The other day, I went to a spa. The Jacuzzi was lovely. The sauna was soothing. And the Chinese doctor, who turned out to be Italian, was kind.That’s nice for you, sweetie…
He took my pulse, gazed into my eyes and explained that the flow of chi, or energy, was all about the emozioni. So what, he asked, was the state of mine? For a moment, I was floored. Then the floodgates opened. I told him about a row at work. I told him about the Japanese earthquake. I told him about a friend who had died. The doctor nodded gravely, and picked up a pen. In his beautiful Italian handwriting, he wrote out a prescription for lavender tea and a massage called "change in wind".What’s that they say about ‘A fool and their money..’?
I thought of this when I heard that David Cameron's plan to measure happiness was starting this month.Yes, bet you did!
You might think that a year when a government is cutting hundreds of thousands of jobs, decimating public services and preparing to throw thousands of people out of their council homes, isn't an ideal time to be finding out whether those people start each day by whistling a happy tune.On the other hand, those hundreds of thousands who had previously been working to pay the inflated salaries and lifestyles of those people might have had cause to feel a bit chipper about it, eh?
There isn't, I think, a man in the country who could match David Cameron for optimism. This is a man who still looks as smiley and shiny and pink as the day he popped out of the womb. This, after all, is a man who thinks you can blow a giant hole in public spending without affecting "frontline services", and that you can axe public services and replace them with volunteers.It’s not the fault of Cameron that the vested interests in the civil service and local councils are chopping frontline services while ensuring their own little empires of five-a-day co-ordinators and diversity consultants, is it?
What's wrong with measuring what Cameron (a bit like the spa) likes to call its "well-being"?
Well, maybe nothing. The happiness studies, after all, seem remarkably consistent about what makes people happy, or at least reasonably satisfied, and what doesn't. What does, to summarise all the books you now won't have to buy, are things like a happy marriage, nice friends, good health and fulfilling work. Oh, and money. Not truckloads of it, but ideally a little bit more than the man next door.Since most of those things are actually within a person’s own reach, I fail to see how it’s seen as a politician’s remit?
Some of this is stuff that politicians can help with. Some of it isn't.So, what could they do, Christina?
What they can do is help with our health. They could, for example, ensure that the healthy school lunches, devised and championed by the nation's second most optimistic man, Jamie Oliver, which have cut absenteeism through sickness by 14 per cent, and boosted academic performance, don't, as looks likely, become too expensive for poorer parents to afford.Errrr….
They could make sure that all children in the state school system are encouraged – in a way that I clearly wasn't – to exercise, or play sport. They could limit the advertising of fast food to children. They could ban trans-fats. They could, in other words, try to prevent some of the conditions – obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer – which are threatening to bankrupt the NHS.Right, so your grand plan to increase happiness, which you are prepared to gift to the coalition free, is to increase the nannying, scolding, pettifogging NuPuritan aspect of the modern UK government?
I don't think anyone will be calling you, somehow.