Sitting after the Friday congregation, sipping mint tea, a neighbor posed a question: “Are we a happy people?”
Before I could reflect on the full effect of the question, a friend replied that “happiness is a state of mind”. He continued by stating that you cannot generalize about nations being happy or not, adding that there is an index of happiness that can gauge our level of well-being.
My reply to all this was to ask what really constitutes happiness. It’s a combination of well-being of mind and body, comfortable living and a stress-free environment, that is true across the board, but what do you do when you wake up in the morning and are challenged at home and in the office. It has become a national pastime to moan and complain, chipped in a doctor: “We wake up in the morning and our conversation centers around drivers and household help, visas, lack of services, traffic disruption and changing rules and regulations”.
Getting things done in offices that deal with the public is a nightmare and this despite the fact that appreciable progress has been made in e-government and especially by the Ministry of Interior. This has reduced the timeframe and even reduced traffic congestion as most work issues are solved by the click of the keyboard!
But still a lot remains to be done and it will take a long time before the people of Jeddah get the smart city that they want and deserve.
Measuring the distinct elements of a smart city is by itself an interesting exercise. And it is important that city planners take into consideration elements other than the three basic requirements of food, shelter and security. They should add the environmental factor as well. And here it is not just the physical environment – we have had enough of the “concrete culture”.
What is needed are cultural and artistic outlets that act as a sponge to absorb our energies and thus reduce stress.
We need cinemas, theaters, bandstands, libraries, town halls, properly laid out parks and public squares. We need to breathe!
A small minority have taken it upon themselves to prevent all this from happening. We should not allow the tyranny of the minority to dampen our happiness.
We need a city that comprises technology and mental well-being. We need a city whose character embodies all the aspects of well-being, where living is easy and where comfort is obtained by just a walk in the street. Only then can we truly say that we are happy.