During the recent election campaign, I heard several politicians justify their entry into politics or their remaining on the scene by promising Bahamians a “better quality of life”. Unfortunately, while it appears many people responded to that promise, judging from the talk-show callers, that is a promise no politician can deliver on. What they really mean (giving them the benefit of the doubt) is a better standard of living.

Quality of life is the personal, perceived experience, which results from a set of personal, inner commitments, and is not primarily the result of outer conditions. Quality of life is not determined by the “facts”, but by the inner lens through which those “facts” are seen. A “positive” person, one who is generally thankful for life, forgiving and generous and has developed a strong relationship with his or her “God”, and a “negative” person, whose life is driven  by regret and the conviction that they are always victims, will experience a different quality of life in identical circumstances. One may experience peace, while the other experiences paranoia. So for a politician to promise a better quality of life assumes he or she is aware of those inner conditions for a whole group of people. That is clearly impossible.

On the other hand, a better standard of living is definable. You either have a roof over your head or you don’t. You either have electricity and running water or you don’t. You either have inside toilets or an out-house. You are an owner, renter or a squatter. These are “facts” that apply equally across the board, and as a politician, they are the things he or she can promise to deliver. Their effort can in fact improve your standard of living. That is the job they have applied for, and not the result of their generosity.

This clarification may seem unimportant, but it is very important, especially now. In promising a better quality of life by delivering a better standard of living, they are supporting an assumption that has had disastrous effects on our nation. In its crudest form they are supporting the assumption that money buys happiness (assuming that happiness is a better quality of life than unhappiness).

The consequence? It is the belief that the answer to any social or environmental problem is more money. It is the belief that getting money, however it is gotten, will somehow make a miserable person experience gratitude, a person whose experience of their world is “negative” would somehow experience a “positive” world with more money.

We all know these assumptions are not true, yet we allow our children to hear us affirming them daily. Then, when they disrupt the quality of our lives with their efforts to “buy” happiness, we are shocked! Where did this materialistic attitude come from?

The Chinese proverb goes something like this, “The greatest change in the world results from a change in my point of view.”

Standard of living is the purpose for the political structures we create. Quality of life is what we experience as a result of the vitality of our inner lives. Then there’ this, compliment of Bob Proctor:

I’ve learned from experience that the greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances.

Martha Washington – 1731-1802, Former First Lady of the United States