We're happy! We tell ourselves. We're the most prosperous! free! happy! people ever to live on earth! We're longer-lived, healthier, smarter, and just generally better off than anybody, ever, at any time on planet Earth. So we go on telling ourselves as we dash off to our counseling appointments, down our Prozac, or stare into the dregs of that latest bottle of wine.
Horsefeathers! You know what we sound like, assuring ourselves of our good fortune? We sound like the mechanized voices whispering to the pre-programmed bottle babies in Aldous Huxley's Brave New World: “Alpha children... work much harder than we do, because they're so frightfully clever. I'm really awfully glad I'm a Beta, because I don't work so hard. And then we are much better than the Gammas and Deltas.”
To believe how happy we are we have to ignore our rising rates of drug abuse, our soaring rates of depression, our backaches, our carpal tunnel syndromes, and our chronic fatigue syndrome. We have to ignore the billions of dollars and billions of hours we spend on mood-altering pharmaceuticals, drug-abuse counseling, headache remedies, mindless escape entertainment, day-care centers, status purchases, unhealthy comfort foods, shop-a-holic sprees, and doctor's care for all our vague, non-specific physical and mental ills.
You think that's how a happy person spends his time and money? Gimme a break!