More and more I feel like we all have this overwhelming sense of entitlement. You, me, our children; we are all guilty. We think we ought to get the best service, the best products, the best treatment, all our dreams are supposed to come true, big companies need to give to our causes, and so on and so forth. It’s an underlying theme that is lurking within our government, our schools, our wallets, our relationships, our jobs, our fundraisers, our businesses and our homes. Not only do we need what we want, but we covet, deserve and demand we get it or else. No sacrifices necessary.
“Never second best.”
“Not on my watch.”
“If you can’t handle me at my worst, you don’t deserve me at my best.”
“It’s our party we can do what we want.”
There’s an immense sense that we can be crappy people and we deserve to be rewarded anyway.
Is it because retail is so competitive in this country that customer service often goes above and beyond (even when it equals a loss to the company)? Do we walk into [insert popular grocer here] and expect there to be a cart-boy at our every beck and call when we snap our fingers? Is it because buying beyond our means on credit is a societal norm? Is it because parents are given a major guilt trip à la “mommy wars” style when they don’t give into their child’s every need regardless of the hardship it poses on them? Is everything so disposable that we can abandon effort and still expect to be rewarded? Do we expect that big biz owes us “X” amount of their profits? Has donation-culture given us an expectation of what is deserved and demanded? Is it because we are told the American Dream is not only ours for the taking, but ours by a God-given right? In a yes-man/YOLO society, is the word “no” becoming unfamiliar and uncomfortable? In a world where anything is possible and everything is right at our fingertips do we expect everything to come directly to our fingertips extremely easy? When we’re told we can be anything when we grow up, do we demand that we get to do exactly what we want without restriction and/or without sacrifice and dedication? When we are raised to question everything, do we never learn to be satisfied with the undesirable answers?
So much of this revolves around the way we treat people whom we perceive to be “below us.” It also revolves around the way we won’t stand for being talked down to. Those two statements seem contradictory side by side, but I believe they co-exist somehow. No one wants to be the one on the bottom rung, but we’re more than happy to treat those we consider beneath us poorly and those above us like they owe us something.
A few things play into why this might be happening.
Our on-demand culture is making us impatient. How dare we ever have to wait for anything? It’s unacceptable.
We’re used to getting enraged about a mass amount of topics with limited knowledge on a particular subject; rinse, recycle, and repeat. We live in a 30 second sound bite meme world. Media included. There’s a flood of sob-story sound-bites out there on how life is so unfair, when there’s a usually a piece to the puzzle we don’t know and don’t care or have time to investigate the bigger picture. Our social media feeds are a constant overflow of urban legends where everyone is a victim and no one is at fault. We primarily don’t understand laws, regulations, and don’t want to see the other side to an argument nor do we care. We want “justice,” we want it now and we don’t demand logic and deeper research while seeking it.
I also think a lot of this has to do with our consumer culture. We love to surround ourselves with “stuff.” We are used to demanding that “the customer is always right.” Demanding a customer style status bleeds over into everything we consume. We feel like it’s necessary to tell media persons, weather forecasters, police officers, and everyone else from teachers to the president that they are doing it wrong and they need to fall over themselves to please us. The President can’t even eat mustard on his hamburger without being told he’s turning his back on the American people. He needs to do it our way or else. We (think we) are entitled to being appeased.
We love shortcuts: why learn to spell when you have autocorrect; why learn directions when GPS can lead the way, why read a book when we can skim the cliff notes?
“Life isn’t fair,” was a common phrase I heard as a child. The current generation is hell-bent on proving their parents were wrong. We think we’re entitled to life being fair. Not only that, but to go one step further, it’s an oyster waiting to be deposited directly into our fingertips.
When our parents were young their teachers and principals probably hit them on the knuckles with a ruler or they sat in the corner wearing a dunce cap, and at home a belt across the rear was commonplace. Manual labor was common. Children called their parent’s friends by their last name only; they were seen and not heard without exception.
Let me be clear, this is not ideal nor would I advocate for the return of this. Fact is: child-rearing was different. There’s been a shift in the way we treat and raise our children; and even if for good reason, that doesn’t mean the outcomes is one-dimensional or an all out win.
Some of that stern-parenting gradually trickled away as we (my generation) grew up. Children had a place and learned respect, but it wasn’t like the old days where kids were treated like second class citizens. And now, today, we see a total shift in that notion where parents are often defending their children against teachers and their superiors. We live in a sue-nation where we bring lawsuits at the drop of a hat. We believe we deserve to be compensated when we are not happy. We also use social media and threats of going to the news media as leverage to get what we want. We play off the fear of exposure of our opposition to demand satisfaction. We feel it is our job to expose and call out every single misstep that people, corporations, etc. make. We also just don’t teach our children that they have to concede themselves to respect anyone, and with this, a part of ingrained politeness fades.
Also with the shift in smaller family sizes, our lives are more centered or revolve around our kids and instead of them being a part of the picture, they ARE the entire picture. Parents are encouraged more and more to compromise their lives to provide for their kids. Parenting is now a competitive sport and our kids are our pawns in the game of ‘I did it best.’
I remember when I was younger; the way we played was different from it is now. Our playmates were other kids, while our mother’s role wasn’t to primarily indulge our every whim. There’s been a shift in the expectations of a parent today. WE are now expected to be our child’s primary playmate, cheerleader, indulger, etc. The expectations also include providing for them for a longer period. It’s more commonplace to pay for their college education, their healthcare, etc. while they live at home until well into their 20’s and beyond figuring out what their careers are going to be, while 50 years ago people in their low 20’s would’ve been married or well into a career and expecting kids of their own. Today the average age of first marriages is in our late 20’s, (28 for men & 26+ for women) the oldest it’s ever been in history. Our nation also has stricter labor laws and regulations today than ever pertaining to child labor, which yes, of course is a good thing, but it also delays responsibility until later in life. Manual labor isn’t as common and regarded as a second rate employment. We have thousands of jobs in this country that are unfilled because we believe we are just too good to do them. Whether or not this shift is a good thing, is a moot point. It still has consequences. Regardless of the necessity to change our lives, it remains that there are costs to this shift in how we live in that our attitudes and expectations are just different. Somewhere we got lost in that shift and that happy-medium place slipped between our fingertips. We value responsibility, but have failed to create situations for our children that teach them or rather demand of them to be accountable. I like the quote, “If we know better, then we do better.” Life in many ways is better, but we’ve forgotten to make up for the lost skills that are a result of living better, more convenient lives.
There’s something in our culture that we all subscribe to that makes every one of us believe that we deserve the best regardless of what other beings or companies have earned or who our expectation’s stomp on. And part of that is the fact that biz businesses have earned their profits on the backs of others. That’s a crappy thing, but our pushback to all the injustice in the world contributes to feeding our entitlement. “They can’t get away with this” is our adage. And I do agree, we shouldn’t let the big guy get away with it. We should demand better treatment. But more and more we’ve crossed the line between vying for our rights and our engrained sense of entitlement.
I should also add that I do believe in Government subsidies. I believe that the poor should get assistance, the feeble need help and those down on their luck need a lift. I don’t subscribe that entitlement is a poor problem, but more of a wide-sweeping way of thinking that is poisoning our lives.