The politics of happiness

When I say “the pursuit of happiness” in my blog tagline, I really mean it. I really care about the interconnection between women, technology, and happiness.

I realize now that it’s impossible to talk about happiness without talking about politics. Because there is such a thing as the politics of happiness.

Sometimes this becomes really clear. Take, for example, the decision to bar gay marriage. In a rational, legal sense, that decision denies gay couples a right (or the many rights that come with marriage). But in a personal sense, that decision prevents their pursuit of happiness (and if you don’t believe me, stare for a few seconds to one of the pictures of just married gay couples in San Francisco in February 2004).

[It turns out that the words “certain unalienable Rights” and among these “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness” that our Founding Fathers idealistically included in the Declaration of Independence, never made it into the American Constitution. They only agreed on the much blander Ninth Amendment “The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.”]

Sometimes the effect of politics on our personal life is subtle. Sometime it crushes us. Liz Lawley on Misbehaving.net talks about the chain of women’s blogs that connected her to Badger’s story.

So I found out about Badger by reading Lilia’s blog–and Lilia found her through Profgrrl, and Profgrrl found her through Academic Coach. A string of women blogging about women, connecting to other women, using blogging to change each other’s lives.

[Which clarifies the connection between the politics of happiness, women, and technology.]

Badger is a graduate student and her husband is an artist. Last year, Badger’s husband was diagnosed with liver cancer. Suddenly, the political decisions that shaped health care management in this country became brutally personal. Politics were letting Badger’s husband die.

Cost to date for surgery, CT-scans, hospital stays, doctors’ visits, and labwork: $79,000. Insurance benefit left for year: $21,000. Days left until new benefit year: 145. Response from Social Security Administration when I went down to their office with our 2004 tax returns to prove our lack of income: Priceless.

“There’s nothing I can do for you. Come back in two years.”

Prognosis of someone with stage four liver cancer: 3 months

[Read more about Badger and her husband; help Badger]

So, here it is. I tried to avoid blogging publicly about politics. But it turns out that it’s not possible to have an opinion on happiness (everybody looks for it, everybody deserves it) without talking about politics.

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3 thoughts on “The politics of happiness

  1. And I’m delighted to find your blog (via visits to my site on my typepad stats monitor.)

    Thanks for the comments about Badger — I agree that it is an awesome (and mostly female) community that has chipped in.

    Did you see the update? We done good.

    By the way, I made some book suggestions on your B. Schwartz post. But realized that I was assuming that you’d read Martin Seligman’s “Authentic Happiness” and “Learned Optimism” already. Just thought I’d check to make sure.

    Seligman’s a big fan of both Schwartz and Easterbrook.

  2. I have not read Seligman, but I’ll add it to the list of my readings, and thank you for the other reading suggestions.

    And thank you for the great post at Academic Coach. It was great to read the update and see that people responded.

  3. Hey lady,

    I thought I sent you the “Authentic Happiness” quite awhile ago:

    http://www.authentichappiness.org/

    Take the VIA Signature Strengths Survey. It’s very interesting!

    And since you mentioned it in your blog… YES! We need healthcare reform! I can tell you my thoughts on this later.

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