Entitlement Needs a Partner

My son and I attended Brain Candy at Proctor’s in Schenectady this past Friday. We both love Adam Savage and my son is a fan of Michael Stevens as well, though I wasn’t familiar before Friday with his YouTube channel. I will be watching, now! Great show, tons of accessible science, interested and engaged crowd. Wonderful.

View from the balcony

View from the balcony

When we saw Myth Busters a year+ ago at Proctor’s we hung out after to see if we could talk with Jaime or Adam, and it was great because not only did Adam spend a small bit of time with us, we got a photo of Erik with him, and his signature. Cool. So this year we stayed after as well, on a beautiful February day with temperatures in the high 60’s; it wasn’t hard to hang out.

After a bit more than an hour, Adam zipped by on a OneWheel, and did not stop to say hi or sign autographs. Bummer. We saw him speed over to and enter his bus, and we stuck around for about 15 more minutes and then sent a telepathic “thanks for the great show” and went home.

Why this story? Because another family was also waiting and was very disappointed for no contact, but they acted pissy and entitled. “We drove 3 hours for this”. “It’s fine that he spends all his time talking to those people who can pay $120 extra dollars but then he blows us off. He’s a jerk”. (paraphrased).

Just. Stop. Adam does not owe anyone anything beyond the performance you paid to see. And it was FUN!

Above all, this is how it works. The selling of extra cost VIP seats is in direct response to performers getting mobbed after shows. Yes, it is a money-maker, but I suspect it is also a bit of protection by creating a buffer to the performer. Most of the diehards will pay the extra and people like Adam may get a chance to just stop performing after the show, and breathe a bit. Now I love that he stopped to say hi to some adoring fans after Myth Busters, and it was disappointing to me that he didn’t after Brain Candy, but I am not entitled to his extra efforts for me. It would have been a nice bonus, but I do not expect it.

This is why I have been pondering “entitlement”. This concept that keeps appearing, and fuzzles my brain. Some recent encounters:

  • People not tipping servers (or tipping a couple of cents) because “it’s their job and the patron expects good service”.
  • People who are in a rush seem to feel they can glide through stop signs or speed through the city.
  • The current POTUS (I keep saying “current” to remind myself he is temporary) thinks the presidency comes with the right to choose who reports his words and actions and who doesn’t. He thinks that “winning” the title itself means that all he does is automatically right and proper, and that no one has the right to question him.
  • For some reason, many who feel government is too big seem to feel they have a right to well-kept roads, reliable security, and health support systems.
  • I have encountered many who feel they have a right to a job, even if they don’t meet the performance standards for said job.
  • People who feel they have a right to eat anything, smoke, avoid exercise as they will, because it’s their business and no one else’s, yet they complain about their health constantly, and everyone’s insurance rates are higher because of their choices.
  • Property owners often feel they have the right to do whatever they want to with their own property.
  • I’m seeing big oil and other conglomerates such as pharmaceuticals, commercial agriculture and chemical associations insistent that they can do anything to get their products to market. No one can shut down business because paying their stakeholders a good return is more important than stewardship of the shared resources of the planet.
  • I hear opinions shouted out as if the person shouting can not only speak under free speech (true) but then expects protections when people disagree with that utterance (false).
  • The stance in higher education is what worries me most, when students feel they have a right to expect protection from ideas that challenge or disturb them.
  • And finally, the prevalent notion that we have the right to use nature’s resources (sic. fossil fuels) without limits. What bothers me is in many cases this entitlement posture is more about “if we don’t use it someone else will”.

Let me be clear, here. I appear in several of those statements above. I should take better care of myself. We still burn fossil fuels in our home and to power our car. I do often feel people should read my blog as my ideas are worthy of their attention, and I occasionally forget I need to make an effort to gain that attention and foster that communication. Why don’t I have hundreds of followers handed to me?! It boggles the mind.

My point is that a position of entitlement is okay when its partner is responsibility. I have a right to education, yet I have a responsibility to find the resources I need to achieve that. No one will hand me anything, but it is out there for me to seek it and work for it.  And we will have equality in our society when everyone has the fairly equal ability to seek resources, work for them, and access them (and that’s another blog entry). I have the right to use my property as I see fit while abiding by local laws and understanding my impact on others. And “others” needs to include more than our direct neighbor. If building a fence stops a species from migrating, awareness of that is crucial and I must assess and possibly adjust my intents accordingly. I will feel the occasional need to hurry, but not to put my needs above society’s rules for safety for all.

Entitlement is okay when it is partnered with Responsibility.

In the world of sustainability, this is a hard sell. So many people feel that they have a right to comfort and convenience, for example, but very few will acknowledge their role in the achievement of that thing to which they feel entitled. They want a gift, with no effort and no strings.

In my place of work we allow the temperature to float between 68 and 78 degrees so that the building is more efficient by working with the environmental conditions. We have changed our dress policy to allow people to adjust for their personal comport by wearing sweaters in the winter, and by not having to wear three-piece suits and ties (ex) in the summer. Yet so many staff think that their comfort must be 100% provided by others. Get over it. It is true that the business must offer a reasonable level of HVAC for comfort and health, and several entities, including OSHA and building codes, define these levels of comfort in buildings. Businesses can also perform surveys to gauge and adjust for comfort needs, and they should. Yet each staff must also take responsibility and further, recognize the power in working toward their own comfort while allowing others to do the same. If I worked alone in that office, I could set the temp for whatever suited me, but I work in a building with over 300 other people, who each has a different comfort zone and work method.  Each of us needs to adjust for own comfort within the broad parameters of the whole building.

In education, we should not protect students from “triggers” but students should take responsibility for their own situations by discussing things up-front, factually with professors, or by excusing themselves from a class with a discussion they truly cannot handle. And the teachers must learn to navigate that with respect as well. Not easy at all, but much more supportive of the education of all and the introduction of ideas and topics that need to be discussed.

In the environment, we need to stop treating the resources of the world as an all-you-can-eat buffet that we have paid for and therefore may deplete without real or long-term concepts of purpose. We need to understand what systems that are used by all and respect those real entitlements. We do not have the right to poison shared waters (and all waters are shared) or soil or air. We are entitled to breathe clean and therefore we have a responsibility to maintain that resource as clean for all. We also have the responsibility to fight against those who act as though they have the right to degrade these resources merely because they paid for the land above the mine, or they used lobby dollars to have a stronger voice than others in the political realm. Again, that is our responsibility to support that which we, and all, truly are entitled to.

We can learn to embrace this responsibility by remembering that we are all crew of spaceship earth (borrowed from This Spaceship Earth). The planet is our ship with limited resources, some with the blessing of cyclic regeneration if we tend them well. If we think as crew on a ship, we recognize we have a right to smooth sailing, food, rest and community, as well as a profitable or prosperous voyage. We have that right, but what would happen if none on the crew worked to achieve that end goal? What if we ate whatever we could because we were hungry, if we decided our immediate hunger was more important than managing the resources for all for the whole journey? What would happen if we set sail to buy and sell marketable goods, but expected them to appear on the ship, properly stowed without our skills at bargaining or our efforts in transporting and properly filling the holds? What would happen if we hit foul weather and decided that since we had a right to smooth sailing things would just get better; the sails would be trimmed and the rudder aligned to meet the waves well?

Yup, disaster.

We have the right and the need to always pair entitlement with responsibility. In this pairing we will be able to act for our own good in respect for the good of all, so that all will prosper.

Be well, and be greener,


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