Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 10 |Issue 23 | June 17, 2011 |


 Cover Story
 Current Affairs
 Food for Thought
 Photo Story
 Follow Up
 Book Review
 Star Diary

   SWM Home


Happiness of Pursuit

Shah Husain Imam

A turn of phrase can be very interesting, not just because of creative imagination going into its making but also for its stunning effect on the listener. It can cast a spell on him or her and the person keeps regurgitating it as though paying tribute to the turner of the phrase.

A couple of months back, I had tuned into a BBC discussion programme, if I am not wrong, on the topic: Pursuit of Happiness. A woman commentator said, she thought that happiness of pursuit was more important than pursuit of happiness. For a moment, I wondered she was perhaps sensationalising with a head-turner of an expression. For, pursuit of happiness is itself an elevated phraseology finding place in the US Constitution and the Constitution of the Philippines, the latter somewhat modeled after the former. The preamble to both the constitutions proclaims, among other things, citizen's pursuit of happiness as a prized goal, a perfectly sensible ideal for the state as well as citizens to work for.

When I shared the exceptional phrase I had heard over the BBC with a knowledgeable critic of a lady colleague, it was another turn for me to be treated to a new stunner. She said, 'Happiness of pursuit is a masculine craving while pursuit of happiness is what women aspire after and long for. The man is for a fleeting one-off pleasure while his opposite number looks for enduring and secure happiness. I think she has a point from the gender angle. But the reason for which the lady commentator over BBC placed 'happiness of pursuit' above 'pursuit of happiness', was to emphasise the importance of work environment for women in a male-centric world which is a missing commodity. She is hemmed in by all sorts of occupational hazards that make the difference between a labour of love and an unloved occupation.

To facilitate the pursuit of happiness and happiness of pursuit, the state, corporate sector, communities and individuals have to play their eminently definable roles. The first is to create an enabling non-discriminatory environment; the second, to incentivise; the third, to respect others' rights; and the fourth to keep vigil over personal freedom and dignity. It is a culture that needs fostering through raising educational levels across the board.

Pat comes an instant reaction, it's 'a no go then', another of those de passé banalities -- 'everybody's business is nobody's business.' There too is a point but that of an incurable cynic. The answer to it is delivering from wherever you are to the best of your true potential and abilities. That is how Japan, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore and Hong Kong have pulled themselves up the boot-straps to emerge as showcases of productive prosperous societies. In the late sixties', some of these countries were at a comparable, or lesser level of economic standing with these parts called Bangladesh.

John F Kennedy once said, 'Ask not what the state can do for you, ask what you can do for yourself'. It sounded somewhat like Nelson's famous words: 'England expects every citizen to do his/her best'. The appeal of these words might have been to a sense of patriotism or civic obligation to the state but in modern welfare states, citizens expect and do get more from the state than they give to it. As taxpayers' money puts doles on a roll, an unemployment culture feeds on its own creating idle generations in some, if not most affluent countries. This is poverty out of surfeit but ours is a poverty of equal opportunities.

Not that we have a problem with investible surpluses. By one count, there are 30 thousand karorpatis and above domestic bank balance-wise to put it modestly. What of the stashed away liquidity abroad from the securities scam, for one? Perhaps the challenge is down to pooling these resources and utilising them on priorities more than on projects but that's only a speck of what we need and are able to generate with good leadership.

All this has perhaps more to do with pursuit of happiness than happiness of pursuit. The latter comes from a certain 'feel-good' factor, which in turn is the product of an equal-opportunities' society. We have quite a distance to go yet to make both pursuit of happiness and happy pursuit possible. It is actually just both sides of the same coin.


Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2011