Monday, November 29, 2010

Week of 11/29/2010

Why NOT Thank A Human?
– by David Matthews 2

My friend RJ Evans is more than just a fellow libertarian and my boss for ShockNet Radio. He is also an unashamed atheist.

This past week on our weekly Friday show, RJ gave his editorial about the things and people he was thankful for this past Thanksgiving. I wasn’t listed by name (and I won’t hold it against him), but I paid more attention to something that he said about giving thanks, and to a point that he really didn’t pick up on too much.

Religious people, even those we call friends and family, continually interject their own faith into every aspect of our lives, and on special days, like Thanksgiving, this is even more so. Politicians of all stripe are equally eager to name-drop the politically-expedient personalized deity for thanks as well. Everyone loves to give thanks for the meal put before them, and the company around them, and their general lot in life, no matter how abysmal things may really be.

And yet something key is missing here…

What about the PEOPLE?

That turkey dinner that you enjoyed didn’t just magically appear on the table. Someone had to raise the turkey. That person had to then deliver that turkey for evisceration and plucking and bagging. It then had to be delivered to the store, handled by various employees to put it on the shelf, where it ended up in a shopping cart, and rung up by someone else before taken home. Then someone else had to cook it, carve it, and put it on plates for you to enjoy it. A deity didn’t do any of those things. Humans did them all.

The friends and family members that surrounded you during your day of thanks… they didn’t just magically appear around you, did they? They weren’t just sitting at home and then all of a sudden found themselves teleported over to your dinner table, were they? No, they had to fly or drive or even walk over to your home. And they didn’t get there by angel-power. They got there by man-made devices.

When you watched the various parades and sporting events and celebrations of the week, were all those being conducted by angels? Or were they done by human beings who took time out of their lives for the sake of celebration and competition?

Were any of those above-mentioned groups amidst your list of thanks this past Thanksgiving? Did you thank the farmer for your feast? Or the grocer for selling it to you? Or the people behind the means to bring your friends and family to you for that feast? I would hope that you at least thanked the person or people who cooked that feast that you so enjoyed!

You didn’t? You mean you completely forgot about those other people?

Well I’m really not surprised.

That seems to be a common problem. So focused are we on ourselves or on our beliefs that we forget about those “other people” who REALLY helped to make the day what it is. Or, for that matter, ANY day. It’s not just the special occasions that we seem to divorce ourselves from our fellow man and woman.

Think, for a minute, about a successful business. Big Corporate loves to dote all the attention on the people up at the extreme top of that business. The executive president, and vice-president, and directors, and the Board of Executives, and, of course, the CEO and CFO. They get all of the perks and bonuses. But what about the people who actually DO the work? The unnamed masses at the extreme BOTTOM of that business? The ones that barely get paid minimum wage with or without benefits and are told they have to work for free or without overtime or get laid off so those at the top can keep their profit margins. What sort of appreciation do they get for their hard work and sacrifice? Why, none at all! None except for “the opportunity” to bask in the glory of their executives.

I’m sure you’re wondering where we developed that kind of social disconnect, where we can literally de-humanize others, and you really don’t have to look very far. Just pay attention to what goes on at your own dinner table and ask who you really thank.

Let’s get brutally honest here… it’s really easy to give thanks to a deity that is viewed from our own biases and life experiences for simply ending up where we are today than it is to recognize and thus appreciate our fellow human beings, who were the ones that actually put in the effort to physically MAKE the things that we are enjoying. In fact it’s quite narcissistic.

If there was someone that you knew that did nothing at all, that neither contributed to your fortune nor helped you in times of trouble, would you be annoyed with that person demanding continual appreciation simply for being there? Sure. And yet when that “person” is a being perceived only through our own personal filters, we put IT over everything else and everyone else, and we expect others to do it too. And who really gains from that? Only ourselves.

Of course it’s easy to say that it’s not about “ourselves” when we use religious references. And yet our fortunes neither improve nor degrade if we inadvertently fail to thank that same being for some element of our lives.

Ask a CEO how he or she got to where they are today and they’ll be the first to tell you that it was through “hard work and determination”. They’re never going to say “Well I was cleaning toilets for minimum wage and I prayed to be rich and the very next day I was in charge of a Fortune 500 company.” That never HAS happened and that never WILL happen. But religious leaders will tell you that those kinds of things COULD happen just like that.

In fact the best way to describe what this personalized being contributes to is to say that it does… nothing. So we can either be thankful for that being doing “nothing” and watching as humans do all the things that is taken for granted, or we can be thankful for that being doing “nothing” that would intentionally cause harm to us or the people that we know. I mean, yeah, we COULD be hit by huge asteroid tomorrow. But does that mean I have to give thanks to some force in the universe that it hasn’t happened yet? That sounds a little bit like blackmail.

So the next time someone asks you to give thanks, how about putting some thought into the human beings who PHYSICALLY helped to make the event that you’re grateful for happening? After all, they had a LOT more do to with it than a metaphysical being that may or may not have done something… or nothing.


Chuck Doswell said...

Very true, D2! Whatever we have and enjoy, it comes to us through the efforts of many, many unsung folks. They do indeed deserve our thanks.

And you have my personal thanks for sharing your insight and creativity, as well as your friendship!!

Anonymous said...

Excellent observations David!

While I did not mention you by name on the air, you KNOW how thankful I am to you for your friendship and outstanding contributions to AH and ShockNet Radio! My lack of mention was not an oversight. It was due to time constraints. As I have said many times to you in private conversations, I love you like a brother, my ONLY brother. Your intelligence, candor, and integrity are unsurpassed. Thanks for another great commentary and for your friendship.

RJ Evans