Over this past week I’ve been watching the news, looking at how the Japanese people have come together as a country after one of the worst disasters that I’ve seen in my lifetime. Their faith and culture allows for a passive stoicism that essentially keeps everything in order for them, and avoids hysteria, and opportunities to take advantage of others.
I can’t help but compare them to the Americans in Louisiana back in 2005, when Hurricane Katrina decided to decimate our Southeastern coast. Shortly after the hurricane moved away on August 30, 2005, some residents of New Orleans and other outlying areas began looting stores. While some were searching for essentials like purified water, I can’t imagine that taking a truckload of TV’s from Best Buy qualifies as an essential.
Reports of carjacking, murders, thefts, and rapes in New Orleans flooded the news.
In Texas, where more than 300,000 refugees from Louisiana were located, local officials ran 20,000 criminal background checks on the refugees, as well as on the relief workers helping them and people who opened up their homes. The background checks found that 45% of the refugees had a criminal record of some nature, and that 22% had a violent criminal record. The number of homicides in Houston from September 2005 through February 22, 2006 went up by 23% relative to the same period a year before; 29 of the 170 murders involved displaced Louisianans as victims or suspects. (AP, and Bloomberg.com)
So why do we act so different than the Japanese when faced with this type of adversity? My answer is simple………
Americans have a sense of entitlement
When I say sense of entitlement, I don’t mean those costly federal programs from farm subsidies to welfare to Social Security, which many Americans feel they have an absolute right. I’m talking about the sense of entitlement that many of us have unknowingly instilled in our children, the consequences of that kind of thinking, and the threat it poses to the ability of our population to be productive and globally competitive in the years to come.
Consider a recent article in The New York Times about what many college students expect from the grading process. According to the professors, students and researchers who were interviewed, a major expectation on campuses these days is that those who try hard and attend all their classes — regardless of how well they perform — deserve high marks.
I think most if this comes from how these young people were raised. There are a lot of parents out there who spoil and coddle their kids, constantly telling them they’re special and the center of the universe. They instinctively use praise to inject them with high self-esteem but often fail to teach them that the best way to feel good about yourself is by working hard and accomplishing something in life.
Unfortunately, and I’m not sure where it happened, but for most Americans, the concept of hard work has gone out the window. I was at my local Dunkin Donuts a few weeks ago, and a couple of young kids came in, and after they placed their order, began to make fun of the Eastern Indians that run this location. I turned to both of them, and pointed out the fact that the owners live in my neighborhood, and work extremely hard, and work long hours to make the money they do, but these two refused to agree, and indicated that they’d make more money in 2 weeks than these “punjabs” would make in a year making donuts.
Really? How So? Planning on robbing a bank? Oh, that’s right, you’re ENTITLED to make more money………..
It’s that same sense of entitlement that prevents you from getting a thank you when you hold a door open at the mall for someone, or when you let a car pull out in front of you, and don’t even get a nod from the other driver.
This is not a political issue at all. It’s a social and moral issue, and may even be an economic issue. Think of the CEO’s of huge companies who even through the recession of the past few years DEMANDED their end of year bonuses. Now think of all of the unions over the past few years who have gone out on strike, even though the companies they work for experienced HUGE downturns in business, yet their sense of entitlement screams that they get theirs.
It hasn’t escaped the NFL this season, which may not HAVE a season, because of the sense of entitlement.
For me, here’s the reality, and the way I was raised……….
The world doesn’t owe you; you owe the world!
“The world owes me” is a false premise. We have so many life-giving, life-enhancing resources and opportunities at our disposal. These are gifts. They deserve our gratitude, not our indifference. This is not only the way I was raised, but it seems to be a strength in the Japanese culture, as they work hard to restore their country to its greatness.
What better way to show our gratitude than to give back? I believe that we are each called and personally equipped to make a difference in this world. The fact that parents discourage this, and develop that sense of entitlement saddens me. “Remember, if you complain loud enough, you’ll get what you want”
Rather than complaining, let’s live the words of Gandhi: “We must be the change we wish to see in the world.”