Did the National Development Minister Khaw Boon Wan of Singapore say something erroneous when he said; “Bhutan is not the Shangri-la on earth?” Some think so. Now, I have this question for those of you who have taken offense at the remark: Do you believe that Bhutan is truly Shangri-la? Do you believe the Bhutanese people had true GNH in the past and, more importantly, do we have it now? Will we ever attain it and, if we do, will we be happy as a result?
From what little I know about GNH, I get the feeling that we cannot achieve it unless we go the Singapore way. In that respect, I fully agree with the Singapore Minister that; “In their (Bhutanese) minds, Singapore could well be the Shangri-la and they want Bhutan to emulate Singapore."
But Shangri-la was/is a mythical land and the people who lived in that valley were from a mythical era that didn’t have to battle the effects of climate change and global warming. Their realities were far removed from ours in which we have to face disparity of wealth, injustices, food shortages, polluted atmosphere, irrational wants and greed, depleting resources, diminishing water supplies and host of other problems that alter the very way we look at what constitutes happiness. We have to be suffering delirium to think that there is one country in this world that can be called a Shangri-la. Thus, I think, the conditions that are supposed to prevail in a Shangri-la must remain in the realm of the surreal.
GNH, GNH. GNH - Oh God, it is so confusing. This GNH has me totally baffled. The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that the principles of GNH are the antithesis to GPH - Gross Personal Happiness.
At one point soon, we must all calmly sit down and debate on the issue: Can GNH contribute to GPH; if not, what is the point? Can GNH be achieved without usurping GPH? Is GNH more important than GPH?
I think there is a serious paradox here. If ever we achieve our GNH, we may have to do so following in the footsteps of the great achiever - Singapore. They have a few thousand billion dollars in reserve, their city sparkle and shimmer; everything there works like a well-oiled Rolls-Royce engine.
Paradoxically, all that has been possible because they have been ruthless in imposing prohibitions on their citizens - such as the law on chewing gums - a starling example of how to achieve GNH at the cost of GPH.