Thursday, November 24, 2011

-3- Thanksgiving Day

The Morality of Gratitude. 

Since today is Thanksgiving Day, I'll do something special. Let's discuss the whole concept of gratitude and whether there truly needs to be a "thanksgiving day". Of course any celebration in general won't stand up to an examination that is anything more than a cursory glance; so I'll focus on the concept of gratitude more. 

Gratitude in its own sense is a feeling that is not present anywhere other than society. Even the words "thank you" themselves already imply the existence of more than one person. Of course it is still possible to feel gratitude for things that don't involve people, for example feeling thankful for the great weather, happiness, etc. Nonetheless, the thesis I want to get across here is that gratitude is a social concept that did not exist in nature.

Gratitude is the concept taught to people since early childhood. "Say thank you for this." "It's the nice thing to do." If this was a concept that naturally existed within people, it would not need to be taught. In contrast, take traits that come naturally to all humans: love, hate, violence, etc. While you can be taught how to express these feelings, one never needs to be taught what they are (Unless of course, he or she pretends to not know for attention). So why would gratitude be taught to people? What's the use? Aside from the purely social perspective of making a person seem "nice", it is actually beneficial for a society to be full of gratitude. In fact; needless gratitude in itself is highly useful in order to control people.

Take for example one of the most common instances of gratitude, the "respect for one's elders". Respect in itself is something that requires to be earned; in this case one cannot earn respect for one's elders if one never encountered them. It is rather a mismatch of words because what is really implied in that statement is a gratitude towards one's elders. To state it simply: "Feel thankful to those that came before you; they're the reason you're enjoying your life today." Of course it's hard to see the problem with this statement. One's elders are the precursors to that person; thus it is only logical to understand that a great part of a person's life depends on the people that came before him or her.

The problem is that it is a part of life. There is no need to feel gratitude for what is naturally present; certainly not in the sense that other people require it. If one should feel thankful for one's elders (who are given to him naturally as a birthright), then shouldn't, by the same logic, everyone be thankful for living on earth in the first place? The planet itself is much larger and more important than a bunch of old people, isn't it? The same applies to the sun, to air, to the universe itself. If people should be thankful for what is naturally given, there are no limits to things we should feel thankful for! By that sense, one thanksgiving wouldn't be enough; every day we would need to be thankful. 

Thus gratitude in itself; at least in the sense that it is taught to others is a rather narrow topic; narrow because the people teaching it had not truly perceived what they were trying to get others to believe. While of course, I would never complain about the hypocrisy of mankind; in this case the hypocrisy of teaching one to be thankful for nonsense and omitting the great whole simply due to lack of insight, I will complain quite a lot about the lack of insight itself. People should be able to see beyond themselves, especially if they despise subjectivity as much as they preach. 

So why is it that gratitude is still being taught to others today, especially if it takes such a minuscule amount of insight to see through it's stupidity and discard that concept as meaningless? That is due to the fact that it is very easy to control people who are grateful for things that don't matter. Go back to the gratitude for one's elders example. It is not true that all of our elders deserve our respect; once again, it is a lack of insight that makes one think so. The reality is that our elders were as foolish as the rest of us, and thus deserve the same amount of respect. But, if one is grateful towards his elders (who are in reality his equals, in a sense), then he is less likely to see past their mistakes. The problem with gratitude in this sense is that it is blind; it makes one thankful for reasons one doesn't know, and thus can even make a person thankful for something that is a detrimental to him or her. 

There are many, many examples of such situations that arise time and time again. Children who are abused but won't stand up against it because they are thankful for the parents who gave them life. Societies where one cannot pursue his or her goals because it is against the values set to him by a society that he or she should appreciate (This, quite largely applies to females, does it not?). Countries that were thankful for leaders who got them out of a recession only to find out that their leader was a maniac dictator (This is quite a famous one). Time and time again, we are given examples why not to be thankful, or rather why not to be thankful foolishly. Think twice before you feel gratitude. 

On that note, I'm rather thankful for my own existence. Nothing more.

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