Jun 16, 2010

The Subway Singer: Another (Great) New York Story

Many years ago (1998) I was returning from a night class at NYU's school of Continuing Education and had just come out of the subway on 34th street when I heard this amazing, booming voice singing Aretha Franklin's R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

I had just moved here from Bhutan, and although I grew up and lived in Bhutan all my life I, like many Bhutanese, grew up listening to western music (we didn't have TV so books, music, sports and walks/treks were our source of entertainment) and as you can see (ahem) we had good choice and a good ear for good music.

Anyhow, so as I came out I heard, like I said, this amazing voice as good as Aretha - well maybe not as good because it was not in a recording studio, nor were there sophisticated acoustics but definitely way better than any of the good looking and manufactured artists that are thrust into our faces these days - and I was transfixed. It's not everyday that a subway singer gets plucked out (like Tracy Chapman) and gets lifted to stardom so although she was amazing you could see she'd been doing it for a long time.

The Editor-in-Chief comes calling on Happiness.

About a week ago ? (I've lost track) I received an email from Dasho Kinley Dorji (once my editor, then Editor in Chief of Kuensel, now Secretary of the Ministry of Information in Bhutan and author of "Within the Realm of Happiness").

He emailed to tell me that my post on GNH in Vermont had some "holes" in them. Valid point. That is why writers NEED editors and even though bloggers have the liberty to write/bang away at their keyboards to glory, we are seriously lacking of people who can keep a check on our editorial skills.

"..fill in between the journey to the mtg and return," was the advice. And my response: "Its a blog post, so be prepared for the holes, but I would love for you to give me feedback. Really appreciate it." And that goes for other readers too. Fill me in. 

However, the Chief wasn't just calling to check in on my editorial skills, he also wanted to share what he had on "Happiness" since he was commenting on my post on "Gross National Happiness." A few years ago he had made a speech at one of the most prestigious schools, Woodstock, in North East India run by American Missionaries (?)  and he told me what he had shared with the students there. 

I thought I would share his Commencement address to the graduating students (I don't know which year) with my readers as it has everything to do with GNH and it's really about how one generation should be speaking to the next one.  This is what the process of GNH is really about, to get people thinking and to make ourselves more conscientious of our roles in this world.

I have chosen a very serious topic today - Happiness.
In the broader perspective its about life. What is the purpose of education and work? Why do we go to school, to college? Why do we learn different professions? Why do we work? 
Why did the world introduce the so-called development process?  Seven decades ago, after World War II, with the world divided into rich and poor countries (the north and south), it was decided that the poor societies needed to develop. 
This meant that we needed to improve our lives, to progress, to “civilise”. It meant that development would make our lives better. Ultimately, the goal was to make us HAPPY, happiness being the aspiration of all people.  

Jun 11, 2010

Meeting the Bhutanese Refugees at Vermont.

I was going to take my time writing this piece because I wanted to get more information on the other discussions that had transpired between the Bhutanese participants and the refugees who attended the Vermont Conference on GNH (Gross National Happiness). However, I am forced to start writing it now because of how the comments on Burlington turned out.  Lisa Napoli's 3 minute piece for NPR was also attacked by two groups i) a Christian fundamentalist ( Fundamentalists have a vested interest in increasing the number of converts in places like Bhutan and Nepal they do so through social and youth organizations - after all why not target the last bastions for Mahayana Buddhism and weaken the stronghold? and  ii) those who claim ethnic cleansing of Nepalis from Bhutan.

Are you sure?

Before I delve into the history of the refugees, I must say that every time I see people discussing this problem, it is by those who have never even been to Asia, leave alone Bhutan, and journalists who have done a half-assed research/interview job having lifted the information from something they "read" often on the internet, and then proceeded to write about it without any research whatsoever.

Jun 5, 2010

Gross National Happiness, not so Fuzzy or Gross after all.

Gross National Happiness, a BS conference for Hippies and retarded Libs?

Driving up to Vermont for the Gross National Happiness (GNH/USA) conference, my friend Karen and I joked about what to expect from it. "I packed my birkenstocks but I forgot to bring white socks," I said. She laughed and told me she really didn't know what to expect, whether it was going to be talk only about learning from Bhutan or something more, " but I think I'm going to love it!"

