A happy Thanksgiving to all!
I’ve been thinking a lot about this holiday lately. Somehow, it’s not as satisfying as it use to be. There’s a sense that it’s all so backward. In fact, it almost feels like a great big exercise of explicit indoctrination. Let me explain.
First of all, whom or what are we giving thanks to? God? That’s just silly. There are no Gods. But let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that there is a God and we’re giving thanks to Him/Her. Why?
There’s a very obvious problem here. We’re giving thanks to a being who has blessed our lives with certain pleasures and happiness. But what about all the lives who did not receive God’s blessing? While your God may be great to you, He/She is not so great to a multitude of people.
If we were to judge God’s greatness by its treatment of the whole, then we can easily conclude that God is not great after all.
But more to the point, if we’re giving thanks to a God for being great to me but not to others, what does that make me? I argue that it’s an expression of pure narcissism. It’s the child-like behavior of “me, me, me!”
I’m philosophically and morally against giving thanks to a God that grants the joys of life to certain individuals and denies it to others. If we truly cared about others, we should be critical, not thankful.
Since thanking God is morally unsupportable, do we then thank life itself? The energies of the universe? Fate?
I argue that regardless of the object (life, fate, etc.) to which we should be grateful for, we are still ultimately giving thanks to the most indifferent of concepts. In the words of Camus, this is “absurd”.
An indifferent and uncaring universe is nothing to be thankful for. And much like the God argument above, it (life, fate, universe, etc.) treats us all in such bizarre and uncaring ways, that it doesn’t deserve our gratitude. I highly doubt that an indifferent universe would even care!
Hence, we’re left with a certain void. We don’t actually have anything to be thankful to. In keeping with our intellectual integrity, we’re left being thankful to more “earthly things”. We can be thankful for our parents, water, internet, etc…you name it!
But this leads me to my next and more important critique. I will put it bluntly: Are we being thankful for not living in central Africa? Are we thankful that we’re not starving or living under constant warfare?
Are we thankful for not being born into slavery? Should we be thankful for being light skinned? It must be asked!
Think about those questions for a minute. In a sense, we’re actually being thankful for not being as fucked-up as other people. In my opinion, we’re back at the narcissist argument, but now it’s a bit darker.
There’s a hidden element of uncaring and indifference when we we’re thankful that we’re not born in the Congo, knowing full well of the dire situations that those citizens face every day.
Doesn’t it seem strange to you that the Congolese are thankful for $2 a day while we in the States are thankful that we don’t have to live on $2 a day?
The point is that being thankful for what you have is not practical nor productive to bring about any significant change to the world, and more importantly, how you perceive the world.
We should not be thankful! Instead, we should analyse all the wonderful things that we have and realize how many others don’t have them. That realization should lead us to action, not a passive “at least we’re not poor” state of mind.
The concept of “be thankful for what you have” is almost cynical when applied to the world of have’s and have-not’s.
It’s almost like saying “let them have cake and be thankful goddammit!”. (Marie Antoinette never said that, but you get the point.)
As a caring human being, I cannot be thankful for water, electricity, internet, etc. while billions of people are denied those basic necessities. I want them to have my water and my electricity. Only then, will I be thankful!
I think the cyclical exercise of being thankful produces more harm than good. It’s an exercise of indoctrination, just like most other holidays.
In this case, being thankful humbles us, but at the same time keeps us passive and inactive. It keeps up from causing trouble by demanding that others live a life a good as ours.
We’re all too familiar with the “troubles” caused by such things as women’s rights, gay rights, civil rights, human rights, etc. Caring for others has a history disturbing the status-quo.
This is slave-herd morality. The celebration of this holiday should be flipped upside down. I propose that we don’t give thanks for what we have and others don’t. I propose that this holiday be changed to reflect the amount of unmet needs that still plague this world.
Let’s truly contemplate the issues and allow those thoughts to bring us to action. Anything less is just another wasted holiday.
Thanks for reading.