Entitlement and Reality

Living in West Texas (or Texas at all) you hear this word a lot, almost always directed at the poor and disenfranchised. The nicer people will just say that other people are not entitled to cell phones and new cars. The more hardline will say they aren’t entitled to healthcare. The true believers will say no one is entitled to anything at all. Everyone must earn everything.

If we strip it down, I suppose I agree. Nature does not entitle us to anything when we are born. A wolf will eat any baby it finds. Things like hunger and thirst do not discriminate. The problem is that we are not just born into nature, we are born into the human-construct of society. Things like fairness and compassion and structural inequality have to be taken into account. I feel like talking about entitlement is something of a distraction from this point.

Having said that, the poor do not have a monopoly on entitlement. In fact, it often seems that having money and status and prestige leads people to the mistaken assumption that nature will bend to their will, or that other people should magically behave a certain way. I see them become upset over things that many other people would not, and they often exhibit confusion regarding cause and effect. Entitlement is a human thing.

Entitlement versus Reality

The idea of entitlement, in general, is odd. We emerge into the universe to take part in reality and promptly start putting rules on what we are supposed to have and what we are not meant to have to deal with. For many things, this makes sense – it does seem like existing in society (through no choice of our own – there is hardly anywhere one can live entirely free of society anymore) should have some essential benefits (I thought you said you were a communist, James). I think we all agree with this. We just disagree on what constitutes essential benefits.

This is all fine, but when we start to approach this as a function that is necessary to reality, we are in trouble. Being entitled to anything at all is a social construct. It does not even exist outside of agreement between people. Things like the weather and the laws of physics and biology do not have any time for entitlement. But, it is important to note, that being born into a family with money does not entitle you to anything either if we are going with the strict laws of the universe. Inheritance only happens as a result of human agreement, and is, therefore, an entitlement.

What do you feel entitled to in life? What is this belief based on?

Where does your sense of entitlement conflict with other people’s?

Where do you discount what other people feel entitled to? What is this based on?

What does our birth actually entitle us to?