02 November 2014

Bhutan, in Fashion.

The New York Times Style magazine has many good features. If you can get past the glorification of affectless nearly post-adolescent models hanging clothes that most people could never afford off their bone and skin frames, redeeming qualities do exist.

In the Nov. 2, 2014 Travel issue, the Higher State of Being piece about Bhutan juxtaposes age-old Buddhist practices with an emerging bicycle culture and the country's measure of Gross National Happiness. Astute observers will also note the irony in stating facts like "The majority of Bhutanese live off the land, practicing subsistence agriculture." within this high-tone glossy magazine spread. Travel porn, if you will, is the currency of this leisure class industry.

Nonetheless, the following quote caught my eye:

To ask a Bhutanese about happiness is akin to asking a Frenchman about wine or a Brazilian about soccer: It is the expected question, the question he is perhaps a bit weary of answering — yet he will gamely respond, unfolding not just a rote reply, but an admirably subtle disquisition. Gross National Happiness, or G.N.H., is the big talking point when it comes to Bhutan. It is also a source of intense debate, a fluid concept which, many Bhutanese contend, is often misunderstood, especially by the outside world.
“Here is the key point to understand about G.N.H.,” said Kinley Dorji, the head of Bhutan’s Ministry of Information and Communication. “Happiness itself is an individual pursuit. Gross National Happiness then becomes a responsibility of the state, to create an environment where citizens can pursue happiness. It’s not a guarantee of happiness by the government. It’s not a promise of happiness. But there is a responsibility to, you know, create the conditions for happiness.”
Dorji said: “When we say ‘happiness,’ we have to be very clear that it’s not fun, pleasure, thrill, excitement, all the temporary fleeting senses. It is permanent contentment — with life, with what you have. That lies within the self. Because the bigger house, the faster car, the nicer clothes, they don’t give you that contentment. G.N.H. means good governance. G.N.H. means preservation of traditional culture. And it means sustainable socio-economic development. Remember, here, that G.N.H. is a pun on G.D.P., Gross Domestic Product. We are making a distinction.”