In his book "A Brief History of Humankind", historian Yuval Harari traces the 70,000-year history of Homo sapiens in a fascinating way. But even more exciting than the developments and interactions of the cognitive, agricultural and industrial revolutions that have shaped our society and us as humans is the question with which the book concludes. Harari asks himself and the reader whether humans are happier today than they were in the past. Until now, happiness has rarely been the subject of historical reflection, and certainly not a category used to measure the success of social developments.
Why not, actually? For decades, happiness hardly played a role in the speeches of members of the Bundestag. Since 2005, politicians seem to care a little more about happiness. And since 2011 of all years (the year in which Harari's million-selling bestseller was published), happiness has also been mentioned in politics more than twice as often on average as in previous years.
More and more often, people are questioning the meaning of routines and procedures that until recently were taken for granted. Do I really have to work 45 hours a week to be a valuable member of our society? Why does the textile industry burn more than 200 million garments every year that didn't sell? Is the shredding of millions of male chicks a practice that we as humans can reconcile with our conscience? To get from Munich to Berlin, do I really have to get on a plane? Why do politicians cling to oil and coal when new technologies for generating energy in a clean and environmentally friendly way have long been cheaper?
The unease that these questions now trigger in many people builds up like a hurdle in front of them. It gets in the way of their happiness and prevents them from being able (and wanting) to continue on the old familiar paths. The only option these people have to be happy again: they need to find new paths and ways to get to their happiness. Are you going?