So, this has been bothering me all day. And since it gives me a chance to not post about work for once, I figured I would bring it here and get some other views on it.
My fiancé’s mom posted something today that really bothered me. This picture.
Now, before you jump on this and say, “but she’s right!” or “this is exactly what I want to say to so many people!”, let me explain why I am bothered.
It strikes me as a deeply philosophical statement. But I have trouble seeing it as saying anything good about the worldviews that she aligns with. Or, even most typical lines of thought.
If we were to strip it down to a literal meaning of the natural world owing you nothing, and of survival of the fittest…well, then it’s kind of true. Except that if you just happen to be more fit–healthier, more clever, in a better situation as far as resources–then by virtue of that statement, you’re entitled to survive and maybe even succeed and thrive. That can change in a flash, sure, but by being naturally superior, an organism gets more opportunities to live.
If we don’t try to strip it down to nature and the elements, and we assume that other people are involved, then it makes even less sense. Because what separates people from most of nature? A) language, B) increasingly complex tools to manipulate the environment, and C) a certain willingness to care for those members of the species–and of other species, even–who cannot necessarily contribute in any meaningful way.
Well. If we don’t owe anything to those who are helpless, then why bother? They’re not contributing, right? Like…do parents owe it to newborns and young children to care for them? The kids didn’t decide to be born, did they? That was someone else’s decision. And at what point then do children no longer owe their parents anything? When they get too old to work or care for themselves? No. I think that to a degree, familial responsibility means that you do owe someone your care, and that you are entitled to receive care from your family…
Now, can you do terrible things to your family that may absolve them from obligations to care for you? Probably. But barring that sort of thing…come on. Family is the most basic unit of human society. You have certain obligations to one another simply because you exist.
What about other human social institutions? Work, maybe?
Well, in that case, I really am owed something or am entitled to certain things. Because we made an agreement when they hired me. I would fulfill certain obligations in exchange for certain rewards–money, insurance, investments, etc (in my case, free movies as well).
Or…what about society at large? Say I am a citizen of a this country or that one. We also have an agreement that is either understood by me as I grow up and learn things, or that I agree to when I immigrate and become a citizen by choice. Said country offers me certain protections and rights, and in return, I agree to abide by its laws or to participate directly in this or that manner.
Even here on good old WordPress, I am expected to do certain things–write posts, visit other people’s pages, comment on other posts–if I want other users to interact with me so that I am not just speaking into the void.
So…I guess, on one hand she’s totally right: you rarely ever get something for nothing at all. But at the same time…if nobody owes anyone anything, you have such a tremendous breakdown of interactions that you can’t have a society, and you can’t have a job, and you can’t have a family because you yourself don’t have a sense of that obligation to others, and…well, as that blank page makes clear, even if you did your part and hoped for the best, nobody owes you a damned thing.
That sounds awfully nihilistic. In the worst sense. Like…what is the point of anything? If at no point I can expect to be given my due by my family or by employer or my government, then why should I myself give anything to any of these institutions?
Even in the situation of “survival of the fittest”, the fittest and brightest individuals don’t get counted as successful without mates or offspring. And that means, again, looking out for the well being of others and owing them something (and, in the situation of the mate or offspring, being entitled to another’s care).
I don’t know…it just upsets me because I think she is being really unclear about what exactly she’s posting about. I can see lots of scenarios where one could say that an individual is owed nothing, or is entitled to nothing because they didn’t do their part to uphold the relationship, regardless of the type of relationship we’re talking about…but to say it as just a blanket truth is really upsetting.
You can’t mean that, can you? Because the moment you make this statement, then you must see that, conversely, you are owed nothing by anyone else.
And it upsets me because she and Jester’s dad are Christian…and how can you be a Christian and say that? Surely you would believe that others are entitled (and I’m going with the strictest possible viewpoint of Christians who actually seem to hate nonChristians) to hear the gospel? Even if you don’t think you owe them your help or your love, then you at least owe them the chance to hear what you believe…right? Or, in a kinder variation…all people are entitled to a certain amount of kindness and respect because God made them…………….right?
I don’t know. I spent the majority of my life in Catholic and Christian schools and the sort of churchy society that goes with that…and it bothers me that someone who supposedly is a part of that circle of thought would say such a thing. (Okay. If we want to make religion sound really bad, couldn’t you say that humans are entitled to suffer for their sins? That still fits within the definition of entitlement!)
I think that maybe…maybe she means this is her personal attitude towards, say…people like Jester and me. That frightens me a little. I’d rather die than have to ask her for help so that she doesn’t slap something like that in our faces. But, on the other hand…that does give us a free pass if they ever need our help, doesn’t it? (No, because my conscience wouldn’t be able to stand it.)
And then there’s this:
I interned at a radio station my last year of college, and some of the station staff are my facebook friends…about a week and a half ago, one of them posted a meme about how people in their twenties being entitled brats who can’t do anything themselves.
I looked for the picture, and I can’t find it…I think he took it down…but just do a search for memes about “entitled millennials” if you want a visual aid.
I commented that this was a rude thing to generalize about, and we had a little bit of back and forth about it…but…I don’t know. I’m 28 now, and I’ve spent the entirety of my 20s hearing about how entitled, yet completely undeserving all twenty-somethings are. It’s very disheartening. I don’t think I’m particularly entitled…I want certain things and I want my life to be a certain way–but who doesn’t? And I’m trying very hard to make this happen so that I can no longer be accused of not taking care of myself…just…circumstances all throughout my 20s have not been particularly favorable for that outcome.
…I’m extremely grateful, by the way, to have a family that doesn’t subscribe to the idea that they “owe me nothing”, because if they had booted me out of the house when I turned 18, I wouldn’t have my degree and I wouldn’t’ve had my first junky car (I didn’t learn to drive until I was 23), and I wouldn’t’ve had the means to care for myself and ultimately make my bid for a more independent adulthood. My life would be a lot different and a lot less satisfying and more precarious than it already is. And it upsets me to think that because I happen to fall into the twenty-something age range, that seems to mean to older adults that I just don’t try and expect things to be given to me for no reason.
It’s upsetting. So upsetting. Which is why I’ve been thinking about it all day. And which is also why I keep telling myself that I’d rather die than have a child…because what if it is obnoxiously entitled? Or worse…what if it thinks that because the world owes it nothing, that it owes nothing in return?