I was in a Del Taco several years ago and saw an elderly woman at the counter ordering food. As I got in line I overheard the conversation with the clerk. There was something the clerk had missed in the order and the elderly woman was going over the order again however she was becoming very frustrated because of the mistake. The clerk repeated the order back and the woman stopped her abruptly at the missed item and said “No, I wanted two burritos and four tacos. Don’t argue with me. I have been ordering Mexican food since before you were born!”
This somewhat comical statement brought out a sad notion in our world today. There is a not so subtle intrinsic belief that “We are right and everything else is wrong”. Our justification of this stems from a philosophically flawed argument that truth in and of itself is a variable. If we can redefine truth, we will always have truth on our side. This provides the ability for even opposing views to both be seen as right. The flaw is simple; one cannot equal two no matter how much we wish it so. At some level there needs to be absolute truth to act as the baseline. Rather than risk the chance of being called wrong by comparison to that baseline, many people choose to accept the argument without addressing the flaw. This breeds the larger problem of feeling we are right and thereby continues the birthing process to an even larger danger for the world. That danger is “Entitlement”.
I have the right! I am empowered. I am strong! I am able to make my own decisions! These phrases sound similar to those coming from a four year old at bedtime as well those coming from some four year college campuses. Even if we are right, empowered, strong, and capable, we are not inherently entitled. The ability to do something does not give us the right to do it, especially when it is regarding something that is truly a privilege. But that is not what society teaches. As we crawled from the primordial ooze we somehow pulled ourselves up and caused our own evolution and are better for it, we came out of the cave and foraged through the muck of responsibilities and reached a self centered conclusion that somehow privilege is actually a right.
On New Year’s Eve, a lesser known actress became a better known actress. Natasha Leggero made a poorly chosen comment stemming from a poorly worded Campbell’s Spaghettios add via Twitter. Campbell’s add appeared to make light of the invasion of Pearl Harbor. They responded with an apology almost immediately. Leggero’s comment made fun of the veterans of that day and their age. It was in extremely poor taste, poorly timed, and something that was very disrespectful to the veterans that survived that day. Since that comment her celebrity status has increased mainly due to the amount of hateful responses. I read through several responses on a website and they ranged from death threats to pornographic projection mostly centered on vulgar statements about her lack of intelligence. Her view is that she was entitled to make the comment. The responders view is that they are entitled to their hate speak. The reality is that they are both wrong and both filled with the fallacy of entitlement.
There is a moral grey line in comedy that sits between acceptable and offensive. Comedians push the limits of that regularly to gain fans. The morality of it cannot be defined here but the question of whether it is a privilege or a right can be. Legally we may have the right to say something but do we morally have that right? Does it make it okay just because we declare ourselves entitled? Where is the line between right and responsibility? Is it acceptable to offend or hurt others so we can feel better about ourselves or for that matter make money just because our current understanding of the first amendment says it is legal? Her comment was intended to be funny. It was not and it came across as mean spirited. It would be similar to joking about a lung cancer patient having problems breathing. The responses to it however were horrific. People were alluding to her death and desires to rape her. They were offended or hurt by her comments so they felt entitled to offend and hurt her. Where is the reality check here? Have we raised the level of entitlement so high that a person with a computer and an internet access now has the right to profess ideas that should never be thought because they were able to sign on? Where does it end?
If people go through their lives absorbing the problems around them and not finding true resolution, there will always be a time where they are fed up and feel entitled to their moment. It may manifest itself in disrespectful comments to a psychologically damaged internet posts in response or even to a woman screaming about ordering tacos. If we do not realize that life is a privilege and not a right, and that we are responsible for our choices, and that the only way to fix bad ones is to actually fix the problem and not the blame, we will never find peace. Settling for approximations of peace and holding tight to our legal rights is a good way to a bad end.