Apparently Australian school students in year 6 are to be measured for "happiness" - so that they can be made "happier". Apparently they need to be made "happy" and to "feel positive" about themselves so a test has been developed to find out whether they do "feel happy" and, if not, how they can be made to feel this way. Even if they do feel "happy" apparently it is necessary to improve this.
It seems it is no longer acceptable for children to feel sad, anxious, worried, depressed, angry or anything other than "happy". Negative emotions are only for grown ups - and they might not be acceptable even there. If you do not feel constantly happy then there must be something wrong with you.
All right, I exaggerate. Nevertheless the mention of this proposed test, of no less than seventy-six questions, in this morning's paper has left me feeling bewildered. Am I allowed to feel bewildered?
I do not know about anyone reading this but I know I spent a good deal of my childhood feeling a range of emotions. I probably spent a little more of it than most children feeling anxious, worried, frightened, depressed and downright angry. There were good reasons for it. I survived. I grew up.
There are times when I still feel anxious, worried, frightened, depressed and downright angry. Despite that I think I am reasonably well balanced individual. I think I have a sense of humour. I enjoy prowling around the internet pretending to be a cat on occasions but I know I am not a cat. I can laugh. I enjoy the company of my friends and tell a joke.
There is almost always something to look forward to during the day. Even on a day that I have to do something I loathe - like visit the dentist - I can think to myself, "Well, it will be nice when that is over and I can..."
If I have to do something that frightens me (and all sorts of things frighten me) then I will try to think about what will happen afterwards - about whatever it was being over.
We had all the immediate family here recently. The last two adults and two small children called in for a short while yesterday on their way back to their home interstate. They had been for a short break on Kangaroo Island before my nephew starts in his new position in the company he works for. It was wonderful to have them here - if thoroughly exhausting.
The Senior Cat had a wonderful time playing with his great-grandchildren. (He is one of those extraordinary individuals who has never lost his capacity for child-like wonder at the world.) At the end of it all we both felt "flat" when they left but he said,
"It makes you appreciate how much you love them and how important family is."
It seems to me you cannot have one emotion without having other emotions too. "Love" comes with not just "happiness" but other emotions too.
So is this "happiness" thing really a good thing? If we constantly emphasise "happiness" as the only acceptable emotion won't we devalue other emotions? Will we still be able to love one another?