Friday, March 26, 2010

Being Entitled

Yeah, this one crops up a lot, most likely because I catch myself feeling entitled to things, hating myself for these thoughts, and taking it out on people who are less self-aware in their entitlement. Yesterday, this manifested itself in my doing something I NEVER do: commenting in a very public forum on an article. I know myself. I know that I have the potential to be exactly the kind of nutzoid who becomes obsessed with being an internet know-it-all and trolls sites on whose subject matter I can claim vague expertise and becoming a general menace. I know this about myself and I steer clear.

But this article got to me. I know it's so incredibly insignificant. Perhaps it only pissed me off because The Boy works in the industry and would promptly fire anyone who acted this way, or perhaps it's that now, seeing exactly what exemplary service is and how relatively painless it is to achieve, anything short really really bugs me.

I guess, as a very very very brief resident of a kitchen, and in an apprenticeship role, I don't quite understand the griping of servers. Who make at least double what the people who actually made the food make. And who are the first to sue when a restaurant tries to tip out the back of the house. Yes, in the end, the restaurants are to blame (if we're handing out blame) because everyone should make a livable wage.

But this is besides the point. What really irks me is that entitlement seems built into our culture in a way that seems greater than at other times (I'm not going to say than at any other time, but I think it inside - take that, Cicero). On the news this morning I was treated to a crazyperson soundbite from the NJTransit hearings, some woman bawling that she did not agree with the fare hike. Wow, what a shocker! Just like you didn't agree with the increased price of gas, the increased price of milk or orange juice or tomatoes, the increased price of a movie ticket. We get it. Left to their own devices, people would rather not spend money. But, much like my extreme peevitude at Cablevision and the fairness of ABC raising its prices, I don't quite understand what is achieved by bitching about the rising cost of life.

There is an undercurrent of, "I'm entitled to only pay a buck for the subway in perpetuity." Now I don't like when they raise the subway fare, but I know what my choices are: pay or walk. Now I know I am a have, and the people complaining are have-nots (albeit, frequently have-nots with iPods; cost of iPod: $250; cost of fare increase $.25; if not iPod, then 1000 subway trips, also known as about 2 years of commuting). But if fifty cents a day, or frankly a dollar or two dollars, is going to so severely affect your ability to feed, house, and clothe yourself, doesn't it stand to reason that something much much worse is happening, and that perhaps you should direct your energies towards something more important than transit fare hikes? If you can't live on your wage, you should be working tirelessly to raise it. Whether that means lobbying for a minimum wage hike - which we desperately need - or coming up with some other idea (tax rebate for commuter costs, for example), I think that it's futile to think that prices will remain stagnant.

I listen to people I know, some of whom I agree with, and others of whom I don't, debate current public policy without addressing the core cultural obstacle to change: us. The ideal of the American Dream, however 50s and pollyanna-ish, has become something that gets handed to us, not something we have to do anything to achieve. And if that makes me sound more conservative than you're used to, it isn't, really. The minimum wage worker who busts his ass and still can't get ahead? I want to help him. Help him so that his kids might not need to work a minimum wage job. But the person who doesn't take the minimum wage job because it's not enough money for all that work. He can go pluck himself.

Whether or not I support public health care (which I think I do, just not this iteration), I HATED the rhetoric that health care was a right, an entitlement. It just isn't. Elevating something to the level of inalienable is a dangerous thing to do and it breeds complacency. It would be nice if everyone had decent health coverage, but it isn't a right. It isn't something that simply by being born one is entitled to. Something can be important, be the right call, be necessary, without having to be a gimme putt. I would say a better argument is that, having worked hard to make the nation great, we have EARNED a public health care system that can take care of all our citizens - that's how I would have spun it (let's, for the moment, leave aside the particulars as they are fodder for endless argument and think, instead, of the IDEA of public health care, not this particular implementation).

And, while I'm completely all over the place with this, it's what was the final nail in the coffin of my American Idol addiction. Choosing, and it's still a choice, to be a single mother at 18 does not, in any way, shape, or form, mean you deserve to be on television and get a record contract. You made a shitty choice. You deserve to live with the consequences, and no one owes you anything simply because the shitty choice you made is hard.

But I'm happy your kid will get to go see a doctor from time to time.

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