considered to be a “normal” way of life, mass vaccination is the only means available by which to do so. With this in mind, the Biden Administration should activate the “Defense Production Act” for coronavirus vaccines and distribute them to all qualified health professionals who can administer the vaccines so that everyone in America has access to them. This is perhaps the only way to get back to “normal.” Evidence also shows that as the number of injections for coronavirus vaccines go up, the number of coronavirus infections go down. California and Israel are cases in point which show that as more people get vaccinated, the number of coronavirus cases will decline in a population. Thus, governments should make a mass coronavirus vaccination campaign their foremost priority.

            Drastic measures are also needed on the economic front to increase economic productivity and growth, which have slowed on a global scale due to the coronavirus pandemic. Biden’s 1.9 trillion-dollar stimulus plan is perhaps a first step in a concerted effort towards taking measures which would improve the economic conditions of individuals and families who are most impacted by the pandemic. Secretary of the Treasury Janet Yellin has argued that if the stimulus plan is rolled out as planned, all Americans could have full employment by the year 2022. The plan includes $1,400 stimulus checks, unemployment assistance, funding for state, local, and tribal governments, 160 billion dollars for a national vaccination campaign, tax credits for families with children under the age of 17, tax credits for families whose children are in child care programs, an extension of the eviction ban, and funds to reopen schools.

It is unclear whether Biden’s stimulus plan will include student debt relief or an increase in the minimum wage. But many people in the United States and perhaps a majority of Americans are in favor of these measures, and these measures are perhaps very much needed for economic stimulus. Establishment economists like Larry Summers have sought to link Biden’s stimulus plan to a rise in inflation, but in reality, inflation – along with a drop in the annual GDP growth rate by half and a decline or stagnation of working-class wages – is linked to increases in defense spending and unnecessary wars over the last two decades. Big businesses and corporations that are involved in drugs, weapons, oil, and even social media companies use addiction and manipulation as a business model, which in turn have detrimental effects on the economy as a whole as shown by a recent documentary called “The Social Dilemma.”

            On an international level, political and social trends are not entirely favorable to Western countries. For one, America, Britain, Europe, and Russia are incredibly divided. Russia has recently expelled a number of German, Polish, and Swedish diplomats for taking part in anti-government protests in Russia. In turn, Germany, Poland, and Sweden have expelled Russian diplomats as a tit-for-tat measure. All this is happening at a time when Iran is rising as a regional power in the Middle East and China is reclaiming its historic preponderance over Asia. Also, it is highly unlikely that America can reclaim its position as global leader unless Americans elect a leader who can capture the hearts and minds of the international community a la Barack Obama.      

            In an international situation dictated by Western disunity and disorder, instability in the Middle East, and a rising China, how should policymakers respond? This author proposes a four-point plan which addresses international order and peace in a holistic manner:

  1. Cooperation with China on solving transnational dilemmas
  2. Forging of a peace agreement between Israel and Iran
  3. Setting the groundwork for Russian and Turkish integration into the European Union (EU)
  4. Fostering foreign direct investment (FDI) opportunities in Latin America and Africa as an alternative to aid for governments which spawns corruption

Afghanistan is perhaps the “Gordian Knot” of the international community that continues to haunt everyone. But the recent peace deal for Libya that was forged over the past week or so can perhaps serve as a template for the current Afghan peace process, which includes:

  1. The creation of an interim government that includes the creation of a four or five-member presidential council, which in turn represents the major Afghan ethnic and political groups (Taliban, Hazara, Uzbek, and Tajik)
  2. Elections after a 12 or 18-month period to replace members of the presidential council serving in the interim government

If the current Afghan government does not take a hardline approach against the Taliban and insists on continuing with the peace process, a commitment to the peace process can be sustained only through innovative ideas that would break the gridlock and cement a long-lasting solution to the long-standing conflict in Afghanistan, which has affected virtually every single Afghan around the world. The Afghan government can no longer stall the peace process by not making concessions to the other side, all while taking a soft stance against Taliban aggression.

            But Afghanistan, Libya, and many other countries in the “Global South” are ultimately victims of a Western weltanschauung that has undermined global peace and stability. For one, Western economic, political, and social engagement with the world is based on a simple but controversial notion that is revealed by both history and postmodernism, which is that Western culture, mores, and norms render Western peoples and sexuality both desirable and superior to all else. But the reality which underlies Western civilization is fear and paranoia, which in turn drives a sustained effort to control nature and reality through hyper-militarization and technology in order to achieve certainty and stability. However, the struggle to establish certainty and stability through hyper-militarization and technology actually leads to immense and widespread anxiety and stress. Also, because of China’s efforts to shape itself in the image of the West, there should be some sort of alternative way of life that is “Neither East nor West” as echoed by Iran’s national slogan, which in turn would provide some level of contentment and happiness.

            Life in the age of corporate expansionism, hyper-militarization, and rapid technological evolution is becoming too complicated and stressful for people, which is why many people are desperate to find contentment and happiness amidst the albatross. Aristotle said: “Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.” But there are simple ways to achieve happiness without going down the rabbit hole of self-help books and YouTube videos. Daisy Coyle, an American dietician, suggests that there are six primary ways by which an individual can boost their happiness. They include meditation, gratitude (although prayer would encompass gratitude), exercise, a balanced diet, outdoor activity, and sleep. Fortunately, it costs little to nothing in order to resort to these things. One need not be a millionaire, billionaire, president, or member of Congress to be happy and healthy. In the end, happiness has multiplier effects, which is why it is important for people to achieve happiness so that society can derive utility from its happiest and healthiest individuals.

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