Monday, October 08, 2007


I've been thinking lately about thankfulness and entitlement. It's not exactly a new insight, but you can't have both at the same time.

You can't feel entitled and simultaneously thankful. And that may have something to do with why rights language bothers me.

It's not that I don't think human rights are worth fighting for, and protecting. I do. I think that what gets called "human rights", really are inalienable and ought to be granted in full to all human beings. But I also think that it's a philosophically dangerous road, because a mentality of rights is incompatible with a mentality of gratefulness or thankfulness. Yet thankfulness is one of the prerequisites of happiness. I'm sure you have experienced as much as I have that you are happier when you are thankful than when you get something you deserved anyway. A life of thankfulness is a better life in most ways than a life of entitlement.

We hear so much, whether from a materialist-consumer-driven economy or from a rights-focussed-individualist politic, about what we deserve. But the questions that don't often get asked (or at least I don't often hear them asked) are: why? why do I deserve anything?

Have I done anything to earn even my existence? Then on what grounds do I deserve even that? And if I don't deserve life itself: if even my life is a gift, than what can I deserve within that life? What rights do I have, except what has been granted to me, through no desert of my own? And how can I possibly respond or react to this situation except to give thanks?

Sunday, October 07, 2007