There’s a belief out there that children ought to be happy. Such a optimistic belief in obligatory joy for children (and people) is problematic on multiple levels.
The first generally falls within the issue of happiness as a be-all and end-all to life. Many people stress that happiness is the ultimate goal in life, it is Nirvana. Media, movies and music all stresses this hedonistic message. Pleasure is the end-goal, particularly emotional pleasure that up-lifts you – negatives are minimized in your life, and all the positives are maximize to the point of perpetual bliss. A mental bliss of hedonistic proportions is the end goal.
Ignorance may be bliss to some, but it is still blindness- and by my books ignorance is a curse, not a antidote. Some of us in the first world may be able to afford illiteracy, but it comes at the peril of progress for others. A rich Canadian is likely unaware of the systemic poverty amongst Aboriginals in Canada – for a moral character may think their wealth unfair when others are in plight. A moral, sympathetic and empathic human may themself feel guilt and sadness when confronted with the poverty within ones country and world.
These feelings of empathetic sorrow are negative ones – they are not jocular. The mantra of a “happy mind” disregards empathy for those in dire and unfortunate circumstances – and furthermore evades those who truly need support. For a perennially happy mind you can block external stimuli in order to feel better – for most in it live in disproportionally bad conditions; and that is not a happy reality.
Those who are in the most dire straights can not be optimists, they can not afford to be ignorant like us privileged folk.
For this is the root of the issue. This ultimate goal of cerebral heaven ignores morality, integrity and humanity. With morality, you strive for the right thing – and this may not be the thing that makes you happy. This may be the thing that makes somebody else happy, or at least placates them. It’s possible to rig your mind to reward moral behavior, but this is more of a temporary satisfaction. Some do it to avoid feeling glum and guilt, others do it to give them a temporary boost. It is not about oneself and personal happiness, it is about recognition that within humanity and civilization, there are some base codes and conduct you need to have with people and society.
Next is integrity, for without it morality would be hollow. Integrity is something you hold yourself to. It is a personal code – a code of consistency and fairness. When it comes to morality, you cannot pick and choose when to be moral. It is similar to the laws of a nation: all laws are laws. Though, perhaps morality is of more significance. Integrity tells you that a person who looks less desirable to you should be treated with the same respect to somebody you consider much more physically attractive Integrity tells you to put aside your self-interest in certain matters, and go for personal consistency in your dealings with people.
Do not strive for psychological paradise; but rather satisfaction. Satisfaction for a variety of legitimate reasons: pleasure and fun in life is necessary, but you must remember to have character. You must remember to be moral. You must remember to be humane. You must remember to have integrity. All of this must trump the hedonistic impulses and societal pressures to simply “be happy”.
Smiling is good. Or so you’d think, right? Smiling is the true expression of happiness and social position. Women that smile are treated better. Women that smile are happy. You see it everywhere – particularly in dental related commercials, or cosmetically orientated products. Turn that frown upside down, be happy! Show your radiance to the world. Show the world you’re confident. Show the world you’re beautiful. Show the world you’re happy.
Happiness is the default of all humans – our culture decrees (and you cannot cross culture, for you will be ostracized, isolated or worse). Despite working two jobs to support a family, you must present a smile. Despite being kicked out of the house at age 16, you must be happy. Despite working under a shitty manager, you must present a professional smile.
“Hey, how are you buddy?” “I’m fine” or so the exchange typically goes. Seldom does a true exchange partake. Nobody wants to hear about how you’re struggling to the pay the mortgage you were pressured in to buying, and upon reflection maybe you shouldn’t have bought the house. People would rather keep on walking after that brief exchange, they don’t want to trouble themselves with the truth about people – that many people are miserable, and those miserable are ignored and pushed aside.
They’re pushed aside because they upset the natural balance. They upset the Happiness Is The Default. They upset the vapid culture that places emphasis on appearance, first impression, fashion instead of expression, venting and discourse. Smiling is your mask and you must wear it. To open your mouth to form words of a negative and distressing nature stresses people – please, form your lips to a smile to keep the order of ignorance in play.
There’s a reason homeless people tend to congregate together, instead of around the residential areas where housed people are. Heck, there’s a reason there’s homelessness at all: we’d rather not deal with that harsh reality. We’d rather pretend there isn’t homelessness, be happy, and push them somewhere so we can maintain our smiles.
“Niceness is the recognition of grace over substance.” –Me.
Children and unhappiness
Either you act nice, or be prepared to get a scolding. Parents are particularly pressing towards their children – or they can be. Some parents expect their children to act a certain way during certain occasions. Family events, holidays, public events or birthdays.
On these occasions, smile! Show recognition to everyone around you – like them, act cordial and friendly. Never frown, never pout and especially never be openly contemptuous.
You are expect to grace them with the superficial accommodations expected of such events. You must put on a show. Do you think it fucking matters whether you care or not?
Some malicious parents may punish children for not acting the part. A child disliking his abusive uncle and showing it is anathema for Presentation Parents – that child needs a chiding to learn its lesson. Your asshole uncle should not be greeted with a frown, but rather a smile – or there will be no desert for you.
Besides this being disgustingly hypocritical and amoral, the implications facing the child are even more disgusting. This priority of many “guardians” places the shallow presentation of their children over the childrens actual feelings and concerns. This obligatory happiness and communal niceness takes precedence over the real emotions and issues that may be facing the child. It does not matter how much pain the child is in internally, he or she must suppress any ill feeling and take one for the team.
Such an attitude ferments ill in children, as they are discouraged from expressing their true feelings and have parents would would prefer the aroma of nicness and happiness to actual happiness for the child.
The culture expectation of Happiness As Default creates sorrow for those who need to be heard. Amongst the disadvantaged, and amongst the powerless – children included. Those who deserve a voice; those who have negative experiences and conditions that need to be addressed rather than suppressed. Putting our hedonistic desire for ignorant bliss ahead of redressing the woes of those who need it is folly and harmful. Your shallow desire for niceness and happiness is a boon on society, not an availment.
Cast aside your cosmetic and desultory expectations, and replace it with a true compassion for humanity.