Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Entitlement Mentality (A Case of Deserve Versus Desire)

For years, I had a bimonthly column where I mingled politics, pop culture, and opinion known variously as "From the Extremes" and "The Bipolar Extremist." This was one of my favorite columns, and it still reflects my opinion of The Way Things Are.

I find it both amusing and disgusting that the conservatives in this country are still trying to blame the poor for the the wreckage of our economy: "It's their fault for buying houses they couldn't afford!" Sure. Who offered them the loans? Banks and other predatory lending agencies. And who deregulated those agencies to the point where they could create this situation? Oh, yeah. The conservatives in power. The ones that were exhibiting this entitlement mentality six years ago.

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This was originally printed in Jackson, Mississippi's Planet Weekly newspaper on February 12, 2003.


I saw the commercial again last night. An assured, masculine voice tells me that they could help me get the credit I deserve. That’s great; we would all like credit. But do I really deserve it? I can’t say that I do. I’m a fairly good credit risk, but I’ve never deluded myself into thinking I deserve credit.

According to recent commercials, I also deserve a refinanced loan, a new car, and a cozy little home for my family and me. I’m not exactly sure what the criteria is, but I’m fairly certain I don’t actually deserve any of this. I’d love to have it, but I don’t think I deserve it.

I’ve noticed over the past few years a tendency for people in this country to go from “I would like this” to “I deserve it.” It took me some time to figure out, but I think I know what’s brought us to this point.

The conservatives are in power. If ever a single group encapsulated the entitlement mentality, it is they.

But wait, you say! It is the liberal Americans who are known for this, and not the fiscally responsible conservatives. The damned left-wingers are always wanting to take our hard-earned money and spend it on society’s undesirables; like the poor and homeless, the physically and mentally disabled, orphans, the mentally ill, rape victims, and other sorts that the Compassionate Conservatives would just as soon sweep under the rug.

This is true. Liberals tend to want to raise taxes and spend it on those who need it. But no liberal claims that they deserve to do this. Deserve doesn’t enter into it. A liberal wants this done because it’s the right goddamn thing to do. It is wrong to let unfortunates fall to harm.
(Also it should be noted that rarely do the beneficiaries of these funds say that they deserve it, either. They tend to be thankful than now maybe they will not starve over Christmas, or that maybe now little Donny will get the medication he needs to keep him from jumping from a high building.)

Deserve is the purview of the conservatives. They deserve a new car, a financed loan, and a platinum credit card. They deserve tax breaks and tax shelters that the poor cannot afford. They deserve a way of life that they want the vast, overwhelming majority of this nation not to have. If they wanted everyone in this country to be equal, they would help finance the dream.
One of the slogans that built this country is “All Men Are Created Equal.” But most conservatives tend to believe that “All Men Are Created Equal, Except For Those Of Us Who Are Created Better.”

Our Constitution also says we have the right to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. Only a true-blue right-winger could interpret this to mean the right to Life, Liberty, and a Platinum American Express Card With a 2.9% Introductory A.P.R.

You don’t deserve these things. You desire them.

The entitlement mentality of this country affects all aspects of our life. Otherwise rational men and women have ponied up big bucks to buy huge, ugly SUVs, convinced that they just might need to cross a rugged ice field on the way to the soccer game or the recycling center. The fact that these behemoths suck up petroleum products faster than any non-industrial vehicles in decades doesn’t matter to them. They deserve to drive an SUV.

We know that every dollar not spent by the American people at tax time means a dollar not spent on some unfortunate who might need that dollar to survive. We know this, yet we don’t care. We deserve that tax break.

Some even sit and cheer their agreement at a federal administration that rattles their sabers and spews jingoistic rhetoric, claiming that our religions are the right ones. We support this madness, because we deserve to be in the right.

There is a fine line between desiring and deserving. It is one thing to desire more money back from the government, or a new car, or even a chance to be right on the world’s stage. This is all wish fulfillment. We all wish. We all desire.

I wish that people would see that line and take one step forward, over it. Understand that desiring and deserving are two different things. Wishing for something makes us human. Understanding that we don’t deserve it makes us humane.

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If you enjoyed this, I have linked to several other columns in the Washroom Annex (right-hand side column). Feel free to browse. I'll probably offend you.

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