-Giving Thanks

November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving: the Role of Gratitude in Our Culture

by Tina Shannon

This video is evocative. I think the comedian is saying more than meets the eye (or ear I guess). On the surface his criticism of our culture rings true. But there’s more to it than that.

When he says that in some ways it would be good to go back to a time when we had to use donkeys to carry things around, it’s a way of supporting the disparity in wealth, either consciously or not. This comedian is not speaking in a vacuum. We have a complex web of popular culture that is controlled, although not monolithically, from the top down. So all the message that gets out onto the most expensive medium, in this case TV, is going to tend to support the status quo. I don’t mean that it’s controlled in a simplistic way but that all the social controls (that all cultures exercise in one way or another) will filter out most messages that are truly critical of the system those controls are supporting.

So I feel very uneasy hearing this comedian’s opening line, knowing how much justification of disparity is happening right now. Are we being thankful or are we adapting to the theft of the contribution we as working people have made to our society?

And who is this “we” he’s referring to? A lot of “us” aren’t able to afford the price of a plane ticket or laptop. When I think of the “we” I’m a part of, I feel like I have to fight for more, more access to healthcare, better & real education, & most of all jobs that bring real wealth into my community. Everything isn’t amazing for most people right now.

There are a lot of amazing things, yes. But fewer & fewer people have access to them. We are becoming a two-tier society. I live & work in the lower tier. I’m willing to be thankful for many things, but I’m not willing to focus on that. I’m not willing to stay in a state of gratitude when wide spread theft is taking place and, as a result, less & less resources are circulating through our communities.

I agree that interesting things are happening to our concept of time. I don’t really enjoy going faster & faster. I think there might be a problem with it. But on the other hand it might be human evolution. How would I know with my limited perception & inability to see the future? However, it’s backward to call this generation, my children & grandchildren, “the crappiest generation of just idiots” like the guy on this video does. He decries their selfishness while succumbing to the very Survivor-Reality TV mean-heartedness that they’ve had to grow up with.

For me the question is & has been for a while, how to maintain an atmosphere of positive relationship with the world while not ignoring the pain in it. This question is primary for parents of young children since the positive emotional environment in their home is essential for their health. Gratitude plays an important role in being able to do this. And our quest for ever-more stuff (much of it being plastic junk) often leaves us little room for gratitude.

I understand that. I do. I would just ask that in our search for spiritual wholeness we be careful and even suspicious about what messages we receive through popular culture.

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