Bhutan! Our First Special Presentation (with notes on newspaper managers’ decisions, the joys of home care, and other matters)
But first: Bhutan!
Nearly 40 years ago, the Fourth Dragon King of Bhutan famously declared to a visiting journalist that Gross National Product was not as important as Gross National Happiness. At the time, Bhutan was a feudal monarchy without highways, hospitals, a postal system or a national currency. Over the intervening years, the country has acquired all those features and more, and – at the insistence of the Fourth King – it became a democracy, a constitutional monarchy, in 2008. But it continues to pursue Gross National Happiness as opposed to Gross National Product.
What does Gross National Happiness mean? Can it be measured? How could its values be entrenched in a country’s daily life, its agriculture, its economic life, its educational system? Bhutan’s leaders have thought deeply about these questions, and have enlisted Ron Colman, one of our earliest Green Interviewees, to help with the task.
A year and a half ago, Ron brought many of the world’s leading holistic educators to Bhutan for a workshop on reshaping the educational system to incorporate the principles of GNH. I was lucky enough to go along as an observer, and I did five of the first Green Interviews there – with Vandana Shiva, Bunker Roy, Satish Kumar, Gregory Cajete and the Honourable Jigme Thinley, Bhutan’s first elected Prime Minister. The Thinley interview – a memorable conversation with a truly remarkable leader – is the last of these to be published on the site, because we wanted to set the interview in a context by providing a deeper understanding of this brave and beautiful little nation.
We’ve finally pulled that together. We present it to you as our first Special Presentation – a package that includes the Thinley interview, a half-hour documentary about Bhutan and GNH, a long supplementary interview with Ron Colman, and a range of print materials. It was a privilege to work on all this – and we hope it will be a pleasure for you to explore it.
In other news, I normally try to post something to this blog every week, but I’ve been uncharacteristically silent for the last three weeks. There were two reasons.
First, for the past 13 years I have been publishing a weekly column in the Halifax Sunday Herald, and in recent years I’ve then posted the column on my blog. The engagement with the Herald came to an unhappy end on April 30, when the Herald insisted that its freelance contributors sign a contract that would have given the Herald unlimited power to re-use freelance work in any way it chose, forever and everywhere, without a nickel in additional compensation. (There are details in earlier posts on this blog.)
Freelancers live by re-selling their work in different markets. So twenty-one freelancers announced that they would not work under the new contract, which ushered in several weeks of strenuous discussions, as readers and others wrote to the Herald and other media covered the story. Strangely enough, during those weeks, not writing a column proved to be more complicated and time-consuming than actually writing one. The story ends sadly. The Herald hasn’t budged on the main issue, and it has lost a number of its senior contributors, including Harry Bruce, Ralph Surette, Mary Jo Anderson as well as me.
Second, on May 2 my wife, Marjorie Simmins, suffered a bad fall when the horse she was riding suddenly spooked and threw her. The good news is that she didn’t break any bones and hasn’t apparently suffered any long-term damage. The bad news is that deep tissue bruising – which she has around her hips and lower back – is as painful, and takes as long to heal, as broken bones do.
So I have been running the household and caring for Marjorie in addition to my other work. It’s a privilege to be able to do this for someone you love, but during May and early June anything that wasn’t essential wasn’t done – including this blog. I’m happy to say that now, seven weeks after the accident, she’s able to stand, sit and move around on her own, albeit slowly and with the aid of a cane. We expect her to make a full recovery – and we expect the blog to recover its momentum as well, even without the discipline imposed by the weekly deadlines of the Herald column.