Understanding the indices of life

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The world over, with advancements made in various spheres encompassing the whole spectrum of life be it social, technological, economic, political, educational, health and medicine or arts and culture; traditional measures of different aspects of life- both personal and social- have come up short of truly expressing the changes and the factors effecting those changes. In today’s evolved world characterized by heightened awareness of one’s surroundings and social implications, increasing attempts are being made to measure and analyse different aspects of life in order to create as perfect a society as humanly possible. Social thinkers, psychologists and analysts, and even concerned heads of states have come up with different yardsticks to try and uncover the real situation and the reasons behind it. Indices such as The Satisfaction with Life Index, created by Adrian G. White, an analytic social psychologist at the University of Leicester, using data from a metastudy is an attempt to show life satisfaction in different nations by calculating subjective well being which correlates most strongly with health, wealth and access to basic education. Gross National Happiness (GNH) is a phrase coined in 1972 by Bhutan’s fourth Dragon King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck. It represents a commitment to building an economy that would serve Bhutan’s culture based on Buddhist spiritual values broadly categorized under four heads: Sustainable development, Preservation and promotion of cultural values, Conservation of the natural environment and Establishment of good governance instead of western material development gauged by gross domestic product (GDP). The GNH concept has inspired a modern political happiness movement. Through the contribution of several scholars from around the globe, economists and politicians, the concept evolved into a socioeconomic development model, and in July 2011, the United Nations passed Resolution 65/309, that was adopted unanimously by the General Assembly in July 2011 placing “happiness” on the global development agenda. Another set of criteria, The Social Progress Index published by the nonprofit Social Progress Imperative measures the extent to which countries provide for the social and environmental needs of their citizens and the well-being of a society by observing social and environmental outcomes directly rather than the economic factors. The social and environmental factors include wellness (including health, shelter and sanitation), equality, inclusion, sustainability and personal freedom and safety.

Our part of the world has evidently not started warming up to these concerns that promulgate the holistic development and progress of life. Right now, we are still struggling to make do each passing day without having to have our vehicles and belongings stolen or snatched, standing in serpentine queues to avail services rendered with grudging incompetence, running after officials to expedite routine work as favours, keeping ourselves and our family safe from the violent whims of the state security, the volatile mob and the swarming vigilantes.

Quantity of like still takes precedence over quality of life. It is high time to burst the bubble of self-accorded greatness as a collective society and embrace the reality. The rest, as is often said, is bound to follow.

Imphal Times Editorial

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