Be Grateful

I have a long blob of text in me. Not for right now, but at some point. You know how these things are… They boil away on the back burner somewhere until the pot overflows and a blog post falls out and the metaphor stops working.

Anyways. I’m a huge whatever-the-opposite-of-a-fan is of Jordan Peterson but one thing he said got me thinking. Usually when this happens it’s an unproductive rabbit hole of “oh my goodness Jordan Peterson is either a moron or an evil genius”, but this one’s actually ok. I think. You tell me.

He was talking about gratefulness. Now, the context he used it in was this sort of trip-back-to-the-50s bullpuckey where people who try to make society better are ungrateful for what they already have (which… I mean… just think about that for a picosecond). It’s a fair point, though, we definitely should be grateful for what we’ve inherited in this society. The boat floats. It’s good.

But I don’t think we should set our aim on scary secret postmodern cabals in dusty back rooms of French universities who somehow improbably control the levers of an entire generation’s thought. I think we should aim at ourselves.

We’ve entered a really sort of toxic time in North America. Yeah, Trump, all that, but he’s a symptom. He’s just the discoloured surface of the abcess.

Has everyone forgotten that we all exist together? In a society? Part of a collective whole?

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve sat on a freshly built deck larger than my house that has an outdoor kitchen larger than my actual kitchen backing on to a private lake and had the people that own this wonderful place tell me they’re taxed to death.

Like… what?

(I can actually tell you how many times: It was once.)

I’ve heard this exact phrase so many times in the last few months: “Taxed to death”. You’re sitting on top of this massive pile of achievement and trying to say you want to give less back?

I say “give back” because that’s important.

Look, you worked hard. I get that. You’ve told me. I get that you’re in Cancun five times a year because you worked hard and you want to enjoy the fruit of your labour. But lots of people work hard, all around the world, and most of them get nowhere much. You’re a sample size of one.

You can’t trust your own gut on these things. Your gut wants to tell you that your success is because you worked hard, and your failures are because of bad situations or a thousand other things. You so desperately want to buy into that hero narrative that our culture (and by “our culture” I mean “the United States”) wants to sell you, and you haven’t thought about it long enough to realise that no, wait, it’s not just me.

You can’t be grateful for something you think you never got.

But you did.

The roads. The workers. The regulations. The healthcare. The police. The stability. The peace. All this stuff, and so, so much more. It doesn’t happen by accident. (And to Mr Peterson, respectfully, a lot of it build by the social reformers that you would have railed against were you born 75 years earlier.)

You worked hard. But you didn’t work hard in a vacuum. And you were lucky. Let’s just face facts. You were born in a time, in a place, had the right idea at the right time, and were able to execute the idea. Maybe you failed a bunch and eventually it paid off.

It’s find to want money to be spent wisely. It’s fine to want responsible governance. But what you don’t get to do is pretend your deserve to keep all your marbles and go home.

Be grateful.

Pay your damn taxes.