Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Sense of Entitlement

I've noticed the younger generation exhibits a sense of entitlement combined with a lack of accomplishment. They believe the world owes them, not only a living, but a lifestyle that includes a place to live (preferably rent-free); downloadable free books, music, and videos, regardless of copyright; and even free money. I gasp at the chutzpah (that's Yiddish for "balls") of some of these twenty-somethings, fresh out of school with no experience or record of achievements and accomplishments, who enter the workplace demanding a six-figure salary. Apparently, they believe they can be paid top dollar to learn on the job.

In New Jersey, a girl who, according to her father, left home when she turned 18 last October rather than abide by her parents' household rules is suing them. High School senior Rachel Canning wants the court to make her parents support her and pay for her college education. She doesn't want to live at home where she faces a curfew and chores, yet wants her Mom and Dad to pay her bills, even though she is now legally an adult.

Rachel is not unique in her sense of entitlement. Websites like Kickstarter have sprung up in response to this sentiment. The world owes you a living, so why not ask it directly for cash? Kickstarter's premise is basically: Make a pitch for strangers to fund your project and "reward" them with tokens, like a copy of the finished product. Hey, it's worth a try, just like the lottery, but I wouldn't feel a sense of entitlement to proceeds from either.

Not so, John Campbell, a self-published comic book artist in Chicago. Campbell launched a Kickstarter campaign asking strangers to pay for the publication of his book -- as opposed to the way most of us do it, by publishing the book and then selling it. Fair enough. He asked for $8,000. He got $51,615. You'd think he'd be happy. All he had to do was mail these generous strangers their promised copies of his comic book. Instead, he claims on his Kickstarter page, he shipped 3/4 of them and burned the rest. He even posted a video showing the bonfire. He explained, "For every message I receive about this book through e-mail, social media or any other means, I will burn another book." He said he "will not be refunding any more" preorders. Campbell added: "Be aware that each attempt to contact me about this book will individually result in the burning of a book until the books are gone."

Campbell explains his pyromania and philosophy of life: "I want direct funding for my living necessities. I want to establish relationships with a group of people who can pay for my baseline needs like food and rent. I am looking for people who do not feel they need to see any 'return' on their 'investment.' ... I do not need the support of anyone who thinks that I will deserve to eat and sleep only after I have fulfilled some standard they’ve chosen to hold me to. I am looking for people who believe that if you spend your life in a small room thinking, you deserve to live and breathe the same amount as someone who spends their life doing intense physical or mental labor, or who has money that 'makes money.'"

Well, John and Rachel and those of your generation who share your sense of entitlement combined with a lack of accomplishment, I'd like "direct funding for my living necessities" and generous strangers who will give me money without me having to earn it, too. It's been one of my lifelong fantasies, along with the blonde and the Lamborghini. But the world doesn't work that way. Your parents lied. There's no tooth fairy leaving money under your pillow and no altruistic Santa Claus shimmying down your chimney with a sack full of presents. Since they never told you, I will. Here's how life works: You go to school and study hard. You learn as much as you can. You get a job. You work hard and learn as much as you can from the more experienced workers around you. You continue to study, and work, and learn, for years or even decades. And then, one day, when you have a history of achievements and accomplishments to point to, then -- and only then-- do you deserve the sense of entitlement you already exude.

And sometimes -- if you're lucky -- the world will agree and reward you accordingly.

But sometimes not. And here's Lesson Number 2: Life is unfair. You can do all the right things and still end up screwed. Bad things happen to good people. You may feel miserable and even bitter, just as you now feel your sense of entitlement. The difference is, your sentiment will be deserved, even if not desired. You have a right to be bitter when life has not rewarded your hard work and a right to feel proud when it has acknowledged your achievements and accomplishments. But you don't have a right to a sense of entitlement without first having accomplished something in life to earn it.

Now excuse me, I have to shout at some kids on my lawn.

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