One thing that has been a reoccurring topic in my mind has been the overzealous sense of entitlement that has overtaken our society.
Just today, I experienced quite a few symptoms of this epidemic.
The first involves an email I received over the weekend. I work at a newspaper, and a reader wrote to complain about a comment on our website. It’s no secret that news websites have a major issue with reader comments, so I assumed that this was the problem – until I realized that the comment was not on an article, it was a review of this person’s business. This person didn’t like the comment, and couldn’t understand why I wouldn’t remove it. This is a mild case of entitlement, but still a usable example.
Another incident involves the stellar parking job that I walked out to after lunch. The white lines may as well have been invisible. I had to get into the passenger side of my car. Who does this? In the same parking lot, a few weeks ago, I noticed that two cars had created their own parking spots which blocked access to the supply entrance of a restaurant and the dumpsters which serve the merchants in the strip mall. I tweeted about it, and I quickly heard a response that it the move was actually resourcefulness. Obviously, I disagree.
In yet another incident, a reader called our breaking news line, a number which is normally used to report major incidents, to ask which restaurant downtown is selling paintings. I explained to him that he had called an emergency line, to which he seem unfazed, and asked if I could still help him. I asked which date the story ran, so I could try and help, but he had no details. I explained that I could not assist him, and he responded with a request for the receptionist’s number. Right, because she reads and memorizes every article we write just to answer questions like these.
The last occurred on the way home from work. Driving in the lane second from the left, a truck came speeding toward me, in my lane, and slowed down just in time to avoid running into me. Never mind the fact that an empty lane, designed for faster driving, lie empty next to us, he wanted the lane I was in. I change lanes to the one on the right of mine, and he speeds up, shooting past me. This happens often, vehicles who refuse to change lanes, tailgating drivers like me until we move out of their way.
Those incidents are just from one day. It seems to happen everywhere I look. On my last flight, as soon as we reached the gate, a man seated in the back of the plane immediately began walking down the aisle, stopping at the row in which I was seated. Of course, we all know the standard procedure – when a plane lands, the rows empty one by one from the front to the back. Not this guy, he was getting out four rows early. That wasn’t the first flight I’ve seen where people just refuse to do things the way they should be done. I can’t count the number of times that flight attendants have had to pry luggage that doesn’t fit in overhead bins from the hands of its owner, who is normally yelling and refusing to cooperate. Heck, on one flight, a passenger couldn’t understand why she wasn’t allowed to place a carry-on underneath the seat NEXT to hers, oblivious to the fact that that area was for the person seated next to her.
JetBlue flight attendant Steven Slater probably knows something about this. He’s the guy who abruptly left a plane via the emergency chute following an incident with a passenger who demanded to remove his bags as the plane was taxiing to the gate. Mr. Slater had been doing his job for years, and probably knew what we all should – this problem is going to hurt us more than we may be able to survive.
It’s the main reason that began the recession we entered in late 2007. Want a big house? Sure. Don’t have the money for a down payment? No biggie. Hey college kids, want a free t-shirt? Just sign up for this credit card, and it’s yours. One car? No way! Each family should have three, and all brand new. These were the ways that money flowed from the hands of banks to people who thought they deserved more than they could sustain.
I see five year old kids crying when their parents use their kids’ cellphones, middle schoolers with $200 jeans, teenagers with tattoos and brand new cars. We are a society that celebrates excess, just look at shows like ‘My Super Sweet Sixteen.’
NBA, MLB, and NFL rookies get paid tens of millions of dollars before playing one second as a pro. Reality shows turn nobodies into instant celebrities, earning some, like the cast of the Jersey Shore, up to $30,000 per episode. All for doing nothing.
I get it, my parents always said that they wanted a better life for me than how they grew up. Well, looks like their dreams came true, or did they?
I think there’s a reason why the one which fought in World War II is called the greatest generation. They didn’t want to live beyond their means, a modest life was more than suitable. Many families lived in houses where siblings shared rooms, and families owned one car. Air conditioning? Yeah, right.
I’m not saying that their lives were better, but I like to think they were richer – in the soul at least. I feel like our current actions just seem so childish, like the ones of spoiled brats. There’s more to life than getting everything we want when we want it.
After all, don’t all the wise sayings explain so? Good things come to those who wait. Do to others what you would want them to do to you. The list goes on and on.
We need more of that, more accountability, more modesty. Our society will be better for it, on so many levels. Why shouldn’t we want to treat each other with more respect, to take less than we need? I saw a cartoon over the weekend about global warming, one that suggested that if it were all just a myth than we would have made the world a better place for nothing. It was a joke, but it just seems to stick in my mind. We don’t do things because they’re “right” anymore, that’s so 20th century.
I want to change this. I don’t think any of us really want bad things to happen, I think so many people feel entitled to do as they wish because the consequences haven’t been weighed. Over the past few weeks I’ve made it a point to talk about it more, get people around me thinking about this problem. Hopefully, my friends and coworkers with children will make it a point to instill the right values while raising them. I know I will, whenever that happens. If we all just let it continue to happen, it will.
The reason things have gotten so far is that people are allowed to behave this way, their entitlement is enabled by a general refusal to stop it. It doesn’t have to be that way, we can take the power back.
So, the next time I see someone acting in the manner, I plan to say something. Not in a harsh manner, but in a gentle tone – kill them with kindness, so to speak. I hope more people join me in this quest, there’s a lot at stake for us.