Appreciating what we didn’t earn

Free speech. Equality of rights and opportunity. The ability to exercise your self-determination. Access to technology and resources like the internet.

We paid for none of these things with our own blood, sweat and tears. So we take them for granted. We treat them with contempt and disdain. Gratitude for these things, if it exists at all, is found only in the subterranean depths of our minds. 

See, the measure of our appreciation varies according to distance between us and it’s attainment. If our parents had fought for free speech, we, as their children, might appreciate it. But do we cherish something that our great-great-great-great grandparents devoted their lives to attaining? No. It’s too far away.

Perhaps the clearest demonstration of this idea? The difference of mindset between a self-made individual and their descendants. 

The parent spent decades toiling away. Creating, re-inventing, adapting and evolving. Eventually, their efforts came good. They made it. They know just how much the fight cost them, so they appreciate every advantage their wealth can give to them. But their descendants? Their children, grand-children and great grand-children? They didn’t experience the same struggle. They can’t comprehend the distinction between no wealth and inexhaustible wealth. They’ve only ever been in the clouds. They haven’t experienced rock bottom. They don’t know what it’s like to fight for your life in the gutter. So they take for granted the numerous advantages they have. 

As a species, it’s hard for us to appreciate what we didn’t earn for ourselves. Hard, but not impossible. 

It takes time and effort to consider the resources we have at our our disposal, but did not win through our own endeavours. But if we can do it? If we can reflect on all the advantages won by previous generations? Then perhaps our newfound gratitude will inspire us to win an even greater victory for the generations that come after us.