The Null Device
MC Dicko could be the next Icy Hot Stuntaz. He's an 8-year-old gangsta rapper from Chester (that's in the north of England), who busts rhymes (in a very loose sense of the word) about how "bitches and ho's" have been fucking him over (which, I imagine, is wigga-speak for "girls have cooties" or something), between recounting the occasional ghetto gunfight (which may have happened in his imagination, or be a true story from the X-Box ghetto) and thugged-up versions of primary-school arguments. Sample lyric: "Shoot the fuckin' wannabe wiggas bitch".
Listen to the first two songs. Then, when you've picked yourself up from the floor and stopped laughing, listen to the third track, "Biscuits Skit", a rap about eating biscuits, and behold a world of improvement (for one, he actually bothers to rhyme rather than just rant angrily about fantasy battles, and does a very competent job). I imagine that when he drops the derivative gangstaisms and develops his own voice, he could go a long way.
More on the subject of happiness and its exact nature: Edge.org talks to Daniel Gilbert, a researcher on the subject (he is director of Harvard's Hedonic Psychology Laboratory):
My research with Tim Wilson shows that when people try to simulate future events -- and to simulate their emotional reactions to those events -- they make systematic errors. Modern people take the ability to imagine the future for granted, but it turns out that this is one of our species' most recently acquired abilities -- no more than three million years old. The part of our brain that enables us to simulate the future is one of nature's newest inventions, so it isn't surprising that when we try to use this new ability to imagine our futures, we make some rookie errors. The main error, of course, is that we vastly overestimate the hedonic consequences of any event. Neither positive nor negative events hit us as hard or for as long as we anticipate.
We're all told that variety is the spice of life. But variety is not just over-rated, it may actually have a cost. Research shows that people do tend to seek more variety than they should. We all think we should try a different doughnut every time we go to the shop, but the fact is that people are measurably happier when they have their favorite on every visit -- provided the visits are sufficiently separated in time.
Those last four words are the important ones. If you had to eat 4 donuts in rapid succession, variety would indeed spice up your experience and you'd be wise to seek it. But if you had to eat 4 donuts on 4 separate Mondays, variety would lower your overall enjoyment. The human brain has tremendous difficulty reasoning about time, and thus we tend to seek variety whether the doughnuts are separated by minutes or months.
Even in a technologically sophisticated society, some people retain the romantic notion that human unhappiness results from the loss of our primal innocence. I think that's nonsense. Every generation has the illusion that things were easier and better in a simpler past, but the fact is that things are easier and better today than at any time in human history.
Our primal innocence is what keeps us whacking each other over the head with sticks, and it is not what allows us to paint a Mona Lisa or design a space shuttle. It gives rise to obesity and global warming, not Miles Davis or the Magna Carta. If human kind flourishes rather than flounders over the next thousand years, it will be because we embraced learning and reason, and not because we surrendered to some fantasy about returning to an ancient Eden that never really was.
(via Mind Hacks)
In an attempt to shed the image of being "the Nasty Party", Britain's Tories have been bending over backwards to espouse un-Tory-like positions, without going so far as to make any concrete promises that might actually adversely affect profits. First they attempted to greenwash themselves with their "go green, vote blue" campaign, and had their charismatic new leader, David Cameron, very publically cycle to his office (with a staffer following discreetly in a car, carrying paperwork); and now, they're borrowing an idea from Bhutan (or at least borrowing its overall appearance) and promising to make national happiness a priority:
In the first of several speeches on families and community, Mr Cameron told a conference organised by Google: "It's time we admitted that there's more to life than money, and it's time we focused not just on GDP but on GWB - General Wellbeing.
"It's about the beauty of our surroundings, the quality of our culture and above all the strength of our relationships. There is a deep satisfaction which comes from belonging to someone and to some place. There comes a point when you can't keep on choosing; you have to commit."
Mr Cameron's speech, seen as an attempt both to distance the party from its Thatcherite past and to underline its portrayal of the chancellor as obsessed with work and regulation, said Britain should "move beyond a belief in the Protestant work ethic alone". But he added that regulation could make business less competitive and that the key was to educate companies and encourage good practice.Of course, promises are cheap, and policies are another thing. Whether, when push comes to shove, the Tories would translate all their happy talk of leisure and work-life balance into concrete policies that might adversely affect profits (such as, for example, ending Britain's opting out from the European working time directive, which would limit work week lengths, averaged over a period, to an indolently un-Anglo-Saxon 48 hours), or just borrow New Labour's trick of frantically spinning in one direction whilst legislating in the opposite, is another matter.
Meanwhile, the Graun's Nick Pearce argues that focussing on happiness is inherently right-wing and regressive:
Happiness also has little to tell us about some of the most difficult issues of our times. Because it places a particular vision of the good life above procedural fairness, it is largely silent on human rights and constitutional government. It struggles to tell us anything useful about what morally to value in life and has little to say about the red-green agenda of marrying ecological sustainability and social justice concerns.
Happiness is therefore a flexible friend for the political right. It can provide a veneer of radicalism to a project that eschews difficult trade offs and policy choices. In the wrong hands, it appeals to a stressed out, downshifting middle class but speaks less to those suffering the misery of poverty.