During an alumni dinner at his former school Cardinal Newman College, Argentina’s President Mauricio Macri gave a speech in which he recommended one of his favourite films — the award-winning documentary Happy.
At the Catholic Irish school in San Isidro, the president talked comfortably in the presence of nearly a thousand former pupils, including other key government figures, according to Clarín. In his 10-minute speech, according to Perfil, Macri highlighted some of the values that the school had instilled in him as a boy: “teamwork, companionship and loyalty.”
He also urged the audience to watch Happy, which is available on Netflix.
This is not the first time that Macri has recommended the documentary, made by Harvard and MIT researchers, to the Argentine public. During his presidential campaign, speaking on TV program “Animales Sueltos” alongside his wife Juliana Awada, Macri talked about how Nelson Mandela’s biography and Happy had inspired him to see things differently in life. On the show, he detailed that the documentary “talks about and makes you reconsider the meaning of happiness.”
Macri recommended “Happy” on “Animales Sueltos” during his presidential campaign
So, what exactly is Happy? It’s a documentary that seeks to find the secrets to happiness in every corner of the world. Roko Belic, the director, began filming in 2005 and after visiting 14 countries, released his film in 2011 to great success among both critics and spectators.
In front of fellow Cardinal Newman alumni, Macri touched on an important point broached in the documentary: that scientific evidence refutes the popular belief that money is the foundation for happiness.
“Our circumstances, like what job we have or how much money we have, our social status, our health — those things that many of us are told to focus on — they only account for 10 percent of the differences in our happiness,” explains the film’s narrator. Studies have found instead that approximately 50 percent of the differences in our happiness levels is determined by our genes and the researchers’ theory suggests that the other 40 percent corresponds with “intentional behavior” — things that we can do to increase our own happiness.
Macri conveyed during his speech his confidence that the 40 percent of people who are not “genetically happy” had to potential to be, “not because of money, but from being able to develop themselves doing what they are passionate about and having the ability to share it affectionately.”
The documentary finishes on a fittingly optimistic note: “Having new experiences. Family and friends. Doing things that are meaningful. Appreciating what we have. These are the things that make us happy, and they’re free. And with happiness, the more you have, the more everyone has.”
So why does Macri keep urging everyone to log on to Netflix? Surely he’s not getting a commission.
Maybe he’s trying to get the Argentine public to stop blaming their discontent on the state of the national economy at a time when one in three Argentines is living in poverty. Maybe he wants the half of working Argentines who earn less than US$530 a month to be less worried about the money coming in every day and more on other things that could make them happy.
Perhaps this is all part of his plan to improve the state of Argentina — happiness is widely seen as a driving force for progress. Ed Diener, Professor of Psychology at the University of Illinois, states in the documentary that “the first thing is to realize that happiness can actually help you get your other goals: have better relationships, make more money, do better at the job.”
Economist Bianca Fernet, using the image of “dinner plates, spinning atop sticks” to represent national economies, recently wrote in The Bubble that “Argentina’s next crash will be caused by its people, who run from one side of the plate to the other, like an emotionally charged herd. Call it passion, color, soul, whatever you want — but Argentines are opinionated, loud, and most importantly impatient. And without political patience, Macri will fail.” Could the President be trying to generate the patience that’s needed to get through the recession by rousing a little bit of optimism in the Argentine population?
Happiness has long been a key driver for Macri. It was a central theme of his presidential campaign and an issue he brings up frequently. So maybe if you want to get some insight into Macri’s way of thinking you should put aside the newspaper for a few hours this weekend and sit in front of Netflix. He seems to be trying to tell us something.