Rethinking Entitlement

earned itI would  like to address a sensitive political subject that is really beginning to rub me wrong because I think it is misunderstood. It has to do with this graphic I saw on Facebook. It also has to do with the presidential race that is currently in full swing.  Once again I find myself at odds with my subculture. In other words, most of my friends and relatives will sharply disagree with what I’m about the write, but my hope is that they will be patient with me, hear what I have to say, and respond without anger. My aim is to make informed decisions. So I would very much like to hear from people, because my current information and experience is leading me in a completely new direction from my past.

With this in mind, I would like to discuss the subject brought up in this graphic. I agree we are to work. I believe everyone should work in accordance to the abilities that they possess. I also believe in the biblical principle: “The one who is unwilling to work shall not eat (2 Thess. 3:10).” However, the reality is not all of us have the same abilities to work, nor the same opportunities to work. I believe that in such situations where  people are in need, they are to be helped out by those who have an abundance. Those who have an abundance should not use that abundance simply for selfish ambitions. Nor should such people use their abundance as a means to oppress those who are less fortunate.

My problem with the above graphic is it’s implications. The idea is that I deserve everything I have because I worked for it and earned it. Implied is the idea that if you have less it is because of your own laziness, inadequacies, and even moral character. This is a very common attitude among the upper and middle classes, and also quite prevalent within the church. So, they think,  “why should we give up anything we have “earned” to support those who have not earned it and certainly don’t deserve it?” We resent governmental taxation being used to help those in unfortunate conditions because just like we deserve what what we have they deserve what they don’t have. Their poverty is their own fault. IMG_0043

A great example of this attitude is illustrated in the political picture to the right.  Here Bernie Sanders is pictured as taking away from a boy who worked hard for a grade and giving part of the points to a boy who didn’t work at all. I have also heard of this referred to as “punishing success.” However, in many ways, this is a gross misrepresentation. To begin with we assume both boys have been given the same opportunities and abilities. We assume one applied himself and the other didn’t. But is this an accurate representation of the political issue? I don’t think so!

In order to represent the political issue more accurately, we have to understand that there is more to consider than just the effort  of the two boys. What if the boy who got the F had been sick and missed all the classes. What if he was never given the book to study? What if he was never given the opportunity to study? What if his parents were crack addicts and instead of studying he had to hide behind the couch all night to prevent his father from beating him? Furthermore, it would be more accurate if successful boy was asked to help other boy understand the subject instead of equally distributing points.

For those of you who think you have earned you way in this life, I would like to ask some questions.

  • What did you do to earn your parents? If you born to a drug addict mom who was knocked up by father now serving a prison sentence, do you think you would still have what you have today?
  • What did you do to earn your health?
  • What did you do to earn your intelligence? What if you were born with a mental illness?
  • What did you do to earn the country you live in?
  • What did you do to earn your education? We take it for granted, but not everyone has the opportunities for education we have been given.

The truth is, there is no such thing as a self-made man. Everybody who succeeds does so because they have been given opportunities and abilities to do so. NOT EVERYONE IS GIVEN THE SAME OPPORTUNITIES OR ABILITIES. When we go through life thinking we have earned our way, we become arrogant and judgmental towards people we don’t even know or understand. The fact is, we have all been given. When we live like people who have been given, we don’t have trouble sharing what we have been given with others. But, if we go through life thinking we are entitled to what we have, we just become more and more arrogant and selfish.

As an American I have been raised with the grand delusion we often refer to as the “American Dream.” As I understand it, this is the principle that if you work hard and live right, you will be wealthy. Not very realistic. I have known an awful lot of people who have worked hard their whole life, but they didn’t have two pennies to show for their toil. I have also known of others who led a life of luxury and leisure without the least bit of toil.  All of us do. Furthermore, it is my experience that those who live with integrity often end up on the losing end of the stick. I think we are looking up to the wrong people. Most of us would agree that greed,  arrogance, and selfishness are undesirable traits, but we tend to admire the wealthy who epitomize such traits. The reality is, the wealthy will often oppress people and drain society. For every person who compiles WAY more than he could ever need, there are so many others who have to do without the basic necessities of life.

When we examine the American dream with all of it’s ramifications, one person’s dream causes the nightmare for thousands of others. For example, Andrew Carnegie, Henry Ford, J.P. Morgan, John D. Rockefeller and Cornelius Vanderbilt have been heralded as 5 of the greatest businessmen in American History. These men are actually known as the people who built America. I don’t deny these men the value of their contributions, but I question if they are the ones who built America. If they did, they built it at the expense of thousands of oppressed people who worked long hours for minimal pay in very dangerous circumstances. These thousands of people who lived and often died from the horrible working conditions are not known to us today. But they are, more than likely, the people who make up your family tree, and they are the nameless people who really built America.  To the great capitalists, such people were of no more value than the dirt on the souls of their shoes. Had it not been for true heroes who stood up to these tyrants at the expense of their lives, American would be a much different place today. I certainly don’t think I would like to live in such a place.

We look up to the wrong people. Many of the practices of the great 5 businessmen that supposedly built America are not all that much different from the practices used by the Mafia and various drug thugs we try to lock up in prison. America has never been built by just a few men who managed to gain great prosperity at the expense of the multitudes; America was built by the masses.  Yet, the rich are the people we admire and try to emulate for their hard work. Incidentally, I don’t deny their hard work. Nor do I deny their great contributions and ingenuity. These were men who had special abilities and opportunities to do great things, but their great accomplishments lead to great greed, unethical conquest and great oppression. With their great wealth, they bought politicians, they bought armies, and they did their best to enslave the multitudes.  Such is the power of self. But self can be defeated by the power of community. The power of community has always involved extreme personal sacrifice, but in the end it triumphs.

For a number of years I have stayed out of politics. I’m not even registered to vote right now. But I do believe there is a man running that I would vote for if given the opportunity. Most politicians are out for their own benefit. The rich support the rich which helps them get more rich. I think we all want what will benefit ourselves. But I have to wonder if what will benefit us the most is benefiting others.

So these are my thoughts and they are subject to change with new information. I know many of my friends and family will disagree vehemently. I would really like to hear your thoughts, and this blog is a good place for that to happen. So please feel free to comment or share. Please don’t be rude though. It is unnecessary.


About Ken Sayers

I’m just a man on a journey somewhere between Heaven and Hell. I seek acceptance and meaning in life just like everyone else.
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