A series of inspirational debates by innovative thinkers were the highlight of the “Democracy and Happiness Weekend” held recently at Costa Navarino in Messinia, Greece.
The event took place for the 7th time and this year was held at the new resort W Costa Navarino from September 30 to October 2.
Held in partnership with the Athens Democracy Forum, the event saw key speakers, including professor and writer Yascha Mounk, academic Dr. Karolina Wigura and psychotherapist Kostas Kouris, exploring whether a happier society equates to a more resilient democracy.
The quest for happiness
At a time when daily life is punctured by a series of global crises – from climate change to the pandemic to all-out war – the quest for happiness seems ever more elusive, and even a bit indulgent. But more people than ever are seeking it out.
The weekend started with an interactive discussion led by Kalypso Nicolaidis, Chair of Global Affairs, School of Transnational Governance, European University Institute – who explored the relationship between ancient mythology and modern politics.
Connection between democracy and happiness
The main discussion was moderated by Roger Cohen, Paris Bureau Chief at The New York Times, and was held at The Bay Clubhouse, delving into the connection between democracy and happiness.
Yascha Μοunk questioned if modern democracy is able to bring happiness by claiming that “what democracy can do is to put in place the conditions for people to pursue happiness”.
Karolina Wigura highlighted that “happiness is connected to ethics” and referred to the Greek philosopher Aristotle, according to whom, “happiness is on the same wheel of virtue, good life and philosophy”.
Kostas Kouris also referenced Aristotle and the definition that “happiness is the end of all goals”. He mentioned that “unless everyone is happy you cannot be happy. This is the virtue. And this is a good connection with democracy – virtue is a way of making choices, for you and the society. You are informed by your values”.
Wigura added that “Democracy is capable to allow us the pursuit of happiness – because it doesn’t impose happiness on us”. Mounk stated that “it’s important to learn to be indifferent to things that don’t truly matter – but take the decision of taking the conscious risk of making happiness depend on things that do”.
Redefining happiness to create stronger democracies
In addition to the series of talks, Jon Alexander and Irenie Ekkeshis, co-founders of the New Citizenship Project, held an interactive workshop about “Redefining Happiness to Create Stronger Democracies”.
Moreover, guests were able to enjoy morning yoga and a “Philosophy Walk”, led by Prof. Eleni Volonaki from the University of Peloponnese, discussing the topic of happiness through the lens of ancient Greek philosophers.