Er . . .
Anyway, my point is that most other animals don't seem to actively search out happiness. They just live, and their emotional state (whatever that might be) is secondary to their existence. I doubt a hippopotamous would decide to commit suicide because it was depressed. Firstly, that would take more brainpower than is available to a water-based herbivore and secondly, if you were a suicidal hippo and so lacking the manual dexterity to shoot yourself (leaving aside the possible difficulties of obtaining a gun in the first place), how would you do it? Drown yourself? Possibly not, with your instinctive floaty ability. Impale yourself on a sharp stick? Not when your skin covers cubic inches of blubber. Get hunted to death? By what, exactly? Choke yourself? You'd need one hell of a boiled sweet.
I don't think that it's the lack of ability to kill themselves that stops most animals doing it, as much as their disinclination to even consider it. Otherwise, there might be a lot of self-bitten cobras, hunger-stricken pigs and hanging monkeys around, disappointed with their lot.
Animals don't consider themselves to have any rights, including those of happiness and not being eaten. This is not something they appear to be particulalry upset about, or if they are they're keeping it close to their chests and just offloading onto their therapists.
"Tell me your probelms, Mr Rabbit."
"It's this whole 'bottom-of-the-food-chain' thing really. Gets me down a bit, you know."
Despite all that, it seems obvious to pet owners that animals do indeed demonstrate feelings, including happiness, jealousy and . . . er . . .
Actually, that seems to be it. Hunger and horniness are different.
So what construes happiness for animals whose brains haven't evolved to strange, often self-destructively introspective sizes?
I took these photos last year, which sort of show relatively happy creatures. The first is this French kangaroo (?), chilling in the afternoon sun. As with all French kangaroos, he was probably fairly squiffy on some local vin rouge and didn't want to risk being done for drink-bounding, so just spent the day in the parc animal relaxing and having his picture taken by excitable English tourists:
"Look! A kangaroo! Did you know, in Australian, kangaroo means 'Go home, whitey'."
You have to give it to roos though, they really know how to put their feet up.
This all got me wondering. Is happiness simply the absence of sadness, or is it an achievable thing in itself? As long as nothing negative is happening and you're not being eaten, rained on, frozen, starved, molested by lonely farmers or generally over-pressured, is that enough to class you as happy? Do you have to have something nice happening to you, or is it possible to be happy even though bad things are happening to you?
I'm going to need a little lie down in a moment.
Animals are probably not that good an example to follow, because we don't know if we share the same concepts of emotion that they do. On the other hand, no-one can tell me this lamb isn't happy:
Happiness is a tree-bole, it would appear.
That's definitely an arguement in favour of "happines is a result of nothing bad happening" but I also took the following photo (also in France, you can tell by the copious quantities of baguettage) which I think is an example of "Happiness when something good happens":
That's a trailer full of stale bread that is. Can you see the positively ecstatic critter who has discovered it, all to itself? Let me do a close up:
There you go. One sparrow, who was so pleased with that find he actually fell over, before diving into it and tweeting "MINE! ALL MINE!" in a strange voice that was unerringly like my own.
I'm like Johnny Morris, me. Only not as dead.
The difference between humans and other species is that they don't seem to look for the perfect, ideal and almost certainly unobtainable utopia they believe they deserve, and so can't be disappointed when they don't find it. This means that when a good bit of fortune does come along, they can exploit it fully and be as happy as they can be while it lasts, not worrying about it ending.
On the other hand, this constant striving for happiness means we humans are generally trying to improve our lot, although with mixed results. Positives include medicine (longer healthier lives), technology (warm houses) and defence (safety). Negatives include medicine (increasing population), technology (environmental problems) and defence (fightin').
So should we take the view that animals have the right idea, and simply live day-to-day, emotional considerations buried beneath the constant fight for survival, or should we be pleased that we have come to a point in our evolution where we can afford the arguably self-indulgent luxury of emotional turmoil?
My view is that, for humans, there is a gradation of happiness, from ecstasy to contentment, and also a whole spectrum of sadness, from melancholy to pure grief. Living succesfully is all about that old cliché; balance.
Mind you, I defy you to stay sad when watching this: