One of the things that has most brought me into conflict with other people, is their sense of entitlement. I can say with absolute confidence that I do not feel personally entitled to anything; life experience has taught me that I cannot assume I am going to get even basic levels of decent treatment, much less anything beyond that. I consciously practice gratitude for the good things, I am very grateful for anything good that comes my way.
I ran a moot for years – voluntarily, giving a lot of time and energy to support pagans in my area. I did it because I felt the work was inherently rewarding – and mostly, it was. But some years in, a couple started telling me what I was obliged to do for them, what I owed them, what they expected of me. I had given freely and they responded with a sense of entitlement to far more of my time and energy than I had to spare. I could offer other examples of situations where, having given, I’ve found that it wasn’t appreciated, but taken as evidence that I would, could, should even be giving far more to people who had no intention of offering anything in return. They just saw it as my duty, and their right.
My druidry inclines me to take duty very seriously. Service is part of my spirituality, but other people’s sense of entitlement isn’t. Now, there are things I would like everyone to feel entitled to – peace, safety, basic levels of decency, opportunities, justice. We all of us ought to have those, but plenty of people don’t. Looking around I see a lot of evidence for people who feel entitled to far more than their fair share of everything. To far more than they have worked for, or legitimately earned. I don’t hear anything about politicians taking pay cuts as part of austerity measures. Bankers still get their bonuses while the poor are pushed every closer to the edge of viability.
Entitlement. It’s a dangerous thing. This is the belief that tells us that yes, we should have that fast car and drive it over short distances. We should have that shiny thing and never mind if we have to go into debt, and then decide not to pay the debt. We deserve it. We should have it. Never mind that our lifestyles aren’t sustainable and future generations will pay. This is our turn and we should take whatever we can.
Culturally, we are far too prone to mistaking privileges for rights while not doing anything like enough to ensure that the basic things, the things that really should be rights, are there by default for all people. We might not be able to do over the system, but we can make a start. So many of the ‘take over’ protestors are talking about making changes within ourselves, and that’s a fine place to start.
So I float these questions out onto the ether (answer in the comments if you feel so inclined). What are we entitled to? In our personal lives, in our relationship with the state, in our work, our spirituality. How do we construct our sense of entitlement? I think on a personal note that I should be able to feel entitled to certain things, it’s something I’m trying to consciously develop, so I’m open to suggestions here.