Money does not make the poor happy

”Money does not make the poor happy” – Coluche

I was born in one of the richest countries in the world. I have everything I could wish for: Hot water under a waterproof roof, a loving family, daily education, technology, ease of living, transportation, as well as everything that modern comfort can bring. Overnight I found myself in a quite different country from what I have known for a long time. Some people might describe it as less good, others as warmer, but maybe it’s just a way of thinking?

It is now four days since I arrived in Macedonia. I could have noticed at first the flayed roads, the buildings in suspension, the stray dogs. But there was something stronger, more alive, more real. The children’s cries of joy resound on the balcony of my apartment, the chestnuts falling on the sheet metal roof create a harmonious symphony and the hubbub of the discussions mixed with the smoke from the barbecue announces evenings full of smiles. They looked just as happy as a country that economists call “rich”. I wondered if all this was comparable to the gingerbread house from the Grimms brothers’ tale: appetizing on the outside but horrible on the inside; or like the buildings, somewhat dilapidated.

Researchers have asked a question whose answer seems obvious: what do you prefer to increase happiness? Earn $314 million or become a paraplegic?

Despite what people think, one year after winning the jackpot or becoming paraplegic, the data show that the level of happiness of both groups is the same.

There is a concept called hedonic adaptation which is the observed tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or significant changes in their lives.

According to this thesis, when a person earns more money, expectations and desires jointly increase, which does not lead to any permanent gain in happiness. You quickly return to your original level of happiness, you think you are on the road to happiness, but you are on the road like a treadmill.

If an event, positive or negative, happened more than three months ago, then it will have no impact on the happiness scale. Why not? Because happiness can be manufactured.

There are two different types of happiness:

– natural happiness: that’s what you get when you get what you want.

– fabricated happiness: this is what you make when you don’t get what you wanted.

In our society, there is a strong belief that manufactured happiness (that of people who have become paraplegic) is inferior to natural happiness (that of people who have achieved their goal of winning the jackpot), which is false.

In other words, the human being has the ability to create the happiness that will be just as authentic and lasting as the one we get when we get what we want.

There are a lot more psychological or philosophical things to say about happiness, too studious, belonging to the adult world. I would like to dwell on the little joys that I hope were able to fill our childhood, your childhood, when carelessness reigned and each discovery generated bursts of joy because childhood should only be a continuous pursuit of happiness… I have made a non-exhaustive list that you can of course complete:

– the first snows that covered the trees, the roofs, the clothes with white;
– running through the rain and jumping into puddles with the rain boots;
– the multicolored merry-go-rounds with jovial music in the parks;
– slip under a plaid with hot chocolate when it rained;
– the walks along the river in Lusigny-sur-ouche with the grandparents;
– gifts for the hospital Christmas;
– Sundays at grandparents’ homes…

The birds sing when pink, blue, white and yellow flowers arrive. Children play, stumble and grow by crossing the sun’s rays. The smoke from my cigarette flies away to inaccessible paradises and I stay there, admiring these amazing landscapes. It is one of those days when everything is beautiful.

Adults also need to go back to childhood sometimes.

Paul Janiszewski


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