Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Forget your 'Q's

Looking up the etymology of, 'gratitude', in the English language, it seems perfunctory to say that its association with thankfulness for help received is the source of all civility in human discourse. Psychologically, the study of gratitude is only now drawing linkages to the perception of indebtedness towards the benefactor(s)  by the recipient party for the largesse so received that led to the feeling(s) of gratitude in the first place. But as all things psychologically disseminated, the study of gratitude seems far too focused on the negative aspects of the base emotion representing the magnanimity implicit in its expression within the human condition, and let us be in no doubt that the popular manifestation of gratitude is solely a human trait and therefore divorced from evolutionary theory and its psychological repercussions.
For the purpose of this post, let us then separate the moral obligation for gratitude from its expectation by the donor party; the religious, ethical and social arguments for the requirement of the existence of the former state being well established and therefore in danger of being regarded parsimonious if employed simply for the sake of copy herein.

The expectation of gratitude, therefore, is where the real juice lies, because the weight it lends to myriad social interactions within a multitude of milieus pretty much determines the course of whole lives, without ever drawing attention to itself, and that itself should be reason enough for deep individual reflection.
We start off life constantly being reminded that we should be grateful for being born - grateful to: our parents, current society for providing us the harmonious conditions for existence, and a number of individual and collective benefactors that we wouldn't really want anything to do with once we come of age, but who irrevocably helped us on our way through the birth canal by the grace of the degrees of complicity that bind all of us human beings together, and did so even before the advent of virtual social networking. So where does that leave us? We are bound by the law of Te Deum as soon as we are born and continue to implicitly adhere to its precepts till the day we die without ever having a choice in the matter. The law follows us everywhere through adulthood, even as we are dismissive of its impact in childhood and adolescence; we passed our first competitive examination because of the munificence of our parents, our teachers and the institution that arranged them (the examinations). We managed to achieve gainful employment and economic security because of; the existence of the market-place, our predecessors, and individual and collective consumers of our hard work, most of whom we shall never encounter. Retirement brings with it another set of gracious imperatives; the pension funds controlled by the great and vaguely grey men that you never thought to think of (and thank) who are responsible for the relative ease of  your present rectitude... society at large... the benevolence of one's children etc. etc.

All this gratitude that follows us around our whole lives must exact some sort of toll, no? And in what form can that toll be measured - lily-liveredness (sic), ingratiation, unconscious groveling, an expectation of a similar toll to be exacted on those who are in the same position you once were in?

It is heartening to hear the collective yell of young people everywhere in the world today sounding out, loudly and clearly, that the age of gratitude is past and that we are not bound to the sins of our fathers and are not responsible for the state our world is in today. Let us be done with the political and economic correctness that has led us to this permanent state of uncertainty and pervasive dread of a future that nobody can predict. We really need not be grateful anymore to those who deserve our gratitude less than the scavengers that feed off the carcasses of hidden kills - at least they play their part in cleaning up the environment.

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