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A Sense of Entitlement

10 January 2013, 07:01

The corruption in our country, the crime rate, the traffic offences, the death toll on our roads, the president spending a fortune on Nkandla, domestic violence; all shout out to me that too many South Africans are suffering from a hugely inflated sense of entitlement.  It is obviously not the only problem, but in my view it is a big part of the problem.

Many of these things happen because people are acting with an attitude of such arrogance that very little thought is spared for the people around them. When we are all sitting in a long line of rush hour traffic, waiting for the traffic light to turn green, and some dingbat in a taxi, or an expensive car charges past, on the left hand side, in the yellow line, just to push in at the front of the queue, it is because of a sense of entitlement.  It communicates the message: I think my life and my time is more important than everyone else’s and therefore I don’t have to waste my time waiting in line.  The same goes for speeding.  Then there are the taxis and their infamous antics on the road.  They might as well paint it on their vehicles: The more people I can squeeze in and get to a destination quickly, the more money I make, so I will do whatever I want.

There are many examples of traffic offences where people just have absolutely no consideration for anyone else; not their property, their time or their safety.  I am amazed to see how many people just skip red lights these days.  Ten years ago, I didn’t see this.  I am not talking about accelerating slightly when the light starts to turn yellow and it is too late to stop. I am talking about people blatantly pushing past other cars that are stopping, and sometimes already waiting, at a red traffic light, and simply flying over the crossing with total disregard for the law, but also for the lives of others. 

The obscene audacity of our corrupt politicians and officials communicate one thing to me: I am entitled to take whatever I want, or whatever I can get away with.  The same is true for other criminals.  Somewhere in their egotistical little minds they must have an inner dialogue that tells them it is okay to break into someone’s house because they are completely entitled to take the plasma screen TV.

The way that abusive men treat women reeks of their insolent ideas that they somehow have a license to show women who’s the boss by means of violence, or whatever other way they see fit, because they are stronger and entitled to having things their way.  When a man rapes a woman, it says that he feels entitled to overpower and control her, with no sympathy for her physical pain and emotional trauma.

Another frightening thing is that this attitude seems to be endorsed just about everywhere around us.  Nkandla gets upgraded to the value of more than R200 million, and then the President says in front of the whole nation that he has a bond for it.  What happens when no-one can find any proof of this bond?  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing; which communicates the message that the outrageously extravagant upgrades are perfectly okay, but not only that – it is also perfectly okay to tell the nation you have a bond when you don’t.

It is endorsed when people get away with murder, when the police is as corrupt as the criminals, when the metro police accept bribes in stead of making the roads safer, and when a motorist happily pays the bribe to be off the hook. It is endorsed when ministers won't take responsibility for the failings of their departments. It is endorsed every time that someone plays the race card; it is because I am black, white, yellow, brown, orange with purple zebra stripes, that I am entitled to act the way I act.

Self-help books, motivational speakers, new-age gurus and marketing experts drive the point home even further.  They teach the sense of entitlement with all their talk about manifestations and laws of attraction and their particular way of making people believe everyone deserves abundance.  I have to be very specific here and point out that I don’t have a problem with the idea that everyone is deserving; my problem is with expecting everything for nothing.  Yes, everyone is deserving of a good education, but then study and do your part.  Everyone is deserving of a job, of basic rights and yes, of some degree of abundance, but not to have it handed to you on a silver platter because you attracted it into your life with good thoughts, or because you simply think you are entitled to it. It is all about what you put in.  If you are a waitress, then give good service and I will be the first to insist that you are entitled to good tips.  If you have any job and you do it well, then you are deserving of a raise and a promotion.  These rewards should happen on merit, and nothing else.

Maybe the inflated sense of entitlement starts in our houses.  Every parent should be teaching their children the right values, and that doesn't happen when children get whatever they want, and see adults acting in the arrogant way where nothing is important beside their own little lives.  It goes further than the 8 year old with the iPhone 5. It is about expectations; and parents often create these expectations by indulging them, whether it is about material things, a lack of discipline or about doing everything for the child.  These things teach a child to feel entitled to get whatever they want and have everything their way, and they are the children who grow up to speed on our roads with total disregard for others, and who contribute to crashing the economy by supporting their lifestyles with money they don't have.

As parents we need to teach by example.  We should show it by the smallest things, like picking up your own underwear from the bathroom floor, to putting something in when it comes to the biggest, most important things like abiding to the law, being ethical and honest, and doing everything you do to the best of your ability.  It is in the attitude you have towards others, towards laws, and towards doing the right thing.  It is about being considerate and respectful and having empathy.  It is a choice about who you want to be, and our choices create the environment we live in.

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