Collective happiness: balancing desires and needs
31 May 2011 | David Puttnam
In thinking about happiness, I recently sat down and composed a
kind of personal credo. In it, I reflected that as I approach
70 it's become ever more clear that, in the time left to me
there are very few things on which I can really focus.
So the question is, what am I prepared to 'die in a ditch' for
that would help contribute to our collective happiness? In a sense
it's somewhat self-evident:
Firstly, the type of 'informed participatory democracy' that my
father's generation were prepared to give their lives to
protect and extend.
Secondly, a sustainable environment. That's to say, clean air
and water; a sufficiency of nourishing food, and the space and
peace in which to enjoy fulfilling lives. If we fail to leave
these things to those who follow us, then my generation will
be rightly judged an all-but complete failure.
For the past dozen years and more I've lived and worked, if not
actually in Government, then at least very close to it. As a
result it's clear to me that all Governments, along with most
politicians, need to be doing much, much more if we're to avoid the
type of future those words of mine warn against. They need to
change. They need to change radically - and they need to change
In fact there are far too many politicians who believe their
responsibilities involve looking no more than 5 to 10 years
ahead, and unsurprisingly it's among these people you find the
principle 'climate deniers'. But if you are a genuinely
serious politician, and you want to help bring about
real change and a greater degree of equity to this world of
ours, you have an obligation to be thinking now about 2025 -
and even well beyond that.
Unfortunately most politicians - and to be fair most human
beings - whilst brilliantly attuned to dealing with
emergencies, find tackling long-term, slow burn issues like
climate change an altogether different proposition!
Getting people to raise their eyes beyond their immediate
concerns of family life; paying the bills and keeping their
jobs - especially in challenging times such as those we're
living through - is, to put it mildly, very difficult.
Globalisation and its impacts - intended and unintended - is a
reality that for good and ill dominates our daily lives.
Little wonder then that we find ourselves looking to our
neighbours, our localities and our communities to help re-connect
us with a sense of belonging and the promotion of personal
I believe it's incumbent upon all of us to find the means of
balancing our short-term personal 'desires' with our long-term
collective 'needs'. Equally I believe that, for those who are
able to get this balance right, there are some fantastic
opportunities out there to be won.
It's not going to be easy to navigate our way through the very
many issues that lie ahead; and any 'sunlit uplands' certainly
won't be achieved overnight. But with a new found sense of
personal responsibility; and a far deeper level of
commitment to one another and our communities; I believe that
there remains enough good in this world to allow us to achieve
a far greater level of collective happiness.
David Puttnam CBE is a film producer and member of the House of
Lords. He is a supporter of Action for Happiness.
Do things for others, Live life mindfully, Be part of something bigger, Local community, Be a Happiness Activist