The Culture of Entitlement

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“What starts as gratitude quickly becomes dependency and ends as entitlement.”— Cicero on the grain dole for the masses in Rome.

On Easter Saturday, we take a Sabbath’s rest from the Holy week contemplations to think seriously about an issue which has bedeviled America for some time. If you ask me the root of the problem comes from too much insistence on rights without an equal insistence on responsibilities, but perhaps there are many root causes. Whatever may be the case, we now live in a culture where the large majority of the citizenry think they are entitled to all sorts of things beyond life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. They assume for example they are entitled to food without working, pensions without earning it, healthcare without paying for it, having things one’s own way without voting for it, wealth without earning it and on, protection of the law without sufficient taxes to support it, free education without paying for it, the right to live and work in America without having legal status or citizenship and on and on. Where exactly does one draw the line in these matters?

Let me say at the outset that I think part of the problem goes back to the church, which at one point built most of the hospitals, manned most of the soup kitchens, ran most of the clothes closets, started Goodwill and Hull House and Habitat for Humanity and the Red Cross and etc. but during the course of the last century has increasingly withdrawn from doing general good for humanity, leaving the government to pick up the slack. But how does one practice ‘the social gospel’ without creating a culture of dependency? How does one promote hard work, and earning one’s place in the world via hard work and at the same time taking care of those who are genuinely in need of a helping hand? There are no easy answers to these sorts of questions. And one needs to understand that when you deprive a person of their dignity, and their ability to make their own way in life, you have created another problem, while trying to put a band aid on the first one. My suggestion would be that we start with an attitude adjustment.

We need to help people lose the ‘I’m entitled to X’ mentality. An exception can be made for children, the indigent, the ill, the older population which is feeble, but in general the majority of the populus does not fall into these categories. We need to promote the dignity of hard work, and help people find jobs, help industries create jobs, so people can support themselves, each person carrying their own load, as St. Paul puts it in Gal. 6, where he also says we should bear one another’s burdens when the burden becomes to heavy for one person to carry. We also need for the wealthiest 5% of Americans to pay their fair share of taxes so that governments can manage to provide the basic services required in a civilized country. To whom more is given, more is required should be the rule with our millionaires and billionaires.

Think on these things.