As we pulled into down-town Burlington a car with New Jersey plates that said "Zen" popped up in front of us, "Oh he's definitely going to this conference," she said and we both laughed again.

We probably sounded nothing different from those who were posting comments on Burlington  in response to the article :"Burlington conference to discuss Gross National Happiness"

One said: "Another BS conference about nothing. Figure the useless whackjobs on the left have a hand in it."

Another said: 'Bhutan's current king has called for "an enlightened society in which happiness and well-being of all people and sentient beings is the ultimate purpose of governance."
Happiness and well-being are two things the .gov can't provide to anyone.' 

And yet another wrote : "This was part of the vision that inspired six Vermonters to travel to Bhutan in November 2008 to attend the fourth International Gross National Happiness Conference."
I have a better idea. They should move there instead, and take some of the leisure class with them. I'll donate a ticket or two as well... I guess this is the official "Kum-by-ah" conference for burned out hippies and retarded libs and progs. 

Jun 4, 2010

National Assembly Resolution for MP's Pay Hike has been SCRAPPED

Last year December 2009 I wrote this piece "BIG DISAPPOINTMENT TO THE PEOPLE" under Democracy/Politics about the decision of the parliament members to increase their own salary.

Click the link/title and you can read the follow up story from Kuensel about the decision this year to SCRAP that idea. Faith restored! Good job in realizing that this was not a good idea!

Jun 3, 2010

Going Beyond GDP - Eric Zencey suggests

 Yesterday, June 2, best selling Novelist and professor at Empire State College Eric Zencey talked about the need to go beyond GDP indicators to show how successful an economy is. He has a new book coming up, “The other road to serfdom” about the Economy in U.S
 He says the idea of going beyond GDP is because of its failure as an indicator to assess many other things like social wellbeing, and sustainable wellbeing. He says there is a need for a new measure that includes all these. He is promoting a new theory called Ecological Economics.
 What is wrong with GDP? He asks.
 Relying on GDP as an indicator for everything is a fallacy of misplaced concreteness. It is like holding a match on a thermostat when you are feeling cold. The temperature on Thermostat goes up but you are still cold and everything is not alright. The Thermostat is just an indicator but it doesn’t capture details and the real picture.

Jun 2, 2010

Pursuit to Happiness - Venerable Amy Miller Tibetan Buddhist Nun

An American Buddhist nun talks about her pursuit to happiness; an inner journey, at the GNH conference in Vermont

 Venerable Amy Miller.aka Ven. Lopsang Chodren, a Buddhist nun who runs the Milarepa Center in Vermont.
My relationship to Happiness. I was a political fundraiser in Washington. I was planning conventions for 1000s of people and wanted something substantive but after my boss got fired I was catapulted into the front of the Senate race. I had great apartment, great life and access to powerful people.
I had a nagging thought though – you have all this and then you die. So I went to work with the homeless, in Washington DC where I worked in a soup truck in District of Columbia.

At that time a famous actor was President of the U.S. During his time the budget to social sector was cut, especially in the mental health sector. We could see lines of homeless increasing so it was frustrating.

After series of events wound up working in California for Mother Jones magazine/political magazine. I got jaded to fund-raising from Liberal Activists from upper west side. I was interested in helping people and they would tell me to try and raise money for this liberal magazine but their idea of helping was different.

Happiness 101- Dr. Susan Andrews (GNH conference Vermont)

Dr. Susan Andrews, Future Vision Eco-village, Brazil

GNH is Profound process for social change. Not an indicator, it is a new consciousness. It is a recognition of interdependence, community vitality is important factor in GNH. Empathy also an important content in GNH. A state of total heart connection. That is where human society should be moving and I think it is moving in that direction. 

Does one have to unlearn (culturally) that money brings happiness? Societies like U.S/west do.

Marketing - art of getting you to buy what you don't need, with money you don't have to impress people you don't like. Since it is science these people have penetrated the psychology.Vermont has a law that prohibits billboards for many years.

Happiness 101 - you think you know what makes you happy, but you don't. We are deluded to think that money makes us happy. We have short memories/faulty memories and that is the myth, that is also what makes us think that that is what makes us happy.

What really makes us happy? Scientists have established there are "Set points" for Happiness; we have it for everything like weight for instance someone will think if I lose 20 pounds I would feel better/happier etc.