THE WEEK

The Week - - News -

The year’s news, as Week read­ers know too well, has sel­dom given us much to smile about. But it was hard not to smile at the splen­did head­line in The Times last week: “Hap­pi­ness min­is­ter on run over In­dian politi­cian’s mur­der.” Lal Singh Arya is the first politi­cian in In­dia – per­haps the world – to hold a port­fo­lio to en­sure “hap­pi­ness and tol­er­ance”. His role in the state of Mad­hya Pradesh is to build a so­ci­ety that al­lows “peo­ple to re­alise their own po­ten­tial of in­ner well-be­ing”. Alas, Mr Arya has been im­pli­cated in the mur­der of a ri­val politi­cian and gone into hid­ing. The po­lice haven’t a clue where he is. Hap­pi­ness is hard to find; find­ing the hap­pi­ness min­is­ter may prove even harder.

Ac­tu­ally, I have an idea where to find it, if not him. It lies quite sim­ply in low­er­ing our ex­pec­ta­tions of hu­man im­prov­abil­ity, in not in­sist­ing we be more vir­tu­ous than our less-than-el­e­vated Dar­winian her­itage al­lows us to be. The in­ter­net and the media groan un­der the weight of stones hurled, not at out­right wicked­ness, but at or­di­nary hu­man frailty – and it’s a ma­jor source of un­hap­pi­ness. A few of us may be born good or even achieve it, but no one likes good­ness thrust upon them, least of all by the likes of Mr Arya. So the ac­cused end up an­gry, the ac­cusers dis­ap­pointed. Far bet­ter to aim low and ac­cept that peo­ple just aren’t that great. As that sage Sa­muel Gold­wyn put it: “90% of the art of liv­ing con­sists of get­ting on with peo­ple one can­not stand.” But in the hope you will be spend­ing it with those you can stand, may I wish you all a very happy Christ­mas. Jeremy O’grady

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