As we prepare to take a few days off for the Christmas holiday, Victor Davis Hanson has the prescription for some of what ails us as a society: the revival of the virtue of gratitude.
The Roman philosopher and statesman Cicero insisted that gratitude was “the parent of all the other virtues.” Cicero did not define gratitude as Mafia-like loyalty or mutual back-scratching. He was not referring to a pop socialism where all supposedly owe their successes to the government.
Instead, gratitude is proof of humility and offers perspective. It is an appreciation for others, often now dead, who have helped to make us what we are. Without it, we are narcissists and self-absorbed amnesiacs. Unfortunately, our modern “me” generation has forgotten gratitude and replaced it with the art of victimization.
Contemporary Americans prefer blaming others — parents, ancestors, their country, the world in general — for their own unhappiness while patting themselves on the back for anything that goes well.
Ingratitude permeates our society,. Hanson singles out one particular place: elite universities, where students are hypersensitive towards imagined slights (microaggressions), rarely thank their parents, or the government, for paying for their expensive educations, and where long-dead benefactor are "reduced to politically incorrect losers of the past who lacked today’s affluent 18-year-old’s sophisticated view of the world and supposedly unique morality."
But elite college students aren't the only ungrateful ones. Davis writes:
Neither the mother of Boston bombers Tamerlan and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev nor the father of San Bernardino shooter Syed Farook seemed very grateful to their adopted home for taking them in and offering a life preferable than back in Chechnya or Pakistan, respectively. Nor had they ever warned authorities about the extremist tendencies of their children.
Unfortunately, President Obama has been more willing to cite the shortcomings of his country than to remind foreign nations of American singularity.
. . .
Must our ancestors be reduced to villains of the past who do not fit our model of political correctness? Or were they just folks who had it far rougher than we citizens of the 21st century, and sacrificed their all so that we would not have to endure everything they did? Maybe in this holiday season the current generation of Americans occasionally could thank them. Such displays of gratitude, as Cicero suggested, might birth other virtues in us as well — like humility.
We wish you a season of gratitude!
Blogging here will be light until the New Year.