A news item on the radio on Tuesday caused a certain amount of early-morning harrumphing in the Dixon household.
It was the launch day of Action for Happiness, a movement whose aim is “bringing together people from all walks of life who want to play a part in creating a happier society for everyone”.
It’s a laudable goal, and the chorus of harrumphs from Dixon Towers may have been more the result of a Lenten lack of chocolate than any deeper-rooted cynicism.
Those who join the movement make a very simple pledge: “I will try to create more happiness and less unhappiness in the world around me.”
And that is a very good thing.
Of course, some people have been there before. Ken Dodd, Liverpudlian comedian and variety entertainer, inventor of the Diddymen and the tickling stick, hit the charts in 1964 with a jolly little ditty called Happiness, and he’s been singing it ever since.
That said, and to put the cynical hat back on for a second, Doddy’s next hit was called Tears, and it’s still the 19th best-selling UK single of all time, just below that irritating Bryan Adams number about Robin Hood.
Misery sells, it would appear.
Mind you, the fact that Boney M are the only band to have two hits in the top ten says quite a lot about the tastes of the record-buying public.
Where were we? Right, happiness.
The Action for Happiness website has been up and down a bit over the first couple of days of its existence, but once you’re on it you can learn, among other things, about the Ten Keys to Happier Living.
You can find out that Doing Good Feels Good, and you can read quite a bit of philosophical stuff about The Greatest Happiness of the Greatest Number, and Utilitarianism (which you hoped you’d heard the last of in O-level history lessons).
You can even download a Happiness Action Pack, and posters to stick up in your workplace.
And you can learn about what they call the GREAT DREAM: Giving, Relating, Exercising, Appreciating, Trying out; Direction, Resilience, Emotion, Acceptance, Meaning.
It all sounds great, and you shouldn’t be cynical, and you want everyone to be happy, and everything should be for the best in the best of all possible worlds, and that Ken Dodd song is drilling a hole in your brain, but, but, but...
The pictures on the Ten Keys to Happier Living web page look strangely familiar. They’re black and white, 1950s vintage, happy smiling people. They could well have appeared on one of those comedy birthday cards with a modernised caption. You know the sort: “Mabel was just a shy retiring wallflower – until she discovered vodka”.
There’s something just a little bit creepy about all this enforced happiness, and before you know it paranoia starts to set in.
The men who know best are coming, with their smiles, and their philosophy, and their white coats.
“We want you to be happy,” they say. They look like they mean it. And they will be very hard to resist.