Abdullah Sulaiman is a general engineering senior and Mustang News columnist. The views expressed in this column do not reflect the viewpoints and editorial coverage of Mustang News.
There are many things in our lives that many Americans take for granted. In a macro view, most of us live in a secure, developed and mostly peaceful land. Most people have a clean water source (with a few major exceptions such as Flint, Michigan). We are provided with a multitude of resources, including knowledge through public libraries, access to food through food banks, and many other free or affordable resources.
In a micro sense, viewing just ourselves, most of us have two fully functioning arms, legs, eyes and ears, a self-regulating body, a sense of smell and taste and a mind that can reason and critically think. And although the 2010 census states that almost one in five Americans have a disability of some kind, most people with disabilities have an easier time living with their condition, thanks to advances in medicine, access and technology.
There is a significant portion of Americans who are suffering and my point is not to discount their experiences. But compared to those suffering in third world countries, Americans have many more opportunities.
In the current state of the world, there are 20 million people suffering from a drought and famine in East Africa and Yemen. The United Nations (UN) Humanitarian Chief Stephen O’Brien said “we are facing the largest humanitarian crisis since the creation of the UN.”
Furthermore, there are millions of humans being displaced from their homes due to civil war and tyranny in their countries. According to Al Jazeera, there are over 5.1 million Syrian refugees due to civil war. More than half a million Rohingya refugees are currently fleeing Myanmar due to a genocide, according to UNICEF.
There are people who simply don’t have the means to sustain their own life, let alone anyone in their families. As of June 2017, the Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative (OPHI) found that of 103 countries in total, 26.5 percent of people (1.45 billion) are identified as multi-dimensionally poor.
A poll conducted by Gallup on the average American’s level of concern about national problems found that American’s top three concerns are the availability and affordability of healthcare, the economy and the potential of a future terrorist attacks. Hunger and homelessness tied with crime and violence for six out of 15 with only 43 percent viewing these as a matter of great of concern. This shows a large disconnect with the problems we face versus a large portion of the world. On the whole, Americans come from a privileged background where most of our basic needs, like food, water and shelter are met. Other country’s primary concerns are scraping by for these necessities to stay alive.
My main point is to bring to your attention to how fortunate we are to be living in this community and this country, regardless of who may be running it at the moment, and how fortunate we are that most of us have a body that is functional and possessing great potential. However, being able to critically think, why is it then that some people don’t seem to recognize this great fortune and blessing, and thus are not more grateful?
There are two factors which I believe contribute to this lack of appreciation.
Firstly, we live in a capitalistic, individualistic society. This type of ideology pushes people to view life as means to attain some physical or material value; consequently, we focus and dedicate ourselves to actualizing this. Granted, we do need to survive and so the overall quest to make money to be able to survive is not what I am targeting here. It is the want for luxury and excess that I believe our society pushes us towards.
I believe that this want, a product of our economic system, is what robs some people from appreciating the endless bounties that we have.
Secondly, I think some people aren’t as grateful because we aren’t living in the moment. I know this phrase is tossed around, but what I mean in this instance is the lack of awareness of your surroundings and the potential that you have therein. There are many things that are out of control in our lives, but what we have control of is ourselves and the great potential at any given moment. There are countless psychological studies that affirm the notion that exhibiting gratitude helps you become a better person. According to Forbes, there is scientific research that shows gratitude improves psychological health, enhances empathy, reduces aggression, improves self-esteem, increases mental strength and even helps you sleep better.
So, although you may not be getting everything you want in life, know that there is still much to be grateful for — you just have to stop and think.