As you know I am a believer in luck being a powerful driver in the trajectory of one’s life. Matters out of your control such as which vagina you get shot out of and what colour you come out dictate the opportunities presented to you. Granted there are exceptional individuals who defy the odds presented to them by their point of origin but they are the exception and not the rule. More often than not the reverse occurs and people fail to capitalise on the powerful lottery of their birth. As such I am thankful for the random hand of chance because tiny alterations could have inexorably changed my life as it could for everyone.
What got me thinking about this again was the concept of entitlement and in the wonderfully random way, the universe works several things coalesced to get me thinking about what you do with your luck and how you think about the bounty you have been blessed with. More importantly the sort of person it makes you. The streets around my house have been the subject of endless roadwork for what seems to be an interminable period, work ends then seems to begin again at random with no real end in sight. The cynic in me often drifts towards the thought that the only real purpose of the activity is to piss people off as nothing seems to change. Roadworks bring road crew which means people standing in the middle of the road telling you when to go and when to stop because strangely people cannot seem to work out that racing through a construction zone at 100 kph against the flow of traffic is a bad thing. But then I live in a high dickhead, high entitlement suburb.
Near part of the construction is a cafe where I stop on the way back from training to have breakfast and since it is reasonably early in the morning I always manage to park right out front. On my of my recent visits, some of the road crew were clustered around my car and we had a brief chat about cars and one of them mention that they recognized the car because I was the bloke who always waved at them. And I do because except for the grace of a few slightly open doors that they might not have had presented to them I could be standing there holding a sign all day. Coincidentally, I had just been reading a small piece on entitlement and how it affects behaviour. The basic thrust of the article offers the following –
Seven studies using experimental and naturalistic methods reveal that upper-class individuals behave more unethically than lower-class individuals. In studies 1 and 2, upper-class individuals were more likely to break the law while driving, relative to lower-class individuals. In follow-up laboratory studies, upper-class individuals were more likely to exhibit unethical decision-making tendencies (study 3), take valued goods from others (study 4), lie in a negotiation (study 5), cheat to increase their chances of winning a prize (study 6), and endorse unethical behavior at work (study 7) than were lower-class individuals. Mediator and moderator data demonstrated that upper-class individuals’ unethical tendencies are accounted for, in part, by their more favorable attitudes toward greed.
The study that caught my eye was based around the notion that people in higher value cars were more likely to violate traffic laws particularly those around pedestrians crossings. I live in an area with a large number of private schools and this has certainly been my observation. I have generally always driven wanker cars – they stick out, as a result, I have tried not to be a dickhead in them but that is a work in progress and sometimes I fail miserably at it. But I am the bloke who always waves.
The notion of entitlement intrigues me because of the psychology that goes along with it. I have long known via observation that people who come into a windfall such as inheritance undergo a change in behavior and personality. They ascribe their good fortune to a particular personality trait they possess and that somehow this trait enabled them to receive their windfall. The same is apparently true of people who win lotteries. So I went looking for a formal definition of entitlement and came across the following –
Psychological entitlement is a personality trait characterized by pervasive feelings of deservingness, specialness, and exaggerated expectations. (Grubbs et al APA PsycNet)
I began to reflect upon this definition in light of the result of the recent election. I don’t follow politics but apparently, the result was somewhat of a surprise but I had a look at some of the commentary which stated that the line in the sand was the concepts of a rollback in dividend imputation and changes to negative gearing. But the result is not really a surprise when you look further into entitlement the review above states –
The present review expands upon this understanding by conceptualizing entitlement as a cognitive-personality vulnerability to psychological distress. A review of research is conducted, and a novel, multipart model is described by which entitlement may be seen as such a vulnerability. First, exaggerated expectations, notions of the self as special, and inflated deservingness associated with trait entitlement present the individual with a continual vulnerability to unmet expectations. Second, entitled individuals are likely to interpret these unmet expectations in ways that foster disappointment, ego threat, and a sense of perceived injustice, all of which may lead to psychological distress indicators such as dissatisfaction across multiple life domains, anger, and generally volatile emotional responses. Furthermore, in the wake of disappointment, ego threat, or perceived injustice, entitled individuals are likely to attempt to bolster their entitled self-concept, leading to a reinforcement of entitled beliefs, thereby initiating the cycle again.
If we view the election as a threat to an innate sense of entitlement then the result is not a surprise. Entitlement is part of the Australian character and it stretches across all parts of society but as the research shows it is more highly concentrated as a trait the higher you move up the class structure. This is why business in Australia is forever putting its hand out for government funding. If you think of a business as an individual then it has a profound sense of entitlement. The view of business is very much a heads I win tails you lose philosophy. Privatise the gains and socialise the losses is the overarching mantra. But this extends to individuals as the result of the election demonstrates – if you undermine peoples sense of entitlement then you are going to get a backlash. The inherent driver is that people believe via status that they are owed something and that this something should never be threatened. Even if it creates distortions in the economy that exist nowhere else in the world and which hold overall economic development back. We should never really be surprised that people seek to defend what they perceive is their specialness. Unfortunately, such people lack gratitude for the position they find themselves in their sense of entitlement blinds them to their own egocentric nature.
We are only ever where we are because the gods have smiled upon us and that good fortune often hangs by a very slim thread. And it is a thread that can be cut at any time so be the person that waves.