Inspection- Of “The Culture of Entitlement”

by Ken Carman

Re: the ongoing talking point… “…Culture of entitlement.”

Or “Entitlement culture.”

I’ve seen it phrased several ways, to be honest.

Is there an “entitlement culture” infecting society? Sure, and I very much doubt it’s all that historically unusual. More on that in a moment. Our current “infection” may, or may not, be more widespread than it has been in the past. Kind of hard to assess when you’re not living in the shoes of your ancestors. I sure it doesn’t just “infect” the poor, the disadvantaged, those seeking to be treated fairly, or anyone who might seek help… and also feel an over bloated sense of “entitlement” at the same time.

And when we accuse any segment of society of this “crime” you can be pretty damn sure it’s not all of them, though it’s always politically convenient for some to frame it that way. In most groups targeted with the accusation, probably not even close to “most.”

If there is an “culture of entitlement” infecting society it’s certainly more widespread than just some of the unemployed wanting to use their prepaid unemployment benefits…

…very much “more” than just those on food stamps…

…or who have lost a parent and get government checks.

And, again, it’s never “all,” and probably not even close to the majority.

If we’re going to apply this title fairly, it certainly is applicable to those who might be referred to as “vulture capitalists;” those who feel they are “entitled:” without question, to steal what employees have invested a life’s worth of work in, what has been promised: retirement, benefits.

But, you see, the same rule applies here. I am not claiming all capitalists are crooks, or vulture-like. I’m not claiming all business owners are Scrooge, or doing what they can to off shore everything and give their workers less than promised. And I’m not even claiming there aren’t those who do so because it’s the only way to keep their business alive.

I am a business owner myself. I know sometimes you have to push the limits.

Usually who we claim to be part of some “culture of entitlement,” while we tip toe away from others, reflects our partisan skew. It depends upon whose ox you would rather be gored.

Or Al Gore-d, if you want to push against some polluters sense of “entitlement.”

Sorry. Couldn’t resist.

Yes, there are welfare cheats, just like there are also those whose ideas when it comes to doing business are so vile and unAmerican they deserve whatever damage that regulations can do to them. Better yet: let’s put them in prison cells along with anyone who tries to cheat a safety net program. No one should feel “entitled” to scam, or cheat, anyone, anymore than someone getting food stamps should. This is why a totally unregulated market makes no damn sense, because: after all, laws against selling arsenic as candy, for example, do “regulate” a market.

Historically we have felt we were “entitled” to the lands occupied by the first Americans: by whatever means. Slave owners felt they were “entitled:” so much so that when slavery supposedly went away slave owners were handed over the keys to the prisons and the ability to liberally enforce laws, make accusations, against these former slaves… all while living high off profits earned from their labor.

We have felt, as a country, we were “entitled” to freedom, except “freedom” for those who maybe, might be, sort of, somewhat associated with Communism.

And of course, more recently, we have felt entitled to throw away every right Americans fought, and died for. Especially “throw away” those rights for anyone who might be, maybe, sort of, kind of, accused of knowing someone who knows something about terrorism. All for the sake of supposed “national security…” “Entitled,” of course, as long as it’s the other guy being accused, being waterboarded, being forced to do sexual acts vile, have live wires attached to their testicles or being locked away for the rest of their lives by mere accusation.

Isn’t it interesting, no matter what the partisan skew, such things always have to be for “the other?”

To quote 1984:

“Do it to Julia! Do it to Julia!”

And to quote Ben Franklin…

“Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”

Yes, unfortunately an “entitlement culture” is about as common, historically, as poison apples and ovens Grimms’ fairy tale: and our fairy tale certainly has been “grim” from time to time. And when feelings of “entitlement” muck up society, they certainly don’t stay behind social class borders, or lines like well trained puppies.

But the problem is labeling any group, or historical event, or program, as all purely part of some “entitlement culture” simply makes matters worse. It’s over simplification. These things do not exist in a vacuum. Programs and situations exist because someone was trying to address a situation; solve a problem. Maybe they do a real bad job, but that is what we should be pointing to and discussing, not pointing and spewing some Invasion of the Body Snatchers-like scream, “You’re all part of the entitlement culture! Every damn one of you!”

Instead we should be asking…

“What do we do?” “How much should we do?” …and most important: “when do we back off because our solutions violate the very principles we claim to believe in?”

These are hard questions They require compassion, intellect, rational discussion and yes… gasp! …compromise among folks who are often adversaries.

You know: “acting like adults?”

Something some of those who run, or help control, the current stage for rhetoric often frown upon because it’s not good for ratings… and some are far too much in love with WWE style politics where everything is classified a war, and also as entertainment.

The wild beasts who fed upon others in the Roman Empire still live, they’re more like some rhetorical demon, similar to the id monster in Forbidden Planet. Our own rhetoric is killing us: another part of any “entitlement” culture. I’m speaking to those who feel free speech bears no personal responsibility. It entitles them to smear, libel, slander, all without payback. That’s why the biggest bullies in the national discourse whine so much when they get a taste of their own vileness spewed back at them. That’s what bullies do when they get… cliche’ alert… “a taste of their own medicine.”

Some cliche’s are more true than not.

Somehow some feel “entitled” to all this without blowback.

Some days I wonder what folks are smoking when they cry and whine about being slapped around when they’re the biggest slappers on the block. Or when they bellow about a culture of entitlement, but won’t admit that may be a problem that stretches far beyond any groups they wish to target with their wrath, their noses tipped up in the air, and their all too convenient over generalizations.

Yes, but tis easier than asking: “what do we do,” “how much should we do” and most important: “when do we back off because our solutions violate the very principles we claim to believe in.”

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Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 30 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks and into the unseen cracks and crevasses that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.

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Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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