I bring this up on The Oil Drum because I think it reflects a salient aspect of the American psyche that's going to cause us great difficulty in a Peak Oil world. It seems to me that many Americans of the 21st century feel a great sense of entitlement.Many readers responded to this in the comments section. Ben cracked me up when he said: "Hey, I support the war! I have two magnets on my car!"
Carla thinks that "[t]here are people who would sacrifice if they understood better. I really think the 'econological footprint' and 'food mile' sorts of exercises are useful and will help those who are willing to sacrifice but don't know that they should." She doesn't like the idea of saying people believe they are entitled in the way that the right wingers complain about welfare recipients.
J says he feels he is entitled because he works "until July every year just to pay all my taxes. Slavery? You bet. And it makes me feel the friggin government owes me something, because I haven't ever taken a dime from them other than the road system I drive on. Every war I have experienced was about expanding the military or political power, not about saving the homeland."
Ianqui points out that its not just that people don't have the information they need to change their behavior; "...crucially, our government DOES have all of the relevant information about global warming and peak oil and avian flu and whatever other disasters await us, and yet, still they're doing nothing to influence us to stop our destructive behavior. And no body has influence like the government does--they're the ONLY ones with enough power and influence to get the American people to change their ways."
I added: "How do we overcome this feeling of entitlement? Because it is a huge barrier IMO. In my experience education helps, peer pressure helps, propaganda helps, leadership helps. And getting over entitlement isn't a one shot thing. It will unfold as a process of coming to grips with the reality of the situation and mourning the loss of what we feel is our birthright. Even if I am exploitive and my energy and carbon footprints are outrageous compared to the rest of the world, there is still a loss to be worked through. And the guilt. Guilt has the problem of contributing to a need to stay in denial. Besides, I don't want to sacrifice for the war effort. I want to sacrifice for the peace effort."
I have long been embarrassed by being a part of the Me Generation that spawned Yuppies and Madonna's Material Girl. But this has to be understood in context. As my Mom pointed out to me, Young Urban Professionals were just trying to make a living. There was a housing bubble going on as our parent's generation cashed out and we had to work twice as hard to come up with a down payment and deal with interest rates that were at 18%. Greed was good because it fueled the economy. As Gekko pointed out ("Wall Street" 1987):
The point is, ladies and gentleman, is that greed -- for lack of a better word -- is good.
Greed is right.
Greed clarifies, cuts through, and captures the essence of the evolutionary spirit.
Greed, in all of its forms -- greed for life, for money, for love, knowledge -- has marked the upward surge of mankind.
And greed -- you mark my words -- will not only save Teldar Paper, but that other malfunctioning corporation called the USA.
In my generation the idea was that you worked hard, and were rewarded for your labors. The expectation was you would better yourself with more things. I worked in real estate during the 1980s and I saw the inside of a lot of houses in the SF Bay Area. And many folks were moving because they wanted to move up--their homes were filled with consumer goods, and they needed more places to put them.
The idea that I might need to prepare for self sufficiency, that I would possibly face a second Great Depression was the farthest thing from my mind.
So I have been on a journey--following in the footsteps of people who have always been conscious of their energy footprints or geopolitical issues. And it has been shocking to discover that I, with all of my liberal education and good intentions do not walk softly on the Earth. And it has been really challenging to try and figure out what the responsible thing to do is. Should I listen to the Doomers? How do you prepare for a future that is so uncertain? How do I let go of everything that I have assumed and learn a skillset which I am totally unprepared for?
And if this is so hard for me, a "cultural creative" or "early adaptor," what hope should I have for Joe six-pac?
Nevertheless, I need to carry on. I need to continue to educate myself, and soon, as the research phase winds up, I need to make my priorities and take action. No one can do this for me. I have to make my own way.
As do you.