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There’s an old video doing the rounds at the moment of a 14 year-old boy giving a TED Talk about his “secret” to being happy. I first saw the video when it went live in 2013, and at the time I seem to remember finding the talk incredibly inspiring. In fact, it made me realise the one thing that would make me truly happy in life… to see this kid fall foul of some terrible disease.
Ok, maybe that’s a little bit harsh. But if you’ve got 10 minutes of precious life to waste, have a watch of the below video and then tell me that you aren’t wishing a similar fate upon his smug little face.
See what I mean?
Anyway, two years after its launch it appears that the viral sensation is back. Yes, over the last five days this clip has once again started clogging up my social media feeds like the particularly dense turd that it is.
Given this resurgence in popularity, I thought that now would be a good time to go through and truly think about what young “Logan” is suggesting. Obviously I won’t be calling him Logan, as that’s clearly a ridiculous name for a child. Instead, in order to undermine his faux-adult persona, from here on out I will be referring to him as Little Jimmy.
Little Jimmy has devoted his life to being happy, thinking about happiness, and studying the work of various ‘happiness professionals’. Given that I like to see myself as the antonym of a happiness professional, I feel pretty confident in my ability to deconstruct his poorly formed opinions and, ultimately, to put the boot into a small child who’s looking to make the world a better place.
While the contents of the talk provide more than enough ammunition to get angry about (the Starbucks references, the jokes that were clearly written by his parents, the general upbeat tone etc.) these are all inconsequential when compared to the fact that his basic premise is completely delusional. While being so wrapped up in telling everyone else how to live their lives, Little Jimmy seems to have missed the fact that his entire presentation relies on his own personal privilege.
“If there is anything that we can take away from this video, it’s that – even at such a young age – rich people are completely oblivious to the realities of the world”
Everything he says ties back to the fact that he has a middle class family who don’t have to worry too much about taking risks. In essence his whole secret to happiness boils down to, “you should be more like me… you know, wealthy”.
As an example, just consider Little Jimmy’s eight points to being happy: exercise, diet, time in nature, contributions, relationships, recreation, relaxation and religion/spirituality. While I’m sure that all of these things would make anyone happy, the truth is that not everyone has the luxury of attempting to achieve them. Little Jimmy does, his parents pulled him out of school and sent him to a ski resort. They paid for him to go to a ‘Community organisation’ (run by a friend of the family) and let him do his homework in Starbucks.
These aren’t things that normal people can afford to do. In America alone there are more than 30 million children growing up in poverty, with as many as 40% not even going to a primary school. While he’s busy pulling out of school to focus on his own happiness, there are millions of children who can’t even get into a school in the first place.
And it’s not just his views on privately funded education that don’t fit with reality. Little Jimmy also thinks that we should all spend one day a week entirely outside, relaxing, meditating and gaining a “spiritual connection” to nature. While this all sounds lovely – and in no way like hippy nonsense – the fact of the matter is that nobody in the real world has the time to lose 24 hours a week dicking about trying to “listen to nature”. Most fourteen-year-olds would be grateful to be stacking shelves, let alone foraging in the woods and making designer hats.
Maybe once Little Jimmy has his first three hour commute, or spends eight hours a day sat in a cubical earning barely enough money to pay his rent, then I’ll listen to him. But until then, he needs to stop telling other people to follow his overly-privileged, white, middleclass example.
At the end of the day this presentation is meant to provide a guide of how to be as happy as Little Jimmy. All it actually does however is show that Jimmy is happier than most people simply because he has more money, more opportunities, and ultimately less risk than other children his age. He has been blessed with educated and inspirational parents, who were never too busy to support him and also never hit him with a baseball bat – as much as the rest of us may like to.
If there is anything that we can take away from this video, it’s that – even at such a young age – rich people are completely oblivious to the realities of the world. That children as young as fourteen can be brainwashed into their parents’ view that poor people are unhappy because they don’t put the effort in, don’t exercise enough, or simply aren’t as enlightened spiritually. Little Jimmy has worked his whole life, he makes hats, gives talks, writes essays, and he doesn’t have to be encouraged or forced because he’s naturally passionate about what he does. The idea that these passions were inspired through extordinary circumstances or opportunities is completely unfathomable to him.
Then again, maybe that’s why he’s so happy all the time. After all, ignorance is bliss.