Friday, July 04, 2003

Reflecting on the "Pursuit of Happiness"

Living in the United States, 4 July represents the birthday of America and associates patriotic feeling with notions of liberty, freedom, and the like; the catchphrase from the Constitution - "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" - sums the essence of American values. Peculiar, though, the happiness thing - America is the only country that explicitly states this pursuit in its constitution. Why is happiness an inherent right? What sort of happiness is protected? How can happiness be protected when one person's conception of happiness almost always overlaps and conflicts with many other people's conception of happiness?
Inevitably, Americans must be unhappy so that happiness can be pursued (pursuing happiness means desiring happiness, which suggests that happiness is something that has not yet been attained); ultimately, it is our own personal happiness that really matters, damn the rest. So we are protected by our American values to be ourselves at whatever cost and to blame others for keeping us from this constitutional dream. It would seem that the US has evolved more into itself than any of its citizens would care to realize.
I will not argue it, only resign myself to the devilish conclusion that results from pondering the constitution on America's birthday. And I will apathetically pursue my own happiness at some fireworks celebration later this evening, with a cocktail in my hand and a pretty girl at my side. American dream...
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