On Being Nice

It’s official.  Economists have concluded that ‘being nice’ is good.

In a recent paper, John Helliwell et al report:

“Whether in the workplace, at home, in the community, or among nations, better and deeper social connections, and especially higher levels of trust are linked to higher subjective well-being, even beyond the effects flowing through higher incomes and better health.”

They go on:

“Prosocial behaviour [i.e. being nice] is also shown to be a robust predictor of well-being in both correlational and experimental contexts.  These two lines of research are connected, as prosocial acts are most likely to increase well-being when they are delivered in ways that improve social capital, and reflect intentional generosity free of either compulsion or personal gain.” [my insert]

And they conclude:

“We infer that these deep links between prosocial acts and well-being have an evolutionary benefit in maintaining the quality of social capital and thereby delivering cooperative human responses in times of crisis.”

As well as reinforcing the argument I made recently about Grenfell, this puts a fresh angle on the calamity of Brexit.  Cutting our ‘social connections’ and foregoing ‘higher levels of trust’ with our nearest friends and neighbours does not merely weaken/imperil/destroy our economy.  It will actually reduce our ‘subjective well-being’.

That is, if you are not already miserable, you soon will be; and, if you are already miserable, it’s going to get worse.

(Hums to himself for a short while, like someone in a Ken Kesey novel.)

On a lighter note, and thinking ahead to the possibility of a second referendum, we must surely not make the same mistake twice.

Last time, the Remain campaign’s Project Fear depended on a maelstrom of data and statistics describing an economic catastrophe.  And, to this day, the Remain case continues to be shaped in these narrow and specific terms.

It did not work before because – as I grimly predicted – the majority of people rely on myths and stories to make their decisions.  They will do so again, if the opportunity arises.

If a Remain campaign were to use the same strategy, it will achieve the same outcome.

So something different will be required.  A different story.  A story that talks about how people feel.  And how they might feel in the future.  And how, when you reach out, when you work together, when you think of friends rather than enemies, when you give rather than take, then everything is better.  Everything feels better.  You feel better.

And who among does not want to feel better?


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