November 26, 2011

Occupy Gratitude

Although this is a little belated, I still wanted to wish everyone in the US a Happy Thanksgiving. Despite this holiday's complicated history, it is among my favorites because it reminds people to count their blessings and embrace the good rather than dwell on the lackluster or sub-par. I need this reminder (don't we all?) because it is much more commonplace and accepted to be hard on ourselves. To mire our accomplishments and triumphs with caveats and qualifiers about how "it would be even better if..."

For me, Thanksgiving is about not just recognizing but relishing the good, whatever that may be. It is about acknowledging privileges, good fortunes, and embarrassments of riches to remind ourselves that we don't need to be the richest, smartest, prettiest, best, etc. to still be among the lucky. Despite prevailing ideologies, this world doesn't have to be about perpetual, metaphoric competition. And in thinking about the goodness in our lives we gain perspective because although the world doesn't have to be a competition, there are people for whom struggle is an understatement. While I might dislike many of the competitive elements of American culture, that does not mean that I accept the ever-worsening disparities that exist within it, making life immensely harder for the majority and easier for a narrowing "lucky" minority.

Some US statistics from the Stanford Center for the Study of Poverty:
The facts are simple...
  • Income inequality is extreme and increasing: The top 1% of Americans control nearly a quarter of all the country's income, the highest share controlled by the top 1% since 1928.
  • The U.S. is exceptionally unequal: The U.S. ranks #3 among all the advanced economies in the amount of income inequality.
  • The poverty rate is high: The U.S. poverty rate, according to the new Supplemental Poverty Measure, is estimated at 15.7 percent. The official poverty rate stands at 15.1 percent. The United States Department of Agriculture estimates that 14.5 percent of all households were "food insecure" in 2010 (which means that at least some household members didn't have access to enough food for an "active, healthy life").
  • The unemployment rate is high: The U.S. unemployment rate for August is 9.1 percent. The employment-to-population ratio, which was 58.2 percent in August, is over 5 percentage points lower than just five years ago.

In these troubled times the gap between the haves and the have nots keeps widening. Real wages have decreased as inflation has increased. Locally, nationally, and globally economic challenges seem insurmountable. Wealth continues to concentrate among that narrowing sliver of the most fortunate. Now more than ever it makes sense to count our blessings. And in doing I cannot help but want to work creatively and actively toward diminishing the economic and social injustices of such ever-widening inequities. I believe that there should be a Happy Thanksgiving for all, not just for some. And I truly hope yours was great! Thank you for reading.


thatdamngreendress said...

Well said, and well-timed.  It is unfortunate that Thanksgiving just becomes a consumer holiday now, the jumping-off point for a mad whirlwind of Christmas spending.  I get to enjoy it a little more in Canada since it's so much earlier in the season, and so not aligned with anything else.  It's more of a harvest celebration with family, though probably smaller in scope!

Snowymt said...

thank you for this post jess!  hope you had a good thanksgiving!

carol_prettythings said...

Thanks for this, Jess. And happy Thanksgiving to you as well!


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