Monday, July 31, 2006

If You're Happy and You Know It...

"The Grand essentials of happiness are: something to do, something to love, and something to hope for."
-Allan K. Chalmers

I seems almost ironic that Zamyatin would select happiness as a goal for the citizens of the One State. Although happiness may exist for some (such as the previous D-503), is happiness really achievable for these citizens? Do they even have the freedom to know if they are truly happy? Happiness is a state of mind, an "ethos" of sorts: it is immeasurable and an element that is unable to be documented. The One State tells citizens to "hold on to your happiness with both hands" (Zamyatin 194), which, being an intangible object, is physically impossible. I think Zamyatin intends to show how the One State uses happiness as an illusive element to manipulate the citizens. Obviously, happiness is something to be valued, as there do exist "enemies of happiness" (Zamyatin 194), but what is happiness? Happiness is a human sensation, something that is felt and witnessed, something unexplainable by concrete terminology.
Had Zamyatin chosen to use another element, such as excellence, hard work, fulfillment, (etc.), I believe that the contrast in their existence in the One State and their tangibility to its citizens would be far less than that which becomes appearant when observing happiness. Excellence and hard work can be measured in terms of improvement (i.e. are we more functional this year than last, etc.); Fulfillment is less concrete, but the One State believes that if each individual completes his or her assigned role then the goals of the society are fulfilled. Happiness is something that is individually achieved and individually experienced, and therefore I think Zamyatin tries to use it to point out how lack of individuality in society creates a lack of happiness. If people are unable to individually seek out that which makes them happy (vs. that which contributes to a "happy" society, something that is quite different), then happiness may not be truly achieved.
Just like that little jingle we are all so familiar with, the One State wishes for society- since they are happy (and they know it!) to "clap their hands". Groupthink rules what they deem to be happiness, and some who believe themselves to be happy only think so because that is what they have been raised to believe that they are. By no other means of criteria would Zamyatin be able to illuminate this ideology.


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