Reality TV, happiness and optimism

Reality TV, happiness and optimism

So I’m listening to dear old radio national (The show is ‘Life Matters’ May 19th 2008) and I hear Martin Seligman and others talking about teaching Happiness (I added the capital H. It was radio after all) at a fairly flash school in Victoria. And the discussion scrolled through whether it was a good idea, whether most schools could afford the millions Geelong Grammar is spending on this, (the answer is ‘no’), whether there were down-sides, the place of parents in the whole process…a lota stuff. And Michael Carr-Gregg (well know psychologist) was saying that he was seeing kids with ‘spiritual anorexia’ and who were filling the void with ‘rampant aflluenza’ and adoration of silly popular figures. (Cannot bear to repeat who was mentioned)….

And, possibly the week before all this I was reading Ruth Ritchie in The Sun Herald on 7-8 June who was saying: ‘We live in a time when contests are not won but lost. The focus is not on the winner but on the fear and humiliation that surrounds loss, abandonment, betrayal and eviction.’

She was of course, talking about the many and various ‘reality’ TV shows where ‘…the winners are so rarely qualified or to be admired for being anything other than the last limpets hanging on to the rock in a tsunami.’

And I think she has a point. She described these processes of elimination as ‘…heartily endorsed, institutionalized bullying.’ And this is all kind of sad really. It seems that depending on the show, people have the chance to be yelled at by a chef, sacked by a rich guy or snarled at by ‘upper class ladies.’ I’m sure there are more shows but gee it’s hard to keep up. So given that we have this awful stuff going on, and let me not make too light of it, I do think it’s awful, maybe the idea of teaching happiness is not a bad idea after all.


And it seems (back to the radio show) that those who are happy tend to be more altruistic, so the idea isn’t about being selfish. They seem to volunteer more, do more stuff for others. So the happiness idea seems to be about being personally strong, about being connected and about doing something meaningful in life. And so yes, all ideas can be turned into something silly (we’re good at that aren’t we for some reason?) or turned into something which exists in name only and is devoid of its own intended meaning. But maybe doing something which isn’t a silly TV show (especially one based on being mean to others), but something which encourages us to be decent to others and ourselves…maybe that ain’t so stupid.

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