Book Review | What makes society perfect and people happy? Heikki Aittokoski found answers in Bhutan, the United States and the Nordic countries

Heikki Aittokoski concludes the happiness of his world-creating trilogy.

Nonfiction book

Heikki Aittokoski: The Island of the Happy. HS Books. 259 s.

Supplier Heikki Aittokoski the reportage trilogy that creates the space of the world has come to an end. Started the book series in 2013 Fool’s ship was a description of a world gone wrong. The middle part, Dance of Death (2016), looked at the most important new-old flow of ideas, nationalism, of the beginning of the century.

On a ship of fools humanity is inventing ever new ways to carry out the seven death sins listed by medieval theologians. Anger, envy, greed and so on. About the dance of death we learn how stubbornly nationalism takes over minds from east to west and what happens when people are divided into us and them.

The series would not be difficult to end in a bang in which humanity will be utterly destroyed in the throes of pandemics, populists and climate crisis.

However, Aittokoski ends this journey with luck. The start of the series gets Happy island dialectical counterpart, evil meets good. Even if the evil rumbles, it’s good to take at least point wins.

More and more namely, man is better off. Infant mortality and extreme poverty have declined dramatically in recent decades. Whole societies jumped from their poverty traps into global consumer celebrations. If the middle class lifestyle means happiness, then it is guaranteed to have increased.

Still, it feels like doomsday is approaching. According to Aittokoski, it is a matter of humanity being plagued by the illusion of pessimism. Things get better slowly and unnoticed. Weaknesses occur with a rumble. Reporters will only be there then.

Not all good news is even believed. In 2020, Finland ranked at the top of the UN happiness survey for the third year in a row. The confusion caused by such success is palpable. There is not even a Finnish-language site on Wikipedia, but Asians are interested.

Maybe it’s a lucky coincidence. Circumstances favor one, duck others. Child mortality has plummeted, but according to Unicef, a child born in a poor country is still 60 times more likely to die before his five-year birthday than a child born in a rich country. The happy island is far away for them.

Costa Rican coffee farmer Eladio Montero throws cajuela, or a box of coffee berries, on the stage of his loader. The coffee maker empties the next box from its sack. – Book illustrations.­

In Central America Costa Rica enjoys democracy and a peaceful way of life. The country does not even have its own army. Neighboring Nicaragua is known for the distress caused by both others and its own administration. In the index of quality of life, Costa Rica ranks 68th, while Nicaragua only ranks 126th.

As Aittokoski points out, the more positive development of Costa Rica’s neighbors cannot be explained by one or two things, although coffee cultivation has helped to balance incomes and keep society together. The background is “favorable conditions, sympathetic whims of history, and, on average, wise use of power”.

Even lucky kicks can come at the wrong time. The book refers to the concept of resource cursing known to development researchers. Extensive natural resources enrich a few elites and halt the rest of society’s development.

Lerato Majase and his daughter Brilliant in front of their home in the village of san-people, located a few kilometers from Botswana’s source of wealth, the Orapa diamond mine. – Book illustrations.­

Botswana’s diamond mines bring good life and happiness to more than is common in southern Africa. However, the inequality in society is glaring, which makes Aittokoski doubt how sustainable things are.

The opposite an example can be found closer. Before the discovery of oil resources in the late 1960s, Norway had developed into a well-governed welfare state that emphasized the equality of its citizens. Enrichment did not derail the whole of society.

Neighboring countries were also ready. The peace of mind of the Danes does not seem to have been disturbed by the enrichment of the oil power. Based on Aittokoski’s travelogue, it could be concluded that the people, who are distressed by the top positions in happiness measurements, have made a collective decision not to worry too much.

To counterbalance excessive consumption, the Danes have developed a world-class waste recycling system. The happy nation sorts their rubbish into ten parts. The wheels of the circular economy spin and produce equal consumption opportunities for all.

The author in his search for a path to a perfect society, he does not hit the island of the happy imagined in the utopian literature. Although at the beginning of the book the discussion is stimulated, like other works in the trilogy, by more distant thinkers, in this case Utopiaknown for his work (1516) Thomas Moren with, not in the book so much to look at utopias.

More is said about people’s daily lives and dreams in many imperfect societies where some are happier than others. With the corona crisis, the hands of development have even turned in the wrong direction.

The journey is a symbolic “journey to Denmark,” a liberal, middle-class democracy whose good public administration sharpens the dangerous edges of global capitalism for its inhabitants. We take care of both people and the environment.

Add to this the harmonious relationship of nature between the Bhutans living at the foot of the Himalayas and the confidence of the Americans in the future, we are already in a pretty good society.

Analytical the grip deepens as the book progresses, but at its best, Aittokoski is in observing and bringing the world to the reader as it is, in all its diversity.

When creating a happy society, Aittokoski talks about structures, but emphasizes individuals and their opportunities to strive for a good life with their own actions and strengths.

As a social reformer, he is pragmatic: introduce things that have proven to work somewhere else. For young people concerned about the climate crisis, this is hardly enough.

In international In the happiness comparisons, the Nordic countries are raised by the happiness researcher spoken by Aittokoski Makeup Wiking according to their ability to reduce the causes of the accident.

The hallmark of a happy society is acknowledging the accident, and then reducing it. The shoulders of an individual consumer or citizen are not enough, collective action is needed.

On the happy island, a good life is born of the happiness that its inhabitants bring to each other.

The author is a docent in political history at the University of Helsinki.


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