Obligation versus Entitlement

There’s an awful lot of people throwing around the word entitlement lately.  Whether it is a politician trying to persuade his/her audience or an activist trying to change the world or even a parent or family member dealing with a rebellious teenager, it doesn’t really matter.  It’s a knee-jerk word that pushes most people’s buttons. In learning rhetoric (a word that essentially means learning how to inform, persuade, or motivate someone else), knee-jerk words are considered emotive language.

The intention of emotive language is to bypass the logical mind and reach the emotional mind.  They are words that have become incontrovertibly entwined with an emotional response (whether positive or negative).  The word socialism is another one of those words.

Sadly, anyone working in marketing and/or advertising or public relations is taught exactly that the use of such emotive language (visually or verbally) is the primary go-to for influencing the average Joe and Jane Public. It’s one of the reasons that sex and the female body has been used to sell anything from automobiles to burgers. The unconscious implication is that if you buy or eat this thing – you’ll either become the sex symbol, or you’ll be able to date that sex symbol.

This is why politicians have PR specialists who are writing their speeches (of course, there are those who ignore their PR people, and thereby say and do stupid shit).

But let’s go back to that idea of obligation versus entitlement. There used to be something called “social responsibility.”  That’s a concept that means that an entity (group or individual) within a society or community has an obligation to act for the good of that society or community.  It’s exactly what Spock and Captain Kirk speak about in many of the Star Trek movies (old or new) – “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few, or the one.”

The needs of the many outweight the needs of the few, or the one.In Wrath of Khan, where the quote specifically comes from, Spock enters a radiation-filled room – knowing he will die – to fix the ship, so that the rest of the crew can live.  But, the next movie, turns that truism on it’s head, showing that there are times that an individual will choose to make the needs of the one outweigh the needs of the many.  It’s that “heroic” fiction choice that can come from love, choosing the life of the loved one over the safety of the world or universe.

And yes, both sides of that truism can be necessary and true.  In our society, the “needs of the few” can be about race, gender, religion/belief, sexual orientation or sexual identity.  Hell, the “needs of the few” pretty much are about anyone who is “different” or “divergent” from the majority population.

But, what we are fighting to change for the “needs of the few” is not that they should be treated in a “special way.” It’s that they should be treated justly – like every other individual in our society.  It is challenging the status quo of society that says anyone who is part of a specialized group is somehow better than any other group of people.  It doesn’t matter if the specialized group is men, white people, the so-called 1%, heterosexuals, or Christians – we as a nation were founded on the idea that we as a whole have certain inalienable rights:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

Obviously, emphasis is mine.

Entitlement, as an opposite to obligation, means that someone expects something that they do not have a right to have.  Sadly, we have come to a point where we define “earning the right” in such a limited way that it comes down to the idea that ANYTHING supposedly given to someone else is an entitlement.

Something like Social Security, which every working person in this country pays into the public kitty.  This is paid out to those who are too elderly to work (which is defined as past a certain age, and seems to get pushed off later and later), or who in some other way have become too disabled to work, or are too young to work.  Look at your pay stub if you don’t believe me.  See that part that says FICA?  That’s YOUR money being put into that government kitty to pay for Social Security and Medicare – both meant to support those that can no longer support themselves.  It’s NOT an entitlement, because EVERY worker since the 1930s has paid into that fund.  The fact that our government has SPENT the moneys in that fund for OTHER THINGS than paying out to the elderly and the disabled is NOT the fault of our elderly and disabled, but the fault of the government.  The fact that the government points to the large demographic of elderly based on the Baby Boom is simply another emotive phrase meant to make you assume that that group didn’t pay into the government kitty.

The thing about social obligation is that it is supposed to be a balanced system.  No one is rewarded for sucking off the community tit, but those who exploit the community for their own gain are also limited in what kind of gains that they are allowed.  That’s how it is SUPPOSED to work – no matter the political system under which it is developed.

The problem is that those with power – regardless of the political system, whether it is communistic, socialistic or capitalistic – always give themselves more power.  They “change the rules” while defining those changes as things that will help the group as a whole.

There’s another truism involved here – Power corrupts.

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