Public Happiness and Wearing a Mask

Public Happiness and Wearing a Mask

by Doyle Ranstrom on Aug 15, 2020

I have been called many things, happy has rarely been one of them.  I have often made people happy, by leaving the room, but that's different.  

I have been called a curmudgeon.  Since that has been most of my life, turns out being a curmudgeon is not age-related.  I have told I am grumpy.  However, to be grumpy, someone else has to be in the room, so perhaps, I am not grumpy, but just annoyed.  Food for thought.

I do know what happiness is.  Being with my grandchildren, the first sip of coffee in the morning, riding my bike, or piece of really good dark chocolate are some personal examples of happiness.  The fact that a piece of dark chocolate is followed by many more pieces could be considered to be a problem.

I have been thinking about happiness.  The Declaration of Independence states:  

  • "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness".

Many today think the pursuit of Happiness referred to personal happiness.  But that is not what the Founding Fathers meant when they included "the pursuit of Happiness" into the Declaration.  To understand, you have to think about happiness not in today's terms, but in the 1700s and even before that.  When Jefferson put the "pursuit of happiness" into the Declaration, he was not thinking about personal happiness, but public happiness.  

According to the historian, Caroline Winterer, Ph.D. (Professor of American History, Stanford University] in a Ted Talk entailed "America's pursuit of happiness and why it's gone wrong", what the founding fathers at that time meant by public happiness was "every citizen thinking of the larger good".  She goes on to state private happiness comes after public happiness.  As an example, she states the opposite of private happiness is sadness, but the opposite of pubic happiness is tyranny or anarchy.  

I reviewed a number of academic articles and one of the interesting facets is Jefferson and other founding fathers traced public happiness back to Greek scholars such as Plato, Aristotle, and Epicurus.  In fact, in a letter dated 10/13/1819, Jefferson wrote “I too am an Epicurean. I consider the genuine doctrines of Epicurus as containing everything rational in moral philosophy which Greece and Rome have left us.”  Sadly, today many National leaders would not know the difference between a Greek Scholar and Greek Yogurt.  

George Washington said, "There is nothing, which can better deserve your patronage than the promotion of Science, Literature.  Knowledge is in every country the surest basis of public happiness",  [President Washington's first annual address, January 8th, 1790.]  Pretty sure George would be very disappointed with a large number of our National leaders today.  He would be even more disappointed with us for electing them.  

So what does all this have to do with masks? What it means is if someone says it is their right to not wear a mask, George, Thomas, and a bunch more of our founding fathers along with Epicurus would be very disappointed in this person. 

In today's world, too often we are only thinking of our personal or private happiness.  It is important to understand that for our founding fathers, personal happiness came after public happiness.  In other words, until we are all working together towards the common good or public happiness, there can be no personal happiness.  

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