That sense of entitlement

Musing on “me, now, more”; hope in RI; marriage doesn’t need defending
By RUDY CHEEKS  |  July 20, 2011

I read myriad newspapers. I also listen to radio and television news reports (with an affinity for the BBC, which has always seemed to know how to do broadcast news). Then, at times, I'll share my thoughts with friends. I then sit and think some more. After going through this not-exactly-scientific process, I find that there is one theme that seems to run through everything in the category of "bad news" these days. From global relations to the fiscal condition of the state of Rhode Island to the horror of domestic violence, there is a strand of thought and behavior that is undeniably part of the mix: a sense of entitlement that poisons everything.

I was speaking with a couple of friends of mine who happen to be trial judges earlier this month and they were telling me about their experiences dealing with the perpetrators of the horror that is domestic violence. They spoke of sentencing men (it's usually, but not always, men) to rehabilitation classes or prison, knowing that they were just going to sit there, peering at their watches until they could get back out on the street and beat up the same person or, if that person had wisely fled the area, beat up on another person.

These people were not going to stop because they had that sense of entitlement. A woman or girl was there to serve and please them. The concept of trusting, loving, or honoring another person with a basic level of respect never even entered their minds. "Minds" were not even part of the mix.

Aside: this reminds me of a song I wrote about 15 years ago, tentatively titled "Hamartia," the Greek archery term for "missing the mark," and the basis for the Christian concept of sin. There were only three words in the lyrics: "me," "now," and "more." Perhaps you are getting a sense of why my musical career never gained any real traction. Songs like this and "At the Teamster's Picnic," "I Married a Tree," and "The Joys of the Poor" seemed to lack that je ne sais quoi necessary for pop music success. But that's all gorilla piss over the dam. Pardon my tangent. And now back to the topic of the moment, the sense of entitlement.

Just one brief example of how this works in the world of global politics. For all the magnificent gifts that the amazing experiment called the United States of America has showered on the world (freedom, the notion — if not reality — of us being created equal, opportunity for all, the separation of church and state), the two-sided coin of capitalism also fosters quite a sense of entitlement. Hey, we don't care that those natural resources (oil, anyone?) exist on your sovereign soil, we just laid out some big bucks for them and they are now ours and, if you get in the way, we will kill you because it is money uber alles, baby.

And what could be a more perfect illustration of the sense of entitlement than the fiscal meltdown of the Biggest Little? There is a sense of entitlement at work when there are those who assume that there is absolutely nothing wrong with setting up a framework where one can get a state job through a relative, retire from that state job at age 46, with full pension and health care benefits, take another full-time job, and start raking in a sweet six figures.

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