A Brief History of Ingratitude

Once upon a time, there was a kingdom in a hidden valley where soft rain fell each night and refreshing breezes swept away the clouds each morning. The black earth was rich and seeds planted deliberately, or blown in on the winds, yielded delicious fruits, vegetables and grains. The people enjoyed grilled fish two days a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays, when fish would fall from the edges of waterfalls onto the sandy beaches below.

This kingdom was unknown to the rest of the world, until one day, a band of missionaries arrived intent on propagating their vision of eternity. It didn’t take them long to determine that such an easy life could not be healthy, since it prevented recognition of humanity’s fallen nature.

The inhabitants had not previously had much reason to develop philosophical, psychological, or ethical perspectives; but their songs and the sculptures that adorned their modest dwellings touched some of the younger missionaries; as did the king who believed in kindness in his arbitration of the disputes that arise among humans and animals everywhere.

The missionary agenda, driven by unwavering belief, soon prevailed, since people had little to pit against such persistent conviction; and changes in the way the people conducted their lives soon began to appear. For instance, every Tuesday, fish were thrown back into the river and from henceforth, Friday became the day to eat fish. For fear of an unfriendly future, harvests were gathered into centers from which a portion was distributed to families, based on entitlements. What remained was stored against the statistical certainty that lean years would come.

Life in the kingdom was now under the guidance of a higher authority, administered by human representatives on Earth. The belief arose that everyone had to look after themselves and their own tribe, which no longer always included neighbors. Individuals learned to treat anyone outside their own group (determined by birth connections and adopted beliefs) with suspicion.

The view that others were out to take advantage of anyone who didn’t look after their own interests, merged with a fear that there was not enough to go around. Storing surpluses for difficult times became secondary, as some fought to gain ownership of all the harvests. Wealth became more important than the harvests themselves, as proof of ownership superseded the bounties of Nature. Soon water and food were packaged and sold by incorporated agencies. At first these were cooperatives of the people, but then the law of ownership took them over too.

While gaunt children watch, the meals they have not had in days are shipped in storage containers and traded on global exchanges, as the manipulation of periodic shortages has become a lucrative activity. As children raise their frail arms in supplication, only a few see or care; and even those who do, feel powerless to affect the onrush of trucks and ships meeting the crying need for baby food, vegetables and bread; all of which is produced elsewhere and bears the tax of non-renewal fossil fuel added to their cost. It has become so much the norm to care only about our own tribe, that the voices of anyone–professing a different heritage or deity–falls by the wayside, like seeds on stony ground. With no experience hearing notes foreign to our own experience, a profound deafness to all but our chosen catechisms and self-interests prevails across the land.

2 comments to “A Brief History of Ingratitude”
  1. Good post. I often ask myself:
    What would north and South America look like today if no foreigners had ever set foot on these 2 continents after say, 1300 A. D.

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