The whole world is in turmoil.
And there is a lot to take in: the helplessness and fear occasioned by Covid -19 coupled with the unprovoked racial slur of Amy Cooper, the unnecessary wanton death of George Floyd, the protests that have followed in the wake of his murder and the rape and death of an undergraduate in a church has left us all reeling and on edge.
I have tried to keep abreast of the news as much as I can without submerging myself in the finer details mainly because there is a need to protect myself mentally but in it all, one thing stands out clearly to me: The world has a problem of entitlement.
Mariam Webster dictionary defines entitlement as follows-
“the state or condition of being entitled a: to benefits specified especially by law or contract b: belief that one is deserving of or entitled to certain privileges.”
As human beings we have undeniable rights to certain things. We have the right to life, right to freedom, right of association amongst others and these rights are entrenched in the constitution of every nation. This is also true in our relationships. As I often tell my children, every one of us has rights and privileges, responsibilities and duties in the family set up.
Rights are very important and needful to regulate every relationship, even in the business world, contracts are drawn up to spell out the rights and responsibilities of each party to the contract. Rights also help to create and enforce boundaries however, problems arise when parties enforce their rights oblivious or unmindful of how their right affects the other party in the relationship.
It is said that a person’s right stops where the other party’s right begins but it’s so easy to forget and be unmindful of other’s rights when enforcing our rights. Man is basically selfish and if there is one thing this pandemic has reinforced , it is the fact that man is the same everywhere.
The panic buying and hoarding of groceries and household essentials at the beginning of the lockdown in several countries show that when it comes to brass tacks, man’s first thought is for himself . The difference between the so called developed world and the alleged third world countries is that the structures work.
It is the culture of entitlement that makes the white Supremacist think that he is worthy of certain privileges to the exclusion of other races, that makes many men think they have unbridled rights to a woman’s body because they are dating, engaged to or even married to her, that makes a man think that every female within his vicinity is beholden to him and subject to his authority no matter whether they are relatives or strangers, older or younger than him, that makes women abuse and maltreat their domestic staff, that makes politicians think that a political post is hereditary and can be willed to their children, that makes a pastor demand unquestionable loyalty from his members because he is sent from God and has a divine call, that makes a person look down at their subordinates or other people.
It is being convinced of your importance and your conviction that you should have priority over every other person even at the expense of their joy, peace and life. It is thinking that you are more important than others and that people should accept and respect you unquestionably. It’s thinking the rules are made for a certain set of people and that you are above the rules. It is thinking that you are the main reason your life has turned out the way it has.
Most people with an entitlement or privileged background forget that all they have that makes them privileged- race, color of skin, gender, family background and social standing are most times not of their own making.
Time and chance favored them greatly and rather than feel they are above others it behoves them to be circumspect in their dealings with others for if not for the grace of God they would be like others or even worse off. There is a Yoruba proverb that says the soul that knows how to think will always give thanks.
The culture of entitlement is passed on by indoctrination, people are told from a young age that they are better than others, cannot marry certain people, that some tribes are cowards, some controlling, some backwards. Our indoctrination objects strongly when people we have put in a certain category aspire to be like us, to live freely like we live, to enjoy the same freedoms and privileges we have. Racism is alive and well in all lands it is just labeled differently, in some societies it is known as tribalism in other’s it’s called the caste system.
I have always believed that all men ( male and female) are equal, made in the image of God and have a measure of God in them. We have a responsibility to treat people with the respect and value we demand from them no matter their social status therefore speak to us Nigerians that before we cast the stone at the Americans we should have a good look in the mirror and see where we have acted in like manner. It may not be as demeaning as slavery but it could be as little as shunting a line because you are too important to join the queue, using a siren to cut through traffic not because you have a life and death situation at hand but because you can , sleeping with your students because you have some measure of authority over them, demeaning your employees because you pay their salaries , talking down at people because they don’t have money. These are all examples of entitlement so before you cast the first stone check to see that you have no sin.