Residents of Poorer Nations Find Greater Meaning in Life

Science Daily reports on findings published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science:

Dec. 18, 2013 — While residents of wealthy nations tend to have greater life satisfaction, new research shows that those living in poorer nations report having greater meaning in life…

“Thus far, the wealth of nations has been almost always associated with longevity, health, happiness, or life satisfaction,” explains psychological scientist Shigehiro Oishi of the University of Virginia. “Given that meaning in life is an important aspect of overall well-being, we wanted to look more carefully at differential patterns, correlates, and predictors for meaning in life.”

Oishi and colleague Ed Diener of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign investigated life satisfaction, meaning, and well-being by examining data from the 2007 Gallup World Poll, a large-scale survey of over 140,000 participants from 132 countries. In addition to answering a basic life satisfaction question, participants were asked: “Do you feel your life has an important purpose or meaning?” and “Is religion an important part of your daily life?”…

When looking across many countries, Oishi and Diener found that people in wealthier nations were more educated, had fewer children, and expressed more individualistic attitudes compared to those in poorer countries — all factors that were associated with higher life satisfaction but a significantly lower sense of meaning in life.

The researchers posit religiosity as a strong predictor of ‘meaning in life’, which I don’t doubt. I would also argue that concomitant with the diminished status of traditional religion in the West is the lack of robust secular substitutes on the unifying (or synthesizing) scale of traditional religion.

While we do have recognized traditions of, and acknowledged masterworks in, philosophy, literature, music, film and the like, could these ever be (or yet become) viable substitutes?

The secular era, after all, is a highly individualistic one, and our astonishingly fast material progress has served to greatly elevate an individualistic ethos. Traditions that haven’t withered away on their own accord are outright smashed, be it politically or legalistically. (This includes the P.C., cultural Marxist assaults on even the aforementioned ‘traditions’ implicit in the Western canon of literature/philosophy/arts.)

Also, does the fact that Culture is now increasingly consumed privately (e.g., internet; iPod, etc.) rather than publicly in effect stymie the religion-replacing potential of the Arts? (This has been a lifelong interest of mine. Recent books such as All Things Shining: Reading the Western Classics to Find Meaning in a Secular Age by Sean Kelly & Hubert Dreyfus, or the poignant musings of the snidely criticized Alain De Botton, delve into this topic.)

Imagine a secular Western culture that, with the increasing marginalization of tradition religion, rediscovered its ancestors.

Imagine kids today learning about the pagan, pre-Christian past their ancestors created, and how this shaped, over thousands of years, forms of social organization and behavior, as well as the epigenetic shapes and shadows of a collective unconscious.

Imagine these same kids were allowed to, if not also actively encouraged, to take pride in — and find identity through — such a past.

Most societies in the world (which by definition have longstanding racial contours to them) do in fact do this.

Except in the West, where whites have been conditioned to believe that to do so (as whites) is tantamount to racism and Hitlerism.

This modern day taboo was the province of the so-called ‘Dead White Male’ authors of the late 19th and early 20th century: Nietzsche, Eliot, Tolkien, and the like. In our own day, these themes and concerns are being explored by folks like Gregory Hood and are being discussed organically, in forums and blogs across the Dark Enlightenment/Alternative Right landscape.

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