This is the second part of the short documentary series by Alain de Botton which looks at our theme of how our obsession with money and status can be a huge obstruction to our happiness. Part 2 looks at why we torment ourselves with comparisons between our lives and those just a few rungs up the ladder. It does not make us any happier so why are we so incapable of curtailing our painful aspirations? It is not just comparisons with others which make us feel discontent it is also what we demand of ourselves. We are all now expected to succeed. We ask ourselves: Should I be more than I am?
Should we follow the advice of philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau who argued the case for the “noble savage”. Being wealthy is not just a question of having a lot of money, it is having what we want. Wealth is not an absolute, it is relative to desire. Every time we seek something which we can’t afford, we can be considered poor, however much money we actually have. Every time we are satisfied with what we have we can be considered rich however little we may actually possess. Rousseau argued that there are two ways to make make people richer, one is to give them more money and the other is to restrain their desires.
Posted by Shona Lockhart, 13th June 2012