The REAL Reasons Why Happiness Is Inadequate...

In the ancient Greek language, “happiness” has no single translation. In fact, given context and specific word usage, ancient Greeks defined many different flavors and types of happiness. The one size fits all definition for happiness in contemporary English would be better replaced by more nuance as the ancient Greeks did. In ancient Greece, eudaemonia and hedonia represent two different forms of well-being and happiness. And while both of these words (as you can probably tell) have analogous terms in English that bear similar meanings to the ancient Greek counterparts, colloquially we’ve ditched the nuance in pursuit of happiness. However, what kind of happiness we pursue makes a big difference in our life satisfaction. 

Hedonia, otherwise known as hedonism often implies excess and can be defined as a presence of positive affect with an avoidance of negative affect within philosophical studies. Hedonism is about “feeling good” and satisfying your “id” — your baser pleasures. Hedonism means succumbing to every sense of bliss and avoidance of everything negative, placing yourself and your immediate pleasure on a pedestal. This can seem like a bad idea when described this way, but we engage in hedonistic pleasure all the time — we overeat our favorite foods, we indulge in alcohol or tobacco, everyone has an indulgence that plays into their hedonistic desires, whether we want to admit it or not. The problem with hedonism isn’t when people occasionally indulge in their desire for food, sex, or mind-altering substances, but when people use fulfilling these hedonic pleasures as a replacement for a fulfilling life. The phrase “money doesn’t buy happiness” reflects our deep-seated realizations that hedonic pleasure isn’t enough for us to feel satisfied with our lives.

This is why the Greeks (smart philosophers that they were) came up with the complementary concept of eudaemonia. This word doesn’t simply describe “happiness” but the deep sense of inner peace that comes with living a fulfilling life. Aristotle expanded upon this in his writings, stating that, “eudaimonia is the highest human good, the only human good that is desirable for its own sake”(Brittanica). This clearly has a very different definition from hedonism, and implies that this deep satisfaction does not originate in the material world. Eudaemonia implies an intrinsic happiness detached from ego-satisfying pleasure.

When we search for happiness, many of us are probably talking about different things, which is why no one can seem to agree. Although, why people want to agree is beyond me. But hey, I’m argumentative by nature, I guess. 

I’ve known people both wealthy and poor who were unhappy. Many of the wealthy people who are unhappy fill their lives with useless material trinkets or the most expensive travel “experiences” (which I’ve talked about being commodified in previous posts) yet do nothing that might bring about eudaemonia like integrating into a community of regular people, giving money directly to those in need (not just tossing it away without any connection), deciding that they have “enough” of anything and ceasing to expand their physical possessions.

Many people I know who are poor/working class and unhappy recognize that more material things would vastly improve their stress levels and allow them to have more comfortable living situations. This is not hedonic, this is an innate desire for safety and comfort. Eudaemonia for people in difficult financial situations might be because they desire more hedonic pleasures to live above their means or to indulge. I won’t deny that. But for many, this sense of lack comes from a desire to do more with their time for themselves, family, or others that they simply aren’t allowed. 

This might lead anyone to draw the conclusion that people without are closer to happiness because they have a true understanding of what they are lacking for a fulfilled life but I don’t think the world is as simple as poor people being good and close to happiness while rich people are not. Although, Mother Teresa definitely believed this (and by extension many Catholics and Christians).

Please don’t come for me with receipts on Mother Teresa, I have them already, I didn’t talk about her actions, I talked about her beliefs.

Mother Teresa’s social ethic is simplistic because most poor people (and “middle class” if we’re suffering from that today) know somebody who might be technically on-paper poor, but they live in the lap of luxury, buying what they can’t afford, living large, and at the end of the day still deeply, deeply unsatisfied. People can agree they know someone like this, whether or not this is actually very common, or confirmation bias is unclear to me. However, I want to address it as it might be on anyone’s mind who’s reading this. But keep in mind that excess spending is a myth of what causes the most bankruptcies and we’re very attached even if most bankruptcies are actually caused by medical expenses, not women eating Maruchan in mink coats.

In our capitalist economy, (don’t groan, it’s a definition of an economy so calm your tits), capitalists naturally inform a lot of our cultural perceptions. This is why we have these myths about what makes people poor. Capitalism is why Americans on average see 4,000 advertisements every day. We have myths about what makes us happy or unhappy because advertisements need to sell us on the belief that some material thing will be the one thing that makes a difference — whether it’s a yacht or an $8 tube of Maybelline mascara.

