Tuesday, July 26, 2005

sacrifice vs entitlement

Ianqui over at The Oil Drum got me thinking about the nature of sacrifice. She was writing in response to a New York Times article All Quiet and the Home Front, and Some Soldiers Are Asking Why. They want to know why the burden of sacrifice is falling on the military and their families, while the rest of the nation thinks that sending a care package and saying a prayer is enough. Ianqui explains:

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 works.
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.


logan said...

"Ianqui points out.... 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."

with all due respect to ianqui (he makes some excellent points) i suggest he is dead wrong on this point. in fact, leaving it to the govt to "change the people" is how we got ourselves in this mess in the first place. the govt is a REFLECTION of the people. more specifically, it is a reflection of the DENIAL of the people. we leave it to the govt to "fix" everything for us. we leave it to the govt to "protect us" and to secure our future and our "entitlements" for us.

and worse, we assume they are the "good guys". we assume, despite overwhelming evidence that our govt is corrupt to the core, is the absolute worst violator of human rights on the planet, has participated in the thievery of the documented trillions of dollars that have been stolen from various govt agencies and moved out of our country, has been the instigator in the corruption of third world "leaders" so we can then steal their resources and then, years later, "forgive" the billions of dollars of debt we saddled them with as long as they agree to forfeit the infrastructures and natural resources we loaned them the money to develope in the first place, is in bed with organized crime, multinational corporations, and the very same terrorist organizations and war lords who we claim are the "axis of evil" in this so-called "war on terror" in the cultivation, trafficing, and distribution of the tons and tons of drugs loosed on our neighborhoods and streets... we assume this wonderful govt of ours is acting in our best interests despite the overwhelming evidence now available for us to puruse that it is acting on the collective greed and sinister agendas of those that run it in bed with corporations and individuals of similar self-interest.

how many of our people know that our govt agencies refuse to abide by law to provide audited financial statements? how many know they "balance the books" with an instrument called "UNDOCUMENTED ADJUSTMENTS"? off a few billion? just "adjust" the bottom line to make the numbers work. we would NEVER get by with this kind of accounting in our own businesses yet we allow our govt agencies to do so with narry a word of objection.

how many know that our economy is absolutey plugged into the over 500 billion in illicit drug money laundered through our very own banks and wall street?

how many know that, ... despite their anti-war position, despite their objections to the appaling human rights violations, despite their objection to the massive corruption and power-over agendas, despite their knowing that our own shadow govt is either complicit in or directly responsible for the events of 9/11, ... they hold positions of alignment with "the end justifies the means" agenda and they are perfectly willing to turn their head so their future will remain secure??

we are getting EXACTLY what we deserve when we refuse to look at the evidence or worse, after looking at the evidence we choose to do NOTHING because to do so would mean our economy would collapse, our jobs would be lost, our mortagaes forclosed on, our "economic security" would go to the dogs, our pension plans, our ira's, etc, would be worthless, our health insurance (if we are one of the fortunate who can even afford to have it) would be non-existent, our meds might be unavailable, our way of life as we know it would be OVER, our lights and air conditioners might go off, our water might not run, our cupboard might be bare, our gas tanks would be empty, our nation would be under martial law because our streets would be chaos, and our american dream would turn out to be a nightmare! and no body in the rest of the world would have any desire to help us because they are tired of being abused and killed, of being overridden and taken advantage of by us!!

many do not know the details of the various issues i have touched on here but i submit that somewhere, within the unspoken reality, within the deep dark irrational realm where reason cannot reach and intellect cannot venture, every u.s. citizen knows this.

so i submit that what is really going on here is that when its all said and done we, each of us in our own ways, are, through the UNSEEN ROLE OF DENIAL, in bed with the greed, corruption, and sinister agendas of those who, by that very same denial, we have put in the so-called power positions and charged with "taking care" of us.

and in the end we are each, in our own ways, responsible for our own roles in this and ABSOLUTELY responsible for our own change.

we have hard decisions to make. pogo said it for us many years ago... "we have met the enemy and he are us".


head lem said...


I posted an answer for you on Oil Drum.

You are so on to it.

Part of DENIAL is to deny we have a denial problem.

Did I say that? Nah.
Did you see that? Nah.


Carolyn said...

I am unsure of my opinion in this discussion. Yet, getting over entitlement seems to be my issue. I wonder why it is I feel entitled to want what I want, food, money, etc., but I don't have the same entitlement feeling about punishment if I am caught speeding. Catch 22 seems appropriate here. Yet, entitlement thinking is getting me into trouble on a daily basis. Where is it written, I ask myself, am I to be rewarded for doing the correct, healthy or best decision. Yet, still I feel I am owed. Is there no answer to getting over entitlement?