Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.~Hebrews 13:5-6
One issue I am striving to overcome since returning from Afghanistan, is my persistent displeasure with fellow Americans who don’t seem to realize how good they have it, with how much tough work went in to making this country, with the willing sacrifices that were made, and mostly just how outrageously easy the day to day life of an American really is. The thoughts of the cellulite-ridden mall shoppers standing in line complaining about this or that is a national embarrassment.
The ungrateful person is not concerned about others, he does not complain about injustice so much as their own momentary discomfort, without a second thought about their relative situation. The ungrateful person manifests many of the deadly sins, mostly sloth and gluttony and envy. Since the ungrateful person’s appetites can never be sated, work is seen as evil, since it gets the person no closer to satisfying his personal needs ( an impossibility), this results in sloth. The ungrateful person, paradoxically, never stops trying to satisfy himself, thus gluttony often results, and not only in the overeating of food, but in the hoarding of useless trinkets, clothes, etc, firmly entrenching in him severe materialism. Finally, despite his laziness and his hoarding, he always wishes to have what his neighbor has, and in fact he wishes that his neighbor would lose some of what he has.
Ultimately the ungrateful society is primarily comprised of people without any real skills. They expect all of their needs, including their personal safety, to come from outside sources. As such, they make increasingly poor decisions for themselves. Our state and society has become the great enabler of the ungrateful person, encouraging a plague of horrible personal decisions among its citizens.
An ungrateful society loses its sense of perspective, its ability to tell good from bad, evil from holy. Soon, the democratic state which supports an ungrateful people finds itself the victim of its own populism. It throws money about, just as did the Roman emperors who gained the throne via assassination; they baited Rome’s soldiers and citizenry with exorbitant amounts of money, merely to mollify them. The result backfired utterly, as a people so eligible for purchase will be the first to sink the dagger in the back of the next ruler. Discipline disintegrated. These emperors would have done better for themselves had they offered the money, then had crucified anyone who took it.
An ungrateful society finds itself unable to protect itself at a personal or national level. The weight of self-defense is placed on emergency services. The same skills that are necessary for the individual farmers of history, be they from ancient Greece, Rome or even the original settles of America translate well to that of soldier. Thus, these people were extraordinary fighters, hardy, resilient, cunning, grateful with little. In those societies, before they began to crumble and while they still maintained the visage of nobility and strength, even the aristocrats were able to live ascetically when needed. Make no mistake, George Washington was an aristocrat. Yet he drove himself as he did his troops at Valley Forge. Eventually ungrateful people are overwhelmed by hardier peoples.
Now, I understand that “ungrateful” can be relative, that circumstances can always become so uncomfortable that anyone would complain. Still, when we look at our wealth and the trivial nature of our complaints, can anyone truly say that most are justified? Where are the days when a beer, a cup of coffee, a good book, the beach, were enough? It’s not to say that we should not strive to be better, but our gluttony is destroying us. Clearly, as a people, we have asked far more from our nation than we have put in to it. History’s largest debt supports my thesis. When I hear people complain about the weather, even though it is not hurting any plans, even though they don’t have a job that requires them to be out in the weather, when I hear people complain about perfectly good food, about how walking is hard, breathing is hard, thinking is hard….well I complain about their incessant complaining. Life just isn’t that difficult for me.
Ungrateful people are outraged by nature itself. Someone, the government most likely, should do something to make it all ok. The government should stop hurricanes, make it warmer, make it colder, stop hunger, stop war. The government. If the power goes out, it’s outrage against the government. We’ve become so weak that everything is an outrage. Am I hallucinating, or was it against the rules as a child to even complain about the food on the table in the 1970s? What were the options? Go hungry or eat. Are we doing our children, the world a favor by scrambling for a food that tastes better? As parents are we so stupid as to not know what is actually good for our 3 year old?
I stand by my words, that America past was better than America present. That our people were better. That ungratefulness is the root of our problems, our debt, our gluttony, our lack of important skill, our welfare system, the root of feminism, socialism, liberalism.
In parting I’ll leave you with a tract from Livy’s, The Early History of Rome. Ask yourself, does it portend our ending?
I invite the reader’s attention to the much more serious consideration of the kind of lives our ancestors lived, of who were the men, and what the means both in politics and war by which Rome’s power was first acquired and subsequently expanded; I would then have him trace the process of our moral decline, to watch, first, the sinking of the foundations of morality as the old teaching was allowed to lapse, the the rapidly increasing disintegration, then the final collapse of the whole edifice, and the dark dawning of our modern day when we can neither endure our vices nor face the remedies needed to cure them. …no country has ever been greater or purer than ours or richer in good citizens and noble deeds; none has been free for so many generations from the vices of avarice and luxury; nowhere have thrift and plain living been for so long held in such esteem. Indeed, poverty, with us, went hand in hand with contentment. Of late years wealth has made us greedy, and self-indulgence has brought us, though every sensual excess, to be, if I may so put it, in love with death both individual and collective.