We’ve shared an experience you and I. We both visited the amazing Punakha Dzong in Bhutan and stood before the massive Buddha in awe. You have the added delight of chatting with the Fifth King of Bhutan as you took in the smell of incense, the butter lamp light and the gentle murmuring of chanting monks. But I bet you didn’t get the giggles as the cleaning monk of the day pushed the vac around amongst the numerous visitors!
The Bhutanese Royal Family is very special
As I’m sure you found out, the Bhutanese Royal Family are proactive in changing the country. Instigating Gross National Happiness (GNH) was just the start. Each citizen has been given land so they can grow food for their family and now everyone is given the means to build a house – once the astrologer is in agreement about the date to start. Hence the piles of wood and corrugated iron seen as regular intervals as you travel around the country.
I know our situation is very different in the UK. Bhutan has land to spare and significantly fewer people to care for. Our world is far more involved and convoluted, but I’m sure you and Kate realised immediately that there’s a lot we can learn from the GNH approach to life.
“I’ll be your son now”
I’m not sure how many stories you would have heard about him – he sounds like quite a modest man. So let me tell you my favourite:
The King was travelling the country to explain why he wanted to hand over power to the people in the form of democracy. In one village he met a distressed old man, afraid because he had no family to undertake the necessary rituals when he died. This is really significant in a Buddhist country – the rituals guarantee his safe journey towards a better life next time.
It turns out the old man died last year. The King went straight to the village and stayed one week whilst performing the rituals. When I heard this story, I felt really tearful. How wonderful to have a young King so willing to look out for his people.
How do we match up?
In material terms we are way ahead of Bhutan – there is no comparison. Emotionally I’m not so sure.
We don’t look after our elderly as well as we should. Many working people have two jobs and still can’t manage without visiting food banks. People are homeless and sleeping on the streets. Children are living in
poverty. I feel ashamed of what’s happening in our affluent, well to do country.
I worry about the world we are leaving to our children. Little ones like George, Charlotte and Louis and like my little grandson Barry. How are they going to manage in the future?
And who can we trust to look out for us? Are politicians doing their best for the country or just holding onto their jobs?
Will you be our son now?
I realise the constitution limits what you’re allowed to do , but I would love you to be our equivalent of the Fifth King. What would a UK version of GNH look like if we were to take on the elements that could work for us?
I’ve always admired your Dad for the stance he’s taken – got a bit of a pash really. He’s kept standing up to be counted, even when the press ridiculed and maligned him. I’m so pleased he’s finally been proven right on a number of his concerns. And your Mum, she kept doing her best for those less fortunate.
So now I’m the old codger expressing my worries and asking – ‘will you be our son now?’ I’m not worried for myself – I’ll be gone before too long – but I am worried about what I’m leaving behind. You have considerable power and influence – please use it for all those folk who can’t fight for themselves, who don’t have the means to develop a better life.
I wonder what the Fifth King of Bhutan would do?
Perhaps you can invite him over and chew the fat to see what you can come up with together. Or maybe you take the family back for a visit. (I’m happy to tag along if you’d like some company!) I know my old codger mates would be up for helping – and I bet your Dad would be up for it too.
I’d love us all to have a go before it’s too late.