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Stop the entitlement

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Back to Article

Stop the entitlement

By Lucas Oswald, Columnist

You don’t deserve anything.

Don’t worry, I’m not talking about you specifically. No one deserves anything.

But lately I’ve noticed an uptick in the use of this word “deserve.” People all over social media “deserve” a vacation. They “deserve” that new promotion. They “deserve” to get into Harvard. Students on campus claim they “deserve” an “A” on that paper. They “deserve” a super hot girlfriend. They “deserve” to be rich right out of college. They “deserve” that award.

News flash: The universe owes you nothing. If anything, you owe the universe. You were given a life here on Earth as a gift, in exchange for nothing. (Assuming, of course, human beings did not purchase a chance to live in some sort of cosmic video game in another dimension.)  

According to Dictionary.com, deserve means “to merit, be qualified for, or have a claim to” something due to some action or quality in a certain situation. But who decides what another person merits in any given circumstance? Do people simply rely on their own judgement?

Considering there is no quantitative way to measure how much someone “merits” or has “claim to” something, definite bias presents itself in any scenario that invokes the word “deserve.” If it is one’s own standards that determines whether he is deserving of something, then would he not deserve everything?

Let’s assume this is how people conclude who deserves. We run into obvious problems once more than one person stakes claim to something.

For the sake of argument, let’s suppose my friend Sonia and I — in some fictional, Harry Potter-esque world — find a floating pie cut into two pieces. One section is larger than the other. I might believe I deserve the larger piece because I grabbed it first. But my friend Sonia might believe she has the better claim to this piece given she saw it first. Which of us deserves it more?

In this case, we might appeal to another party to decide which of us takes the cake, or pie in this case. I might bring in my friend Brandon to judge which of us deserves the larger piece, but knowing Brandon likes me more than Sonia, she refuses to recognize Brandon’s opinion on the subject. She brings in her own judge — let’s call her Shachi.

Even assuming Shachi is just some random kid Sonia pulled off the street, Shachi still has biases. She may believe neither of us is deserving of the bigger portion, instead she deserves it herself because she is smarter than either of us.

After vehemently disagreeing with Shachi, we kick her out. But who do we appeal to then? The universe? I think you’ll find her rather quiet on the subject.

Granted, the aforementioned dilemma probably has never and will never happen to anyone and has a pretty rudimentary story arc. However, though the anecdote may lack in plausibility and just general goodness, the point behind can apply to pretty much any event relating to the concept of deserving.

Humans cannot deserve anything because there is no actual way to determine who deserves what and for what reason.  

Are there things that everyone should have? Sure. Everyone should have clothing, civil rights, freedom, happiness, love and family. Are there even things that everyone needs? Definitely. Water, food, shelter, air and oxygen. But do people deserve these things just for having the privilege of living on Earth? Nope.

Do not confuse want or need with entitlement. So next time you feel tempted to tweet how you “deserve” an iced caramel macchiato from Starbucks, delete “deserve” from the sentence, and then delete it from your vocabulary. And then, if you have time, rethink your life. Five dollars for cold coffee? Really?

Lucas is a junior in LAS.

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