voting for joy in the next election

by Robert Brow   (web site -

"What is your prescription for joy?" That seems a reasonable question to ask of a candidate for my vote in the next election. Joy is the most valuable commodity in my life. When I see joy in the eyes of my children and grandchildren and friends and neighbors, I know all is well.

 But how would a politician field my question? Perhaps she will answer "Yes, joy is a key emphasis in our platform. We have identified three million joyful Canadians, and the rest are miserable. We intend to redress that balance as soon as we are elected."

 I would be more suspicious if the fellow said "We will shell out $1200 to give you the joy you have been denied by the present government." An extra $100 a month would be nice, but then I have to figure it will come from my own pocket in taxes, plus the 20% government service charge. And I would also have to pick up the tab for the others who won't pay a cent.

 How about "Our party will cut taxes and double the gross national product, and of course that will double everybody's joy in proportion." Why "of course"?

 Nor would I trust a politician who said "Yes, we have an agenda for legislating joy." That assumes joy is one particular quality and everybody should have it stuffed down their throat. There would soon be a team of joy inspectors to check me out, and get me joyful by the approved means.

 All these answers assume that joy is measured by equality, national glory, the gross national product, education, culture, taking out the bad guys, the latest idea of what joy should be, or submission to the rules of some religion. Of those the last is by far the most scary.

 Joy is not one thing. There is a huge variety in what people experience as joy. Falling in love is different from a family gathering. The contrasting opposites that give us joy are astonishing. Music and gardening, history and science, sport and art, a moose hunt or birdwatching, disco or Scottish dancing, a long canoe trip, building one's own cottage. I like walking barefoot in the sand as the waves come in. I don't want a politician who will stop me doing that once a year.

 I am sick of moaners, gripers, protestors, and complainers setting the agenda for my government. The candidate of my choice should be able to recognize joy and rejoice in it, whatever form it came in. I could give my vote immediately to a candidate who said "Joy is the indefinable quality which is the supreme value in life. We respect that. It can ride on the back of tremendous hardship, but it usually includes a sense of inner freedom, purpose, and creativity."

 If a politician could be trusted to deliever in those directions, joy would flower by next spring. In every other part of the world it certainly doesn't take long from a country to look dismally drab without them.

 "What is your prescription for joy?" At least the answer should include the idea that good laws are to protect the joy of individuals, and those who destroy the joy of others must be restrained. Is is too much to ask that every political, judicial, or moral evaluation should begin by asking about the joy of the individuals concerned?

 I also notice that a lot of good things happen around the small proportion of Canadians who take genuine pleasure in the joy of others. So I would vote for a politician who recognized and encouraged them. In the long run a few such people do more for a country than hundreds of dour economists, pollsters, statisticians, consultants, and the addicts of royal commissions at my expense.

 When I vote, good politicians are joyful people who care about the joy of others. Bad politicians are indifferent to joy, and the worst are out to destroy it. A good election is when ordinary people get to evaluate and vote for the difference. And there are not many places in world where that happens.


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