Jim Duffy: Have the have-nots had enough of not having enough?

Much of what we see and hear every day is unattainable, so stand by for disillusion and a backlash, writes Jim Duffy
Does wealth make us happy? Its a difficult question to answer but lack of money rarely improves our mood.Does wealth make us happy? Its a difficult question to answer but lack of money rarely improves our mood.
Does wealth make us happy? Its a difficult question to answer but lack of money rarely improves our mood.

I just love the song Happy by Pharrell Williams, with the lyrics “clap along if you feel like a room without a roof.” It’s just one of those songs that gets people tapping their feet, moving their shoulders and humming along. It’s used at black tie events as a motivational filler, when people go up to collect prizes and awards. It’s uplifting and for a few moments, we feel … well … almost happy. But what on earth is ‘happiness’? And are you truly ‘happy’?

I’m not sure I agree with the sentiment that ‘your school days are the happiest of your life’. Maybe for some. Which then begs the question: is happiness something that happens over a set period of time? Are we just happy for a few moments a day? A fortnight away in the sun? In our twenties? Our fifties? When we come into some money? When we win something? When we feel loved or are in love? These all feel ephemeral, short-lived and a bit too disjointed to fully describe what happiness is. So, what is it and more importantly what is happiness for you?

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Many of us are happy when we have money. We don’t like being skint. We don’t like having to muddle by, watching every penny, while not looking forward to the bills dropping through the letterbox. A lack of money in many instances is the cause of relationship tensions. It causes us to look outside our own lives and peer into the worlds of others: the haves and the have-nots. There are times, and I am guilty of it myself, when I look at others and think it would be nice have a bit of that – even for a short while. Someone asked me this week, if I could have any car, what would it be? Well, I answered, an Aston Martin for fun and a Range Rover Vogue fully specked. I didn’t just want one luxury automobile. I wanted two! Something not quite right there, I thought later as I reflected.

It also made me think about the pictures I am looking at on news websites of Russian billionaires swanning into the UK with their massively opulent yachts and boats. These mega-structures are photographed in all their glory and splashed across the red-top media. These beauties cost hundreds of millions of pounds. I look at them and I kind of find it obscene. But then I don’t live in that world and I’m not sure if it would bring me happiness if I did exist in it.

Couple this with the latest newspaper rich list, and as I gaze at all this wealth surrounding me, that I can see but cannot really touch, I begin to realise that I will never be happy if that is my happiness metric. The penny drops and I see that despite all the warnings that money never brings happiness, I and many others look upon what others have and feel a bit inadequate, a trifle disenfranchised and, dare I say it, a bit jealous. And this is a dark place where happiness does not ever exist. So, what’s to be done?

Vote Labour? I just wonder if we are reaching a tipping point in society. As I search for happiness in other ways that do not involve money, I wonder if we are on the brink of a moral panic, where the have-nots will have had enough ... of not having enough. This is a serious issue and one that is creeping up on us.

As an entrepreneur and big champion of entrepreneurs, I love when business builders make profit. In fact, my book – Create-Special - was published this week and in it I deal with the painpoint of happiness. Making money is a good thing. Making lots of money is a good thing. Remembering where you came from and how you can be perceived when you have made a stash of cash is also important. As I watched the Sky Atlantic boxset last night – Billions – the main character, who is just filthy rich, buys a $60million beach house in the Hamptons. It’s the house that breaks the camel’s back and despite all the wealth he has created and the good he has brought to the economy, this particular house hits the headlines, for the wrong reasons. And this is where we need to be careful and where Jeremy Corbyn makes a point.

I’m not into politics, nor am I endorsing Mr Corbyn and don’t truly understand it all, but I wonder if the more socialist side of Labour is coming out as a reaction to the mega wealth and mega divide that is happening in the UK. This week’s leaked manifesto seems to give a glance to just that. So much of what we see and read is unattainable for us and, specifically, young people, who are so important to our country. If we are not careful, the unhappiness caused as they also gaze at the rich list and the yachts may be the catalyst for a big correction.

Money and happiness? I don’t know the answer. It’s personal for each of us. But, there is no doubt that it is aspirational to many, while off-putting to others. It’s a decision for you each to make. What is enough to put a smile on your face and keep it there, without it turning into worry lines as you want more as others have more?