Monday, July 31, 2006

Happiness... according to Zamyatin.

I think that Zamyatin picks happiness as the goal for the citizens of the One State for one main reason, but I'll get to that in a minute. First, I'd like to discuss the issue of Zamyatin's choice of happiness rather than excellence, hard work, and so on. I think that he chooses happiness because excellence and hard work are merely ways in which certain types of people define happiness. Put more specifically, happiness is the broad category into which things such as excellence and hard work fall. Some people define happiness as working hard and being productive, while others define it as being lazy and sitting around doing nothing. Now, that put aside, the One State's definition of happiness isn't quite what we ourselves think of as being happy. Their definition of happiness is much more restrictive: deriving pleasure from serving the State to the best of your ability. This leads us to the other part of the question--why Zamyatin picked happiness as the goal in the first place. I think the answer to this is that happiness in its true form is for the most part a selfish desire. Very rarely does someone derive happiness from something that benefits the entire society. Granted, there are the few who are happy because they benefited the society, but for the most part people define their pleasure from things that only benefit themselves--often to the detriment of society. Using this idea of happiness as a goal for the citizens is, in my opinion, Zamyatin's way of inserting irony into the text: that the society should choose for one of its goals something that does not benefit the society, but rather often injures it. I guess that's my take on all of that. It's worth what you paid for it.


Blogger Matt Giani said...

Just on a personal level, I think I'd have to disagree when you stated that happiness is a selfish desire. Obvioiusly everyone wants to be happy, but personally I'd rather make someone else happy than be happy myself. If I can sacrifice some of my time, which I could be spending chasing fanciful desires, to bring joy to someone's life I get even more satisfaction from it. Yes, this may mean that I am happier as well, but the motive wasn't selfish - it was selfless.

4:53 AM  

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