Happy poverty

I remember a few months ago hearing what seemed a somewhat astonishing claim, that a 2005 poll had revealed Africans to be the most optimistic people of any region in the world, and I after googling it in I found a story about it here. Given that it seems to be more or less taken for granted in the places that I have lived that Africa is some sort of gigantic morass that requires some fairly radical overhauls before the majority of its people will be able to enjoy even a reasonable standard of life, this is bound to seem a little strange. Not that those two things are necessarily contradictory, and on further reflection I think there might even be some positive correlation between them.

I remember reading somewhere that four out of the six “universal” human emotions are negative, and intuitively it would make sense that it probably does not behoove individuals locked in a never-ending struggle for life to be overly serene about the future. A certain amount of fear or at least apprehension, coupled with a healthy discontent regarding the future, as long as they do not degenerate into fatalism, might perhaps be more useful on the whole for identifying and then solving problems. I am not saying by any means that Africa is a relatively poor and ill-governed region because its inhabitants are, for whatever reason, on the whole more optimistic than people from other areas, I simply mean to point out that there are some logical reasons why one might expect to see such a correlation. And obviously if such a correlation were to be established (if it ever could be, definitively), it would raise a lot of intriguing questions as to the worth of the relative trade-offs between mental tranquility and material well-being.

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