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     Volume 10 |Issue 36 | September 23, 2011 |


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The Sense of Entitlement

Aasha Mehreen Amin

When Bob Marley asked everyone to Get Up, Stand Up, Stand Up for Your Rights he was talking about having the guts to fight oppression and racism. He may have been reacting in particular to the general opposition to the Rastafarian religion that he had ardently embraced and that advocated a just society. Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela -- these are names associated with this fearless determination to demand justice from repressive powers and establish the basic rights of people.

In today's world where Materialism is the fastest growing religion, there are few examples of such larger-than-life heroes. Instead of a clear consciousness of what our rights are we are more concerned with a sense of entitlement, no matter how flimsy the grounds may be or how skimpy the reward turns out.

The beggar annoyingly knocks on the car window because he feels he is entitled to at least five takas (the rate having increased due to inflationary pressures) from the Begum Sahib happily dozing off behind her Versace sunglasses. The ATM security guard gives a loud salaam as one approaches and forces his way to the car door, almost knocking the customer over in his attempt to be solicitous; he expects a little tip for his graciousness. He feels entitled to it.

The notion of entitlement affects practically every individual in society. It is why passengers on a plane demand the meal they have missed when they were dead with sleep and stuff all the extra items into their carry-ons - salt, pepper, coffee creamer, butter, plastic cup and utensils, in-flight magazines, the laminated pamphlet on safety measures, even the sick bag (to wrap the soft bun to be eaten later, with the butter of course). They have paid for all this is the logic, and if they want to take the foamy pillow and blanket with them, they jolly well will.

People with little or great influence, of course, have a heightened sense of entitlement. Land grabbers feel entitled to encroach upon rivers, lakes, public parks, other people's property...The clerk at a government office does not see any reason why he should process a file and send it to the concerned executive unless he is made a little 'happy', financially speaking. The executive/ official carries on the tradition with no intention of moving the file and sending it to the concerned ministerial desk, unless he receives his little donation, for taking the trouble of doing his work. The syndrome may reach the highest of levels, the sense of entitlement growing heftier with the ascendance of power.

The 'free gift' gimmick, no matter how oxymoronic it sounds, is a powerful marketing tool that thrives on this sense of entitlement. Children will gobble up potato chips till their blood pressure shoots up (with all the salts) to get to that rubbish plastic toy at the end of the bag. Similarly, jewellery aficionados will buy enough bhoris of gold just for that puny zircon pendant, the 'free gift'.

Tourists in general get goose bumps every time words like 'discount', 'package deal', 'complimentary something' and 'VAT refund' pop up. Worse, they will stand in excruciatingly long lines for hours on end, bicker till their throats are on fire and fill out forms till their fingers ache. All because they feel they are entitled to that extra benefit. Shopaholics who wait three hours outside the store to take advantage of a 60 percent clearance sale end up buying useless things like yet another jar of herbal foot cream, just so they can get the 'free gift' for a purchase of goods costing over a huge amount of money. This is usually nothing more than a paltry nylon bag to put the foot cream in. But so what, at least they are getting what they are entitled to.


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