This time a fortnight ago, we were enjoying an excellent session on happy societies and happy homes with philosopher and professor, Maria Teresa Russo. As the editor of our latest book ‘Happiness and Domestic Life‘ she reviewed the different disciplines that meet in this book, which is a group work of 14 academics from universities around the world.
Professor Russo noted that the American Constitution contemplates the right to happiness, because it is considered that society should ensure well-being, but the risk is to define happiness as an emotional state dependent on what others do for me. Instead, she suggested paying attention to a new trend related to human flourishing, and the home provides that appropriate environment that ensures flourishing; the home is the centre of our intimacy and the centre of relationships.
Is it possible to talk about relational happiness? Europe has a severe problem of individualism when on the contrary we live connected and in constant desire to meet people and relate to each other. The problem is that people are afraid of getting hurt in these relationships, and people shy away from long-lasting relationships.
But studies show that people are happy when they enjoy relational, reciprocal and “free goods”, that is the things that benefit us all, which are fundamentally given in the home. A home that is undergoing a process of digital domestication, that is, we are trying to incorporate artificial intelligence into our homes without putting our privacy at risk. “Domesticating” does not just mean bringing something into the home, but above all “making it harmless”, ensuring that all technological devices are at our service without harming the most basic principles of our home.
This is why Maria Teresa Russo sees interventionism through proposed laws to control technology in the home as a problem because they infringe on the individual and educational freedom of parents and do not solve the problem. Those households in which complicated situations arise with technology often have a problem of family authority, and technology is not the cause but the vehicle. “Delegating to governments those problems that society does not know how to solve does not lead to anything good,” said the philosopher Russo.
But to return to happiness, the home, from very different disciplines, can become the centre of happiness for the individual, since intimacy is reflected in the architecture, in family ties, in the presence of women as leaders, in the care that is put into domestic work, in hospitality, in connection with the neighbourhood and the city to which our home belongs.
Russo recalled that two million people in the UK live alone, and many elderly people live alone with no other company than the television, when measures related to generational interconnection could be developed that could benefit children, grandparents and adults.