We’re trained to think about happiness a specific way so that one definition (having stuff) nearly becomes the “catch all” definition and we are marketed hedonism as a suitable replacement for eudaemonia. Both rich and poor indulge in this propaganda. Poor people are told that hedonism — drugs, alcohol, credit card debt, an excess of material comforts — are their tickets to happiness. Rich people are fed propaganda that wealth will insulate them from eudaemonic need to build genuine connection with others as well as their eudaemonic need for a more equitable society.

We aren’t doomed to live dissatisfied lives because of this and I would argue that renouncing hedonism for complete stoicism is both unrealistic and unnatural. Some hedonism could be a part of eudaemonia, but to subsume eudaemonia gives hedonism a masochistic, malignant edge. Rather than focusing on what we should “eliminate”, when it comes to habits, I always find it easier to add good habits than to break bad ones, in accordance with James’ Clear’s philosophy.

Rather than achieving hedonism or eudaemonia, it would be much simpler to work towards balance. I can wrap my head around adding habits to my life that bring me closer to a sense of fulfillment and happiness. This will be different for each person but for me, this includes spending time meditating, gardening and connecting with the earth, as well as community service initiatives regarding women, Caribbean people and social inequities. What do you think you have more of in your life? Do you consider yourself happy and if not, what’s missing? Comment down below and let me know. 


2015: "Why I Started This Blog"

I started this blog because I noticed a profound lack of accurate information and analysis on black issues, especially black feminist issues in the Caribbean. Most popular Caribbean pages were either written by foreigners or written by people who did not engage in in-depth cultural analysis that portrayed the reality of West Indians without imposing paternalistic psychology regarding our culture. I wanted to have a space to write about my reality and the reality of the people around me. I wanted a place where I could be honest about West Indian culture without covering up the dark truths or relying on unnuanced and uninformed perspectives.

This blog offers you the truth. This blog offers a safe space for black Caribbean women from all walks of life. Here you can expect to find the truth, no matter how unpleasant or how blunt it is. Here, no aspect of Caribbean culture is free from criticism. Here, the authentic West Indian experience will be deconstructed and analyzed with the ultimate goal of changing the hearts and minds of Caribbean people (and allies) and helping them see a future where black liberation is not just ideal, but necessary.

The issues of anti-blackness, classism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia and misogyny are far greater than most people are willing to accept. Politicians pretend to be invested in ending violence, poverty and crime in our region, but are unwilling to confront the real societal factors that are preventing us from having true peace. We accept violence because our societies were founded on blood spilled by colonizers. We have known violence for so long that it sometimes gets mistaken for peace -- acquiescing to the wishes of colonizing nations is seen as progress for example. As a writer and as a person, I have no allegiance to any colonizing nation. My politics center those who are most in need of liberation.

If you get nothing else from this blog, I can guarantee that you will be exposed to new ideas. While I am educated by standards that are validated in American society, my biggest commitment is to self-education and encouraging others around me to self-educate. You will learn ways to educate yourself and you will find ways to love yourself from reading this blog. You will find validation in your lived experiences. You will find a fresh perspective that you haven't seen in the media. You will find West Indian identity at the forefront of everything I write and every analysis that I post.

I write about this because I have read countless books about Black American history, Caribbean history and black feminism. Throughout all of this self-education, I have still found the West Indian perspective unexamined. And black American women have no duty to examine our perspective. However, I feel that I do have a duty to fill that gap drawing from my 21 years of experience as a black woman as well as over seven years of formal and self-education about feminism, black history and black culture. If you enjoy bluntness, honesty and reading something different about West Indian blackness, you'll probably find something for you here.I have a "take no prisoners" approach, but one of the primary goals of this blog is to connect with others who share my experiences and discuss these ideas and what we can do for ourselves and for each other moving forward.

Please keep in touch...But as I said... I "take no prisoners" so there are some ground rules. I will not be condescended to. I will not be abused and milked for free labor. Keep that in mind before you post or reach out to me. (Many men have trouble with this, so this is for you. Trust me, you don't want problems.)

If you're willing to respect my simple boundaries, feel free to comment on any of my posts or reach me by email at I will typically respond to emails about any of my posts or ideas within 2-5 business days since I'm a business owner and actually quite busy a lot of the time.