Thursday, 7 August 2008

Sense of Entitlement

I hear many people complaining that too many people nowadays have a sense of entitlement. One person I spoke to said that this is because children are nowadays overprotected and therefore come to believe that the world will protect them when in reality nobody will.

If we all have human rights, aren't we all entitled to something? For example, imagine if a man was raping a woman. The woman complains about this and says that she has the right to not have sex with the man if that is what she wants. However, the man who rapes her can claim that she has a sense of entitlement because she believes that she is entitled to this right to choose whom she has sex with. If it is wrong for anyone to have a sense of entitlement then it is therefore wrong for the rape victim to believe that she or he is entitled to freedom from coercion.

Of course, slavery and coercion is much more complicated than the example given above. When someone is a victim of rape, usually the rapist is stronger then the rape victim, and this difference in strength results in the victim not being able to exercise his or her option to stop having sex. With slavery, the slave can disobey but there are usually punishments set up to make this option not preferred. A slave has choice but the best choice leads to a poor outcome. For example, in Ancient Egypt it is widely believed that slaves were used to make pyramids. A slave had freedom in that he could choose two options: (1) work, e.g. pull heavy stones or (2) not work and get whipped. The slave has freedom to choose between working and not working but since the latter option leads to extreme pain, the slave is driven by fear of pain to work for the slave owner. This slave situation is analogous to the plight of workers in modern capitalist societies. In Australia, if you cannot get a job, you must go to Centrelink, which is a government agency that helps the disadvantaged. Centrelink will pay you a certain amount every fortnight but in return you must look for a job. To prove that you are looking for a job, you must write diaries and attend Centrelink seminars. I know all this because one of my friends went through all this. This system of welfare is analogous to slavery because the worker does have choice. For example, suppose an 18-year-old girl is dumped by her parents and needs to get a job to feed herself. Assume she is not intelligent and therefore cannot get any job other than being a prostitute. She doesn't want to be a prostitute because she hates sex and therefore resigns and is taken to Centrelink. The only thing Centrelink will do is put her back into employment, which means she will be a prostitute again. Therefore, she cannot escape work, which therefore means she is a slave. The fact that she is forced into sex against her will also means that she is being raped. What if she can find another job? It doesn't matter. It's still slavery because the individual cannot escape work, and the work available will likely be low paying and just as demeaning and nasty as a job as a prostitute. What if she gets a good job that she likes? What if she likes being a prostitute? If that is the case, then she is fine. She is doing what she loves. However, preferences tend to differ among people and there will always be those who don't like what they are doing but have to do it.

Many people who see those who don't like their job and choose to quit call them lazy. However, if you saw a slave complaining about how horrible being a slave is, would these people blame them for being lazy even though their situation is analogous? Would these people judge rape victims?

Having a sense of entitlement can be beneficial because we therefore fight for those rights we think we should have. For example, if nobody had a sense of entitlement, people would never fight and die to secure for women rights to vote.

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