And so, in a survey conducted by the WIN/ Gallup International Association, Colombia was officially named as the happiest country in the world by the end of 2012. Apparently nearly 56,000 people were interviewed and Colombia came out trumps regarding a scale of happiness.
My initial reaction was to gawk at this survey and ask just how scientific could it really be? And, what cross section of society was interviewed. There is just too much to factor in to a survey of this kind to truly take anything worthwhile or meaningful from the data.
“As far as you are concerned, do you personally feel happy, unhappy or neither happy nor unhappy about your life?”
I am Happy in Colombia
I live in Colombia and I am very happy, not only for being here, I am happily married, am running a successful business, have food on my plate, can afford to travel, am returning to study and am in good health. These for me are fine levels and measures of happiness and neither in Bogota nor in Mompós do I have my rubbish efficiently collected. This is something which grates and bothers me since I am diligent and as they say here juicioso in paying my bills. But I remain happy.
I get the feeling that this survey was conducted in Colombia on September 12, 2012 the day after the Cafeteros recorded a memorable 3-1 win in a World Cup Qualifying match over Chile. But then, if this were the case, the figures and the census would be even more askew.
How many IDPs were interviewed, how many of Embera Katio tribe living in the former coffee bodegas alongside the Estacion de la Sabana were included, were the opinions of those taken as they lined up for treatment at the CAMAD, did the villages of Toribio and Corinto in the department of Cauca have a say? Of course these are idle negativisms, but there’s a more poignant theme behind this.
Colombians are happy, they need no justification for a party, a celebration, to dance, to turn the music up to levels of distortion to render vallenato music even more unlistenable, they will share a joke, cajole with one another, be festive and above all a Colombian can laugh at himself. But, this Gallup poll seems slightly off balance, my feeling is that more than happy, a Colombian, in spite of everything, is proud.
Politicians will be the first to try and grasp this new found “happiness index” and use it to their own gain. But, ask a Colombian how they feel about the present and even the future in a political perspective, most will shrug and have a negative or indifferent opinion towards politicians. The feeling is that these politicians have always found a way to wriggle money from the public coffers and this will only continue. Happiness is absent and is replaced by resignation.
And, while a Colombian is happy or proud, we cannot allow a poll of this type to gloss over the bigger picture in the country. This is a fantastic way to bury bad news, use a diversionary tactic to draw the nation’s gaze elsewhere and feed us with a positive spin on an otherwise fairly negative outlook. This “happiness index” almost falls into the same useless category of terms such as saying that a hotel is “5 star”, when really this doesn’t mean anything more. While I’m on the subject, “sustainable”, “ecological”, “urban” and “boutique hotel” also fall by the vernacular wayside. They mean nothing, just as you should take nothing from this survey.
Then, there’s a further point. Just as being a resident of New Jersey in the United States opens you up for merciless ribbing from other states, being a Colombian comes with a great deal of well publicized baggage. And when a poll of this nature is released, the trolls who creep about virtually leaving their tracks on online forums emerge to pollute the internet with their vile and uninformed diatribes.
Colombians are happy, scratch this happiness and it gives way to pride. But, the happiest country on the planet? Maybe, or perhaps better served as “the happiest planet of those surveyed.” It will mean a great deal to Colombia to receive such an accolade, but in reality, it means nothing at the end of it all. This is a hollow yet significant victory for Colombia. A country in conflict can appear at the top of a “happiness index” above the likes of Malaysia, Brazil and erm Azerbaijan.
But being recognized as the happiest country in the world at the end of 2012, inasmuch as it is a nothing accolade, is incredibly important to Colombia. For this is a country of precious few positive plaudits in the mainstream and international press and this is an accolade all the same.
We’ll take it.