Terms of Entitlement: It’s All About Me

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All of us feel entitled to something in some way. We each have our personal version of what we know we deserve. Our reasons may be as fundamental as our human rights, or as varied as the contexts of our private lives, or places of employment.

I expect the Government to build schools, and focus on quality health care. And if there’s a fly doing laps in my corn soup, I want a refund from the vendor. Whether it is a contract, legislation or agreements of conscience, we often know when to assert our rights.

…all we can think about is ME, ME, ME, ME. What about me?

But what if the terms of entitlement are less clear? There are times when we have the sh*tty end of the stick, and a resolution is far from possible. And there are times that emotion and prejudice form their own bizarre terms, feeding us bad habits, where all we can think about is ME, ME, ME, ME. What about me?

Imagine you’ve won the lotto. Whether you choose to store your wealth in an underground cave, or donate most of it to charity, it will change some of the people you think you know. What if it were one of your friends who won? Would you expect them to share their winnings, and take offence if they didn’t? Of course they would include you, you’re almost certain of that. But why should they have to?

I am not suggesting that people in need should lack assistance, nor am I negating a moral sense of goodwill in sharing or helping others. But I wonder about expectations that circle a notion of entitlement, an anticipation of benefit, in circumstances where we were absent, or did not actively contribute towards the harvested results.

…when women expect to be bought drinks at a party, and when men expect sex after buying a woman drinks…

When we think about it, there are times when you expect your wealthy friends to cover more of the expenses at a lime, when women expect to be bought drinks at a party, and when men expect sex after buying a woman drinks. What about when that child at the mall is kicking up on the floor over an un-bought toy, or employed adults still expects their parents to house them, and pay all the bills.

Entitlement. It’s when you feel the world owes you something, or when you think you should be granted a bandwagon of excuses or perks for being what you perceive as more unfortunate. The way we hold our parents ransom – they did not provide enough, or they hurt us – as active excuses for our own failures. Or when a father disowns his son for being homosexual, or not pursuing a career in medicine.

This grandiose sense of entitlement can often become institutionalized, sometimes sneaking its way into misguided policies or professional relationships. A few weeks ago, Jason X Photography’s image was published in the TNT Mirror, cropped, his watermark removed, and his clear tag of “do not use without my permission” ignored.

So, come on, if everybody’s doing it, why can’t we?

When he complained to the publication, they issued a ridiculous public argument, quoting foreign copyright laws, out of context, to justify their actions. And they claimed to be amused and smug when other photographers objected. It’s a public domain they argued. So, come on, if everybody’s doing it, why can’t we? In a favourable turn of events, the Mirror subsequently apologized to Jason, and settled on compensation.

The ability to be boldfaced is not prejudiced; it exists on some level in all of us. Even charitable organizations can perpetrate this mentality. I have had not-for-profit associations demand my services for free, as they simultaneously spent sponsors’ funds on unnecessary luxuries that did not serve their programmes. I even had a renowned human rights organization try to appropriate my work, as their property, with them claiming ownership of material that was temporarily lent to them for perusal. “But it’s for a greater good,” they argued. “So what’s the problem?”

A misguided notion of entitlement can actually harm the misinformed person or party, either keeping them back from their own progress, or by burning some valuable bridges.

Some years ago, I was to inherit, along with other members of my family, valuable property or the worth in money. Sparing you the nasty details, I settled for a laughable sum that my peers had already saved by working at their current jobs. I was legally to gain, but the process involved potential years of bitter fighting that I was not capable of enduring. I was already at breaking point with stress, and watching this situation literally rip a family apart.

I had to remind myself that I did not earn this money myself, and that letting it go was like refusing a present, not giving away what was mine. I value my independence since that time, and what my hard work has accomplished with my creative and professional endeavours. No amount of material gain earned with ‘sufferation’, and bad vibes could ever offer me better. As Bob Marley once said, “Don’t gain the world and lose your soul.”

Narcissistic terms of entitlement are responsible for class division, the breakdown of relationships, and even wars between countries. They can cloud our own judgement, when we are at fault, causing us to blame everyone else and situations we find ourselves in for our inability to succeed. How many times have you bitched about something that stood in the way of your own personal improvement? How many lovers blocked your happiness, and which boss made you miserable?

Did you deserve better? You probably did. But even when you are genuinely entitled to something greater, if you do not use your existing strengths and efforts to either abandon what does not work, or manifest something more positive on your own, no one is effectively going to do it for you.

The terms of entitlement are often very personal and formed by intuitive decision-making. We think them up, believe them, fight for them, and sometimes we even write them into laws or civil agreements.

When faced with circumstances that challenge your integrity or earned benefit, by all means assert yourself. But if you find that the power to change a situation is beyond your capability, then you may have to consider changing something else, like your attachment and dependency to it. Maybe greater is waiting in the mind shift. And if you are burdened with animosity over what you think you deserve, and careful consideration reveals this to be greed or laziness, then it’s time to reinvent your terms. After all, we are all entitled to an opinion, and, in the same light ,we are even more entitled to change it.

Jaime Lee Loy

Jaime Lee Loy is a local contemporary artist and published writer of fiction. This single mom founded Trinidad Home Studio Ltd in 2011, offering her services in photography and video. With a genuine interest and past experience in working with NGOs, this single mother steers her creativity towards human-focused projects, and aims to be successful or die trying.

1 Comment

  1. Nightangel

    May 26, 2012 at 6:25 pm

    We are now in a generation that do not appreciate hard work but wants everything given to them. Powerful article.

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