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Do we have the right to be happy?

by Roy Chambers (follow)
life (68)      happiness (53)      society (11)     
Attribution: Flickr - Britt Selvitelle

Thomas Jefferson is said to have written the famous list of 3 basic human rights, "Life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness". The only problem is - that is not what he wrote. His list was actually "Life, liberty and property". It was the Continental Congress that changed property to "Pursuit of happiness".

Attribution: Wikicommons - Jean Leon Gerome Ferris

While we live in societies where life, liberty and property are protected, it is hard to find the law that protects our happiness. I guess Jefferson was being practical, or maybe it was the Continental Congress who were practical as they believed they might need to take people's property for their revolutionary war.

Should there be a right of happiness? Have you ever had two jobs that are basically the same, with the same duties and responsibilities and salary. Yet in one job you are happy and the other you were not?

The answer is usually that you can't always expect to be happy. We do have laws that protect us from sexual harassment, bullying and being exploited. However nothing in that says we must be happy.

Is it that people believe that they need to make us unhappy to benefit themselves? Like a boss who doesn't understand why they can't call us at 10 pm at night; the boss that thinks they have the right to make us unhappy is a problem.

Or is it that happiness is so selfish that any social interaction, whether it is work, family or a relationship requires that we are not allowed to have what we want? For the benefit of society we must be unhappy.

Is it instead that we are moving to a society that understands we should be happy - that happiness is not a zero sum game where my happiness takes yours away, rather that we can all be happy?

Attribution: Flickr - Marcy Kellar

The happiness movement comes from the idea that we can and should be happy in our life. At the moment the law protects us from extreme loss of happiness. Abusive relationships, harassment, vilification and bullying are all illegal. Maybe in the future, we will have laws that protect happiness along with life, liberty and property except in extreme cases.

This makes happiness our responsibility. Not only our own happiness but the happiness of the community. Just as I can't obtain a Ferrari by stealing someone else's, they also can't take mine.

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Tough question. The best answer I can give is that everyone has the right to be happy, but there is no possible way to protect happiness. The only thing that can be prosecuted is if someone is intentionally and harassing, threatening, or seriously damaging your mental health in some way.
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