Democratic Happiness

Charlotte Lapalus

“The only way to have true choices on a daily basis over your life is to reduce your dependence on the dollar,” said Bob Wells, a real-life nomad who plays himself in the Oscar-nominated film Nomadland.

“And until then, you won’t. You’ll do whatever the dollar tells you you have to do,” he told The Current’s Matt Galloway.

Wells said that from a young age, people in the Western world are taught that living a “quality life” means getting a job, raising a family, buying successively bigger houses, and working most of your life to enjoy retirement in your final decades.

“You’re going to give away the 60 best prime years of your life for the 20 poorest years of your health,” he said.

“That’s a quality life, that’s what we’re told. And that’s just one great, big, enormous lie.”

But he said the audience for the advice he gives is predominantly older, and in financial trouble.

“A lot of us that age can’t find a job. Why would an employer hire us instead of a 20-, 30-, 40-year-old? They just won’t,” he said.

Many people he speaks with are surviving on social security benefits, which isn’t enough to cover basic expenses in many places, he said.

“So I offer a way out. I say, ‘Here’s a way you can live on even your $800 or your $1000 a month.’”

— Written by Padraig Moran.


One should respect public opinion in so far as is necessary to avoid starvation and to keep out of prison, but anything that goes beyond this is voluntary submission to an unnecessary tyranny, and is likely to interfere with happiness in all kinds of ways.

~Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness

It has become increasingly difficult in the U.S. to live a decent life as you age. The solution of living on the road is not appealing to me but I understand why it has become so popular. Foreign languages and foreign cultures are intrinsically fascinating to me so I’ve been going that direction for almost sixty years. I don’t plan to change. Even if we had money, I don’t think I would want to live in the States again, although I might consider another first world country like France.

There is just too much to learn in other cultures.

American looks very friendly at first blush but you soon notice a powerful undertow of cruelty. Here in Mexico you can’t help but be affected by a sense of kindness and humanity. Every culture holds its members in a firm grip but making time for celebrations and beauty varies widely from culture to culture.

Americans don’t have the time for pleasure that older societies have. They are proud of working more hours than any other country, often not even taking the vacations and leisure time they have available. Stripping beauty out of daily life, reducing the meaning of life to mere survival is something you may not notice as an American until you go to another country that still has a spiritual and aesthetic life.

This situation has only gotten worse in the last forty years. Somehow the clock has been turned back a hundred years to create widespread poverty across the land again. Monetizing everything from health to education to medical attention to decent domiciles has managed to impoverish everybody but the lucky few.

And now we have a movement to make sure only “right thinking white folks” can vote. Is this the country you want to wander in your mobile home?

One of the first things we noticed when we moved to France was how controlled the media is in the States. Public discussion of options and ideas addressing inequities and injustices excludes any mention of solutions other countries were using. Why?

Those solutions could not even be discussed because they were “socialist.” Affordable pharmaceuticals is a socialist idea. Affordable medicine and medical care is socialist. Affordable education is socialist. Evidently living decently is a socialist idea.

Putting the largest number of people in fear of not surviving is considered rational. Refusing to entertain another way, in my opinion, ignores the obvious destruction not only of our societies but nature itself.

If a democracy refuses to hear the voices of its suffering people, can it be called a democracy?

The Courageous Woman, Ferdinand Hodler, 1886

I occasionally write fiction and also about creativity, loving, language learning and travel. I’m a longtime painter and reader.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store