The concept of entitlement is often attributed to millennials, those folks born around the turn of the millennium. Of course, they did not create the idea, it existed long before they did. I recall that when I was in my teens there was a man who lived on our street. He had a dog. In fact, he was one of a growing number of dog owners in our community. So popular were these pets that after numerous complaints the city followed the lead of several other towns and passed a “stoop and scoop” law. Dog walkers were required to pick up after their furry friends or face a fine.
The man I am referring to became notorious for ignoring the new bylaw. On one occasion I was close enough to overhear a confrontation between this man and a fellow dog walker. When the latter pointed out that the man was breaking the law by not picking up after his dog he looked straight at his accuser and said, “That law is not for me”. Evidently, this man felt he was entitled to leave his dog’s feces wherever he chose. Laws were not enacted for everybody, he believed others should conform to the bylaw, but not him.
Some years later I witnessed another expression of entitlement while going to the supermarket. I was just about to go in when I heard a cacophony of car horns and hollering coming from behind me. Turning around I could see that a woman had made a left-hand turn from the right lane and pulled into the parking lot. In so doing she not only crossed a double solid yellow line clearly painted on the street, but also completely ignored the queue of law-abiding drivers waiting politely to enter the parking lot.
Unfortunately for her, a police officer happened to see the whole thing and in an effort to restore peace he approached her. He explained that not only had she broken the law by crossing the double yellow line, but had cut into the line of cars waiting to park. She replied to him by saying simply, “But I have to get into the parking lot”. Apparently, she felt entitled to get to her destination regardless of the highway code or other shoppers. She was quite taken aback that the cop did not see things exactly the same way.
I have written before about what many people call the millennials’ sense of entitlement. While not being responsible for creating the notion, they have coined the phrase that best sums up entitlement. I refer to none other than the ubiquitous “Because I can”. When I first heard this phrase I figured it was to be taken along the lines of mountaineer George Mallory’s statement that he climbed Mount Everest “Because it was there”. But I now understand it to mean that if I can do it, I am entitled to do it.
The Uber ride-sharing phenomenon illustrates precisely the problem with Because I can. I have a car, I can drive, there are people looking for rides, therefore I can offer to charge them a fee to drive them to their destination. The fact that in Montreal a system of taxis already exists, one that trained drivers pay significant sums to be permitted to drive others about is totally ignored by Uber drivers. Rules? Regulations? By-laws? Lineups? Not for me because I can.
What makes my blood churn, why I find the phrase abhorrent is the attitude it projects: pure arrogance.
Now the folks at Diet Coke have taken the catchphrase and turned it into a rebranding slogan. But I don’t have to buy the product, I might just opt to buy Pepsi. Why? Yep, because I can.