So, today in conversation a good friend said something along the lines of: “We in Britain have it so much better than other many places in the world, and we ought to be grateful.” It was part of a conversation about the General Election coming up… which is part of a longer conversation about the fear that we are losing the NHS and welfare to chronic and deliberate under-funding along with the demonising of services and customers.
She’s right, of course. We do have it pretty sweet. We have the best healthcare system in the world, and will never (for now) face the worry of having to pay for that healthcare. It’s paid for through taxes, so yeah, we’re still paying and it’s not free and blah blah blah… but my taxes won’t bankrupt me and my cancer treatment would have… if I’d even been able to pay for all of it. I could well be dead in countries where healthcare isn’t a given.
We have workers rights, free education (yeah, I know, it’s not blah blah blah), a welfare system that actually helps people… we don’t have much to complain about. And I am grateful.
It’s just that I shouldn’t be. I know other places are worse. I know other countries may not have these benefits and rights. But that doesn’t matter. That other places are worse is no reason to be grateful. It ought to be a given, it should be a baseline to expect. The idea is to continue to want better and more; not to allow these things to disappear because other places don’t have them either. We shouldn’t be telling our kids to be more grateful, we should be glad that they have it better. We should let them complain because what they have isn’t enough and watch them make it better still. We should be leading the way, not holding back because other places think we have enough.
For all that though, we actually should be grateful for what we have and not forget that it could easily not be there.
In a poor attempt to make more sense:
I am grateful to be alive. But I should be able to take it for granted. My life is not something that I ought to feel grateful for, even though I should and do.
That’s cleared that up.