Gratitude as Attitude, or Gratitude as Commodity

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Wednesday, 1 April 2015

See, this kind of thing is why I'm glad I'm not on Facebook anymore. Kerri Sackville has just blogged about how she feels that the idea of gratitude has changed somewhat.  How with the advent of social media it's become something not so much personal and sensory and private as it's now something that you share in your status update.  Gratitude as your brand.  How practising gratitude is fine and dandy and yet it's no cure-all.  It doesn't make a jot of difference to the badness of the bad things that happen to us.

And neither should it.

I understand the frustration about commodification.  Hell, I feel like we've been commodified to within an inch of our genitals, and so why wouldn't even sharing things that are beautiful start to feel rather forced, strained, constrained into boxes and memes, to be packed up, shared, as an alternative to community?  Gratitude as social cachet.  Gratitude as a way of me putting a unit of blip out there in order to gain from you a unit of blip in return.  Everything turned into a bit of exchange.

You know, I think exchange is a great thing.  It's just that in this current paradigm we live in, everything gets flattened down into the same size, for the spreadsheet.  It's not meant to be like that.

Oh, I don't know.  All of this - the ridiculous extent to which we live online, the commodification of everything, the refusal of so many to buck the system but instead to ride that status quo as hard as possible to the very end, frustrates the hell out of me.  Because while it's frustrating, I understand that of course people are going to ride it for as long as it's there.  They're after all legitimately scared of losing what they have, and the mortgage has to be paid and the kids schooled.

But that's just survival.  It's not flourishing.

If I had to propel myself into the future and think about the one thing that I'm going to be most grateful for when we have (hopefully) come to a better place of doing things differently, it will be when we have finally and truly understood how completely infiltrated we are by the machinations of this global economic system.  I mean, I hate money, really.  I find it boring and constraining.  It flies through my fingers like water, most likely because I don't have enough of it to meet my needs but also I like to think that I do that because I now understand that that is how money is meant to be.  It's mean to be living, moving, a greasing of our parts so they move better together.  Not something that people hoard.

The only thing I hate more than money is the system that has grown up around it.  We are ruled truly by it.  I don't even think a whole lot of us even realise the extent of it.  Maybe we're starting to.  But the GFC was seven years ago, and perhaps we're happy to settle back into complacency again, even while we notice that things are terribly wrong.

Last night I watched George Megalagenis's rather good two-parter on the ABC, called Making Australia Great.  It talked a lot with politicians past about different facets of Australia and our history, covering such topics as Melbourne's glory years as the richest city in the world in the late 1800s, through to how we handled the global financial crisis in 2008.

The elephant remaining in the discussion room though was the same one that is in all mainstream media rooms when we discuss the future and how we're going to get there.  It is that we cannot go on as we are, that the changes required to move forward will be far bigger than we can imagine ... but perhaps far easier once we gather our loins to make the changes.  To do so will entail facing down the biggest powerbrokers in the world.   That's all.

The room elephant is that a global debt-based monetary system is not only not going to be able to continue, but that the longer it does the more it is going to kill the earth you are living on and it's going to kill you too.  A debt-based system means that it is a mug's game before the horse is even out of the box.  For the system to keep upright, it has to keep growing, and growing, and growing.  The same way cancer does.  Which translates out into you being required to be a consumer.  Keep consuming, keep buying stuff.  Keep doing it, or we'll go under.

Consumption in itself isn't bad.  It is when it is attached to a finite world of resources, where more and more humans are living, and more and more want the lifestyle you and I happen to be living right now.  It's not sustainable.  It's not possible.  Not without change.

The Catholics have got a whole lot of things wrong with their particular system, but I'll say this about them - they cried out about interest from the rooftops for a long time.  They called it usury, and they weren't the only ones to warn what could happen if such a concept was introduced.  Well, it was, centuries before you were born.  It infects your life in a way that you possibly cannot even begin to imagine.  But it does.  Look into it.  Go delving into surely what is one of the most tedious and eye-glazing of subjects, economics.  I can't bear to go too far into it because not only does it make my brain switch off, but it's not possible because it's too complex for any of us to really have our heads around.  Looking into it, I have the sour taste of disgust in seeing how the complexity that surrounds our current global financial system has come about partly because the mugs, the workers who have been had from the start, who have jobs within this current economic system, are trying desperately to make ways and roads through something that is corrupt at its very heart.  In order for them to do so, they must become corrupt themselves.  And in the process they have destroyed the lives of people who were never going to be able to get their heads around the whole mass of worms to start off with.

And so when I think about gratitude (remember how I started this rave talking about gratitude?  How did I get from there to here?)  But when I think about gratitude, I can't think about a higher pinnacle that I would ever be able to stand upon than that of looking back over decades and seeing a gradual, growing golden onrush of people who understand that the way we do stuff now has its own built-in algorithm.  That algorithm means that so much of what you do that is innocent is done at the expense of others.   An understanding of that will switch us onto the idea that it actually doesn't need to be like this.

It doesn't need to be like this.

It doesn't need to be like this.

It doesn't.

That would really be the heights of gratitude for me, if that's how history panned out looking back in 40 years' time.  It would mean that the kind of forward-thinking positivity required would have stemmed from a growing up, a refusal to hide from what scares us in a fluffy New Age insistence on everything being hunky dorey.  It would mean that the people would have insisted on a rewrite of a badly decomposed story.

And that would mean that the real determinant that makes a country and a people great would have been achieved ~ that the people knew that they were worthy of being far more than consumers and mugs.  That's empowerment.  That's vision.  That's flourishing.