Friday, May 12, 2006

Will put a quiz on his blog; quizzes are a really great seed for lazy person writing, so I will take advantage of it here:

What are the essentials of a good life?
  1. Happiness
  2. Freedom from pain
Should everyone have them?

Heck yeah!

Do the resources exist to provide them?

Yes and no. I think that the resources presently exist in the world to provide everybody living in it with freedom from want. However, this isn't a stable situation. Resources are being consumed at a rapid rate; it's not clear that we can continue to consume them at the same rate without creating new resources.

Happiness is an internally generated state, and if you accept the idea that a person's life exists in isolation - no life preceding or following it - then I think it is not possible for everybody to be happy; indeed, I don't think it's even possible for more than a tiny minority to be happy. I think that leverage can be applied to this problem, but it would take actual magic to bring happiness to every person living in the world today, not just clever distribution of resources or education.

Likewise, freedom from actual pain seems like a remote hope. So many people are suffering because of problems with their physical body--problems for which there is no known solution. So I think it would be wrong to say that there can be freedom from pain without some kind of magic solution.

If the resources exist, will enough people share them?

No. The problem is that suffering is pervasive - it doesn't apply only to people who lack the most basic resources. This results in a situation where people feel unsatisfied; at the same time, people are taught that satisfaction comes through consumption. I don't mean there's a conspiracy - it's just that the causes for happiness are so obscure that consumption frequently feels like the only choice, and so it's a self-perpetuating cycle.

One of the results of the pursuit of material wealth as a cause for happiness is that until we achieve sufficiency, we feel that we are still effectively on the same level as all other people who have not achieved sufficiency. And since sufficiency is the state where we are happy, and happiness isn't attainable through material prosperity, it's very unusual for a person to realize that they are in a trap, and to break out of it; people who are free of this trap and able to truly share are rare, and generally don't tend to accumulate wealth, and so the level of sharing required to truly meet everyone's basic needs isn't possible. This is why you have "rich" people who don't share - they don't think of themselves as sufficiently rich, because their wealth hasn't yet succeeded in bringing them happiness.

Indeed, in many cases the very reason why there are people whose basic needs aren't being met is that those people live in a situation where some group of people who buy very strongly into the cult of selfishness are in charge, and those people are blind to the suffering that their selfishness creates, or simply believe it's justified. They restrict the basic freedoms of the people who do not have power, in order to exploit them, or sometimes even simply to eliminate them, and thereby eliminate their consumption of resources.

If the resources don't exist, can they be created?

Yes, but probably not in a single lifetime. And resources really aren't the problem anyway - the poor distribution of resources is a symptom of the actual problem. The problem is simply that people generally have no way to create happiness in their lives.


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