The pursuit of happiness is a futile endeavor rooted in insecurity and unfulfillment. The real pursuit of happiness is a journey of self-discovery, which has no end in sight – however, the definition of happiness has been altered by our consumerist society. The metric of happiness is no longer how much we’ve achieved in our social and working lives, our effect on others and our role in bringing happiness to those around us.
Happiness is now measured by how much money we earn, if we own the latest ‘holy grail’ and our status and importance to society. Our society is in competition, with one another, with friends, family, strangers and most importantly with ourselves, we correlate our self worth to material possession. This internal struggle we face makes us ‘live on a cultural soil perfectly suited for depression’. In this day and age, it’s easier to be dissatisfied than happy.
Consumerism is leading us to crave the temporary euphoria, disregarding the consequences of our actions. Our strictly consumerist society dictates that the only achievable happiness is the ‘buy now, pay later’ happiness. We’re stuck on the hedonic treadmill, trapped waiting for the newest version of happiness to hit the shelves. There’s no escaping this culture as we are surrounded by advertisements. Everywhere we turn we are greeted with brightly colored billboards, posters, short videos and happiness advertised in hundreds of other forms, we are bombarded by advertisements conspiring against us. This contrast is seen in the short film ‘Happiness’ by Steve Cutts.
Visually metaphoric, the species shown in the short film are rats, giving true meaning to the definition of ‘rat race’. The struggle for power, wealth and happiness mirrors the struggle in our consumerist society. The world the rats are living in is a clearly depressed, overcrowded society. We can see this through the colors scheme that’s consistently full of dark, dull greys that perfectly highlight the mood of the film. Like the rats, advertisements make us feel dissatisfied with our lives, thinking we need more to be happier and more confident in our lives. Society is stuck in the heinous idea that by having more, our levels of happiness inflate.
This dangerous metric has us sliding down a slippery expensive slope. As seen in ‘Happiness’ by Steve Cutts, we are becoming as avaricious as the rats, we scramble to stump up enough money to afford the latest version of materialistic happiness. Steve Cutts beautifully portrays our need to feel perpetual happiness and that we would buy anything to feel a sliver of the sought-after delight. What we see in ‘Happiness’ is a vain search that only leaves room for misery.
‘Happiness’ is a perfect example of how ‘the trouble with normal is it always gets worse’. Being stuck on the hedonic treadmill makes our happiness fluctuate, we observe temporary rises in happiness. Our overall satisfaction is dependent on a temporary drug-like high, no matter how instantaneous or prolonged it is. After the thrill of a new product wears off, we are trained to look for the next ‘new and improved holy grail’. The irony of the ‘holy grail’ product is that something so divine is invented or discovered each week. Thousands of years ago, holy grails were just that. Original. Unrivaled. Our overuse of the spiritualistic term begs the question – when will enough simply be enough? The emerging consumer in all of us dominates the natures we once had. We’re drawn to materialism like moths to a lamp.
John F Schumaker, the author of ‘The Happiness Conspiracy’ draws on the fact that if products themselves aren’t making us the mandatory happy. We can buy ‘How to happiness books, read articles and watch talk shows.’ Happiness is now an exploited emotion. Happiness itself is now irresistibly available online, in books and even available to be coached by a ‘professional’.
Our unhealthy obsession with happiness brings out the worst in us, like the rats in ‘Happiness’ we follow the herd, an innate ability exploited for self-preservation. We leave others behind and put those around us down to lift ourselves up. Everything that we do in this day an age is for self-gain. We’re no longer original, our ideas are recycled and stolen from those select few that are able to think for themselves and don’t buy into the facade set up by our consumerist society.