In pursuit of happiness…

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The clear majority of Batswana have no recollection of what the country was like during 1960s and 70s. We are now in the second, if not third generation of Batswana, born into an independent nation, and compared to 40 and 50 years ago.
We now have four state universities where there were none, and each region has a hospital, with an increasing network of clinics bringing heath services to even the smallest village. Above all, poverty has been cut from over 50% of the population, which was dependent upon food rations from the State, to close to 20% now and falling. Unlike many of our neighbours, and our continent as a whole, our 50 plus years since independence have been characterised by peace, democracy, and, thanks to diamonds, moderate prosperity.
We should have much to be happy about, but we are not.  According to 2017 World Happiness Report, Batswana are among the unhappiest people in the world. In a happiness ranking of countries in which the people of Norway perceive themselves as very happy, and the unhappiest people in the world come from the Central African Republic, Botswana is ranked 142 out of 155. That’s right out of 155 countries in the world, we are among the unhappiest, below war torn countries like Afghanistan, Ukraine, and even Sudan, and the violence ridden Democratic Republic of Congo.
That’s right. According to the highly respected survey, Batswana have been getting more and more unhappy since the annual survey started in 2012. The survey is the work of the Global Happiness Council comprising noted thought leaders from around the world which analyses a host of research data and specially commission surveys. The report looks at numerous dimensions and perceptions, income equality, democracy, life expectancy, governance, corruption, health, and the strength of institutions.
Botswana is in the bottom 10% across all these dimensions, and incredibly despite 10 elections since Independence, we score particularly low on perceptions of democracy. Why are we so unhappy? Is unhappiness part of the Batswana psyche, similar to the belief that the French are good lovers and the Germans work hard. Someone once commented on social media that fun has been abolished in Botswana, and certainly since the increase on alcohol tax came into force, and bars and clubs have been forced to close early, Batswana have been getting more and more unhappy.
The survey shows that Batswana have no confidence in democratic institutions, that there is an element of fear among the people who are afraid to speak their minds freely in public – and even over the phone – ke a tshaba is a frequently heard caution, as the State increasingly attacks the private media.
Overall,  Batswana are unhappy with the quality of life. Despite obvious improvements in education, health, transport, telecommunications, etc, it seems that these material indicators of social and economic development are not enough and have not led to happiness.
Almost 250 years ago, the authors of the American Constitution wrote that the role of Government was the preservation of “life, and liberty, and the pursuit of happiness…” among its citizenry. These are the outcomes from a good government. Over the past 50+ years we have been pursuing measurable outcomes in the form of buildings, roads, and other infrastructure without heed to their outcomes. Maybe this is why Batswana are unhappy… we have not been in the pursuit of happiness.