Stories from Afar & Up Close

Happiness in the Middle East

It’s the kind of information brought up in the bar, after a few drinks. ‘Hey guys, guess what, I read somewhere that the Lebanese are the least happy people in the Middle East.’ Hilarity all over. Really? Why would the Lebanese people be the unhappiest? Sure, there is a lot of fighting, war, explosions, bad electricity and thieving phone-companies, but still, most Lebanese are convinced they are the envy of the whole region, with everyone being jealous of the beautiful beaches and green mountains and sparkling nightlife and wonderful food… Well, apparently they aren’t. According to this report, the Saudis are the happiest. Speculation ensued over the reason why. The first question was, how could the people from Saudi Arabia and Bahrain be at the top of the list? Surely they must have forgotten to ask the Saudi women about their level of happiness, or maybe they stuck to the law and asked the women’s legal guardians: ‘Excuse me sir, on a scale of 1 to 10, how happy is your wife?’

But how could even the Palestinians rank higher on the happiness-scale? Maybe, it was argued, they were lumped together with the Israelis, and since it’s an Arab survey, they cannot use the name Israel. But would the Israelis be really happy with the way things are going there, even if they currently have the upper hand? ‘Well,’ was the final word on that ‘even if they aren’t, they can’t say so: they are the Chosen People, living in the Promised Land! How can they ever be unhappy?’

From the above arguments, it was deducted that the Lebanese might not be the most unhappy, but are rather the most honest people of the whole Middle East. Either that, or, as someone said, their low ranking should be attributed to their incredibly high expectations and disproportional sense of entitlement. I'm still undecided.