We are now suffering the Hawaiianisation of everywhereby Andy Martin / August 1, 2014 / Leave a comment
While in Hawaii on a quest for the perfect wave, I once bumped into a psychiatrist who asked me where I came from. She gave a sigh of respect at my answer. “England!” she said, in a dreamy kind of way. “You are so lucky!” How so, I asked, far more in love with Hawaii. “Because in England you can be miserable and nobody minds. They expect you to be miserable over there.”
It turned out that she was a specialist in depression. I said, “But we’re in Hawaii—surely no one can be depressed here? Aren’t these supposed to be ‘The Happy Isles?’ Isn’t this the land of ‘aloha?’”
She pointed out to me that: (1) In Hawaii the same ratio of people are depressed as anywhere else; (2) The problem with Hawaii is that you are expected to be happy—by idiots like me, for example—so that when you are depressed, you are not just depressed, you feel guilty about being depressed too, so you’re doubly screwed; (3) And, finally, because Hawaii is technically the United States too, if you’re depressed, guilty and broke as well, when you’re supposed to be affluent, then you’re in triple trouble.
“Yep,” she concluded, “Hawaii really sucks.” The problem is that we are now suffering the Hawaiianisation of everywhere. The Happy Isles of Great Britain? Sounds as much of an oxymoron as Antarctic agriculture. Coming out as “depressed” has become all the rage—among cricketers, footballers, even surfers (and, unbelievably, one old Italian café-owner I happen to know, who is now on Prozac instead of a hearty diet of raw chilli and double espressos).
But the spread of depression is partly a side-effect of our addiction to happiness. Conversely, understanding why we are so miserable should liberate us from being too miserable about it. We can feel good about feeling bad. In other words, we need a decent philosophy of failure to save everyone from thinking what failures they are.
Freud himself didn’t actually say that Hawaii sucks, but he came close. In Civilization and its Discontents, Freud argues that there are three reasons we are so miserable and they all have something to do with disappointed expectations. His enemies of happiness are: (a) religion, especially Christianity for pushing the idea of heaven; (b) 18th-century voyages of discovery—for raising unrealistic expectations of heaven on earth; (c) finally (so self-critically!) psychoanalysis itself, which seems to dangle in front of you the notion that everything can be fixed. I would add another: (d) the pharmaceutical industry (and illicit chemical cocktails similarly).