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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. Her latest book is Hiding in Plain Sight: Exploring Scotland's ill health. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 27/09/2007

I’ve been called many things in my life but puritan was a new one on me. I was asked to speak at an event can In the Wild run by Channel 4 at Glasgow’s Science Centre. The bit which involved me was billed as a discussion on young people’s well-being between myself and Pat Kane, singer and author of The Play Ethic.

I was invited to speak first. I outlined some of my dilemma with Positive Psychology and the happiness agenda. What I mean by this is that I think that most of this research is incredibly important and really could make a difference to people’s lives. I’ve been running workshops with ordinary folk – shopfloor workers, engineers and so forth – and they find some of PP's perspectives really useful and relevant. This research can help people make better, and more informed choices, about their lives. However, if this agenda is adopted too early by government departments in their business as usual way then I think it will back-fire and could be like something from Brave New World. I’m thinking here about the prospect of happiness classes for kids in schools or public sector workers being told that they need to be happy in their work.

I thought that Pat Kane and myself may agree on some of the dangers of this type of government agenda. I also thought we may find some agreement on the importance of engagement – of being involved in absorbing and meaningful activities. Not a bit of it. In the course of my talk I made passing reference to the fact that some of the research on choice suggested that choice could often be paralysing for people and this was seized on by Pat as evidence of my authoritarian, anti-creativity and pro-regulation bent. After all, Google gives people lots of choices so that must mean I'm all for regulation of the internet. How naive of me to think we may find some common ground: Pat told the audience he wants 'dissensus' - not consensus. Pity he has to set up 'straw men' to attack (as a member of the audience described it) as a way to heighten disunity.

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