This morning I was reading SomeGirl’s Website, and she’s talking up a storm about entitlements. She’s been reading the book From Innocence to Entitlement: Today she posted this quotation, which I think is brilliant:
A sense of entitlement isn’t really about getting too much, it’s about giving too little.
Tomorrow is Canada Day up here in The Great White North, and of course my American friends will celebrate July 4 in a few short days as well. So I thought it might be worth reflecting on the nature of our countries and what this quote means.
I’m going to get a little American here, so please forgive me my fellow Canadians, but I think it applies to us as well. John Adams, the second President, wrote frequently to his wife Abigail about his vision for the United States. And one thing he said was that the nation couldn’t survive if it were not, fundamentally, a Christian nation.
And I agree. Our democracies work not just because they enshrine our rights, but also because with our freedom comes responsibility. We feel a sense of community because we are free to pursue it, and the government doesn’t interfere. And so you saw people caring for their neighbours, and creating a better life for their kids, and working hard.
But when these things go–when we stop concentrating on what we can do to make life better, and start waiting for others to make our lives better–the main problem, as the quotation says, is not that we are expecting people to do things for us. It’s that we have stopped doing things altogether.
Do you know what makes our hospital work? Canada has socialized medicine, and it’s a big fat mess in my particular neck of the woods. But the reason that our hospital continues to function is that doctors and nurses go out of their way to do double shifts sometimes, to fill in that call schedule, to call around and make sure someone has a follow-up appointment. They don’t just do the minimum; if they did, it would fall apart. They do more, and so the hospital continues to limp along.
If my husband stopped filling in the gaps in the call schedule (he’s a pediatrician), obstetrics would close. The Emergency Room would be in dire straits. And so my husband keeps plugging along.
Our society works because people go above and beyond. They care about others. They feel a sense of responsibility. When that sense goes–when people stop going above and beyond–our society falls apart.
The Founding Fathers got that. The society only works when people work hard and care for each other.
But we aren’t doing that anymore. There is a rush to the bottom, a rush to do the minimum. The new god in our society isn’t money; it’s leisure. We’re all trying to do the least possible. And that is why the entitlement society has hurt us so much; it is not just that people expect things from others; it is that we have stopped working and helping.
I think the anniversaries of the births of our countries is a good time to remind us of that: we will only fluorish not when the government gives us everything, but when we all work hard together.
Happy long weekend, everybody! Now go do something nice for someone.