What is a ‘Good Life’?
Last week I came across an article referencing the global ‘Good Life’ movement, even as I was organising the ‘Living the Good Life’ festival for my local town of Iluka. What a coincidence! Or maybe not?
I came across it while reading an article on ‘post growth’ in the context of the current wildly swinging financial markets.
It explained that the ‘Good Life’ or ‘Buen Vivir’ movement has its origins with the indigenous peoples of Ecuador and Bolivia. In fact, as a rainforest and indigenous rights activist in the early 1990s I joined an important indigenous gathering marking the 500th anniversary of the ‘discovery’ of the Americas, held in Quito, Ecuador.
One of my strongest memories from this conference was an indigenous shaman holding up a can of coca cola - decrying everything that it represented (monoculture, corporate branding, exploitation, dependence, soulless globalisation) and begging the audience resist its seduction. I remembered his impassioned plea many times since - when I came across a coke can while walking in the deepest Borneo jungle, when I observed a truck laden with the sweet black liquid going into the Amazon frontier town of Coca even as the thick black liquid of oil was being pumped out to service fossil fuel addiction…
Several years after that conference I made my home in the township of Cotacachi in Ecuador, working closely with its first indigenous Mayor in 500 years, Auki Tituana, on social and environmental initiatives. We worked closely with local communities striving for independence and solidarity in defining their own definition of well-being, and to resist the pressure to give up their rights to large extractive and destructive industries like mining.
We shared this message in Japan where, though the activities of the Sloth Club and other NGOs, discourse on the real indicators of happiness (GNH), slow life and local economies were growing quickly throughout that country.
According to the article the general principles of ‘Good Life’ include:
- Harmony and balance of all and with all
- Complementarity, solidarity and equality
- Collective wellbeing and the satisfaction of the basic needs of all in harmony with mother earth
- Respect for the rights of mother earth and for human rights
- Recognition of people for what they are and not for what they own
- Removal of all forms of colonialism, imperialism and interventionism
- Peace between people and with mother earth
‘Good Life’ or ‘Buen Vivir’ values diversity over monoculture and is the antithesis of consumerist well-being which is largely focussed on material possessions that for so many defines status hierarchy.
And now, I sit here in northern NSW, Australia, inviting people to tomorrow’s local showing of the ‘Economics of Happiness’ movie by Helena Norberg-Hodge that is also completely consistent with ‘Good Life’ thinking. The last time I saw this movie it was over the shoulder of an activist with his laptop in a blues bar in the town of Fujino in Japan during the depths of the Fukushima nuclear crisis in April.
That these circles continue to connect, collide and ripple on seems to validate everything; we are on the right path, we are healing the sacred hoop…