Episode 04 – Raw happiness, stray dogs and a hellish rural migration!

In this new episode, it’s time to take a look at this famous concept of Gross National Happiness, a concept that has spread all over the world.

Warning. This podcast is part of a series that we encourage you to explore in order. Access previous episodes: Episode 1 | Part 2 | Episode 3.

Thousands of stray dogs

It is difficult to sleep at night in Thimphu, the windows are not very thick and the dogs are barking incessantly. They think at night. These dogs are stray dogs. As with cows, biting sick or old dogs is out of the question. Hundreds of people walk in the city. They are generally not aggressive, but there are many of them. In Thimphu alone, 6,000 to 7,000 people roamed the streets.

Strangely, there are almost no cats. A Bhutanese I asked about the topic laughed and replied that it is normal, dogs eat cats: “We are a Buddhist country, we don’t kill animals. People own dogs and then one day abandon them, especially when they are old or sick. Because we don’t kill them, there are more on the streets. During Covid, volunteers identified animals and vaccinated them against rabies. Sterilization of dogs continues, but there are still thousands of them.

Famous Gross National Happiness

If the practice of Buddhism is partly responsible for the existence of these stray dogs, it is not unrelated to the way the country has developed. This is probably one of the few things the rest of the world knows about Bhutan. His happiness. But don’t think Bhutanese are happy, no, that’s not the idea. A Bhutanese explained to us: “People think Bhutan is the happiest country in the world. But if we look closely, especially in the cities, people are not happy about it. If you go to the village, it’s different. You can see people enjoying life simply and happily.”

In fact, it is just a development philosophy. Why only look at economic indicators like GDP to measure the evolution of a country? Bhutan has therefore implemented a composite indicator that tries to take into account what contributes to the happiness of its people. Therefore, all decisions of the government should be made in accordance with this General National Happiness. But the best speaker is the king. Name, Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck. “General National Happiness is the philosophy behind our national consciousness. It helps us make better decisions, wiser decisions for our future. It motivates us every day to do our best for the happiness and well-being of every Bhutanese.

Campaigns that have been idle for decades

As we leave the city, we are surrounded by rice fields. Large farmlands in the valley are followed by small farms on the hillside. Some areas where everything is still done by hand. Many plots of land were cultivated and adjacent houses were abandoned. These empty villages are a reflection of the harsh peasant life made worse by the increase in wild animals. The fruits of the desire to protect forests are becoming more and more abundant. They destroy crops and attack animals.

“There is a huge shortage of forest, the more forest there are, the more wild animals there are. The more wild animals, the more problems for farmers. Especially for their product. It is hell for the villagers. And this is causing many farmers to abandon their fields,” confirms Françoise Pommaret of the CNRS. At the same time, children now go to school and see opportunities for a better life in the city.

It is sometimes just a mirage, but in 40 years Thimphu went from 15 to 150,000 people. “I came for the first time in 1979, there were 15,000 residents (…). At the entrance to Thimphu there were magnificent rice fields, no houses. First of all, a migration that happened in 1990-2000 (…). Because the bourgeoisie had arrived. People who no longer live outside the Earth.”

LOANS. Illustrative image, Interviews, Writings in Bhutan © Altitude. | Additional sound effects and stock music © Pixabay. | Headphone © Flat Icon / Freepik | Translations and dubbing provided by Clémence Bout and Albin Digue of the University of Western Brittany Master Writer Translator | Written and voiced by Arnaud Palancade.
Additional sources: Interview: Françoise Pommaret, researcher at CNRS, 2022. | Wangyel & Tshering, 2022 | Radio excerpt from Cypher, Black Squad, broadcast in 2022. | Speech by Jigme Khesar Namgyel Wangchuck to the youth of the country on General National Happiness | Bhutan faces menace of stray dogs, article The Third Pole | Are Bhutanese really happy? Bhutanese article | Evolution of the Vision of Happiness from 2008 to 2019, Bhutan and GNH Research Center | Rural Urban Migration and Urbanization in Bhutan, National Statistics of Bhutan.

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