How entitled are you?

It may seem a little specious to write an article about entitlement since it presupposes that one is entitled to pass judgement on other people’s sense of entitlement—which is a little, well, entitled, don’t you think? It gives the impression that one is somehow better than those whomone is about to slice to pieces with self-righteous criticism and indignation. But some individuals display their sense of entitlement so annoyingly that a little bit of venting is due.

Respecting rank, social position and, sadly, how much wealth one has acquired (whether legitimately, by bleeding the banks dry or getting unofficial commissions) is very much a part of today’s culture, creating all kinds of entitlements. From paralysing the city by stopping traffic at key points—just so they can whiz through and avoid seeing the ugliness of unplanned urbanisation—to expecting and getting more of this royal treatment at the airport, hospitals and hotels, the level of entitlement of these individuals is exhaustingly boundless.

It may, for instance, take the form of blocking a part of the road in a residential area as an extension of one’s driveway just because one can. Curiously—and this is universal—the children of the rich and famous tend to be even more entitled than their progenitors, usually having none of the talent (in case of celebrity kids) nor the persona of their parent(s) from whom they have inherited the privilege. This is why you see the brats of the uber-rich and politically powerful racing their BMWs and Lexuses on narrow streets late at night, sometimes killing or maiming a pedestrian, municipality worker or rickshaw puller and facing zero consequences. Because even the law enforcers know that children of the VIPs and definitely the VVIPs cannot be touched. In cases when the VIP status is a little wobbly, a few bundles from the overabundant money plants will do the trick.

Entitlement comes from selfishness and we are all a little selfish one way or the other. But this does not absolve us from trying to rein in this unattractive trait as much as possible.

Sorry for stating the obvious—just a way of warming up on this delicious subject. Let’s talk about the sense of entitlement among people you would think have enough intelligence and social mileage to not ask for unreasonable favours. Torchbearers of entitlement exist among writers, poets, artists, fashion designers—people from the most creative fields. While many of them are talented enough to be entitled to a little extra pampering, there are those who have a frighteningly inflated notion of their giftedness that may be quite imaginary.

Newspapers are easy targets for the onslaught of entitlement.

A writer may turn into a stalker sending umpteen messages and emails to demand why the op-ed editor has not yet published their groundbreaking, earth-shattering article on “The prospects and problems of sludge management in Bangladesh.” Upon being told that it would not be published because the language was too “formal and academic” (read: too BORING) the peeved and entitled writer may take it up with someone higher up in the hierarchy to complain about such audacity.

Entitlement reaches another level when it comes to those from the literary world. Hence the editors of the literary pages often bear the onslaught of indignant poets and fiction writers, and have to explain and justify till they are out of breath and hyperventilating. People just don’t seem to get why lines like “My heart is paining/ but you are laughing/ cause you think I’m funny and some foot dirt” take poetic licence a bit too far.

Professional pettiness also breeds entitlement. Hence calls from irate artists, designers, event managers demanding to know why some “little known minion” from their fields got more sentences in the feature than them is are abundant.

Editors in general either develop skin as thick as an elephant or go into therapy.

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Dhaka’s ugly, ruthless side

But to be really honest, entitlement is a bad habit that few of us can escape. We may think we are above such self-delusory behaviour, but deeper introspection may reveal otherwise. Ask yourself if any of these situations apply to you:

· Do you cut in a long queue because you just think your social status compared to others in front gives you some extra privilege?

· Have you ever referred to your apparently “aristocratic” lineage or just your parent/relative being a minister, OC of a thana, a Syed, secretary or some other hot shot in public service which makes you eligible for special treatment?

· Do you expect to get the big piece of the ilish maachher dim (the much-coveted fried hilsa roes) just because you are a male member of the family?

· Do you just grab the remote and start watching the sports channel or some gory action movie, oblivious of your partner glowering in the dark like a stealthy, lethal ninja?

· Do you just waltz into an empty office room that is not yours or even part of your department—just because people are too polite to say anything?

· Do you constantly interrupt a female colleague because you think what you have to say is more important, and what do women know anyway?

· Do you scream like a banshee at your domestic worker whenever you can’t find things that you have misplaced yourself?

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The global conspiracy – against women

If any of these statements ring a bell, then be sure that you, too, are a little infected by the entitlement bug. Entitlement comes from selfishness and we are all a little selfish one way or the other. But this does not absolve us from trying to rein in this unattractive trait as much as possible. An anonymous quote from the internet describes the condition aptly: “Entitlement is like bad breath; it’s annoying to everyone around you but you don’t even notice it.”

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