Friday, June 20, 2008

In response to "Heaven knows we’re miserable now" by Tom Harris MP

First read this British Government Minister's blog and the BBC's coverage

You're right, we are a miserable bunch. We've lost our joie de vivre.

I moved to Seattle from Manchester two years ago and I must say that the locals here are a lot happier generally. In fact, I've married a local girl and have taken her to visit the UK a couple of times now - she enjoys it, but has noticed that everyone seems miserable.

I must admit that she first mentioned it when we were in a service station off the M6, so probably not the most enjoyable place to be, but it's definitely noticeable wherever you go.

I can't put it down to consumerism, the US has got to be more consumeristic. Not only that, but also the gap between the rich and the poor is undoubtedly greater here. I can't put it down to Iraq or politics in general, Seattle is definitely as unhappy about the policies of President Bush as the UK, probably more-so, as we've got to put up with his domestic policies too.

People do seem to be stuck in a rut. There is a sense of hopelessness, that there's nothing you as an individual can do to make things better. I used to work with people who'd complain about their jobs every day, but would never look for a new job. I'm pretty sure the job market wasn't that bad at the time.

I also think that the British malaise is catching - if you work or live with people who are miserable, then you're likely to become miserable yourself. On the plus side, if you work or live with happy people, you're much more likely to be happy, so it can be overcome.

I don't really have an answer for "why? though. Looking at the comments, the miserable people complaining don't even have much to complain about in the grand scheme of things. Over 40 million people in the US don't have health insurance, for example. Petrol in the US may be cheaper than the UK, but it has increased in cost at a much quicker rate than in the UK. Also, you have to remember that the US is a big place - the average commute is more than double the UK's average commute and there's not a lot of public transport to use instead.

So, perhaps the British people have lost their sense of perspective. Everybody is doing okay, there's no "well, at least we've better than those people". I suggest you compulsory send the entire population of the UK to various different countries around the world to live for a year, to see if they want to come back. I bet nearly all will, with a renewed sense of optimism. Just don't send them to Seattle, I left to avoid that bunch of miserable whiners!