To be slightly more politically correct, I will refer in this post to a mystery Country X (which could be one of many oppressive countries), in comparison to my home country Kenya (which I am comfortable enough to praise and criticize openly).
The citizens of Country X are, without a doubt, happier than Kenyans. They are also “actively nicer” (to quote a friend) to each other and visitors. They are, on the whole, more relaxed, chilled out. They prioritize spending time with each other, social bonding, and enjoying life. They are quite dependent on each other.
Kenyans are, without a doubt, more pissed off than the citizens of Country X. They have more attitude, complain more, get angry more, and are definitely not as happy. They are genuinely nice people too. They also know how to enjoy themselves, party, and relax – but are more ambitious, critical, and political. There is more of a sense of independence.
Country X is ruled by an oppressive, authoritarian government that uses propaganda, censorship, and elimination of enemies to retain control. The ruler and his government are highly worshiped by the citizens for their good work, while their simultaneous heinous acts remain unknown, or are not spoken of. There is certainly a good amount of brainwashing going on.
Kenya’s rulers are very far from perfect, but the citizens have gotten used to a sense of freedom, of access to information, and of active expression. Dissent is common along with public expressions of discontent. As heinous acts are committed by those in power, the media airs them and civil society protests. We know there are a lot of dirty dealings ongoing; we know there is concentration of wealth and power in the hands of a few; we know that we are constantly being betrayed by high figures; and we are really not happy about it.
I recently re-read Brave New World (Aldous Huxley), in which a utopian/dystopian society is portrayed where literally everything is tightly controlled, but everyone is always happy – hypnotized into being content with one’s work and having ‘soma’ (a drug) pills available at all times in case of a lapse in happiness. Perpetual happiness at the cost of being a robot. This is an extreme case but certainly applicable to several states today.
I would love to be happy all the time, but given the choice, I will stick to being pissed off but freer.