We are all dependent, none more so than the rich and powerful, who could not maintain their status without an army of servants, in spite of their contempt of the ‘dependency culture’ of the poor. Chronic illness is a common source of dependency. It forces people to rely on the state - and, if they are lucky, a network of good- hearted friends. The formal social contract is often underpinned by this much more personal one of support from friends. But the nature of gratitude towards giving friends is complex - Melanie Klein is much better known for her early writing on envy than her later view of gratitude ‘as an expression of love and thus of the life instinct, and as the antithesis of envy’. There is no political literature on gratitude. Political discourse more usually depends on creating resentment. But recognition of the blessing of gratitude can change your life - your relation to friends, and to those working in state social and medical services. It makes it possible to accept gifts - and one’s dependence on others.
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