In a society of affluence, the last thing we have access to is gratitude. How can we explain this paradox? Is it the fact of possessing that makes us hostage to our own possessions? Or is it that consumerist ideology is incompatible with gratitude because it induces satiety and calls into question the whole system?
Gratitude is a central question in that it is intimately linked to happiness. How can we live fully and in a fulfilled way if we do not feel a form of gratitude? It is the consequence if not the cause of well-being. How then can we cultivate gratitude in the midst of abundance that pushes us to constantly desire more and prevents us from stopping to appreciate what we already have?
Gratitude, more than an ingredient of happiness, is above all a virtue that protects us from alienation or even madness. Let me explain. The absence of gratitude implies a lack of detachment between our possessions and ourselves. An ungrateful person is ungrateful above all because he no longer distinguishes what he is from the things he owns. His objects are a direct extension of his identity and it is for this reason that he cannot feel gratitude, it is a given for him.
The same is true for human relationships: ingratitude often manifests itself because we take the other for granted and we no longer feel the need to sanctify a bond that has become an extension of ourselves.
The absence of gratitude is therefore often a sign of the lack of distance between the object of desire and oneself. It necessarily results from this an alienation which designates “any form of enslavement of the human being because of external constraints (economic, political, cultural, social) leading to the loss of his faculties, of his freedom”. An ungrateful person loses his faculty of judgment because he is possessed.
Gratitude is part of happiness because it allows one to avoid madness, which is by definition prohibitive to maintain a state of well-being.
Finally, consumerism contains implicitly the intention to make us adhere to the idea of satisfying a desire for the absolute through consumption. Thus, values as strong as freedom, perfection or eternity (through the youthism it promotes) push us to buy endlessly because, by definition, they cannot be satisfied. Gratitude puts a stop to this mad race by accepting our situation and finally seeking relative values such as “a little more freedom”, “a little more satisfaction” etc.