The Language of Entitlement

In developed countries like Canada, most of us live in an era of privilege, abundance and comfort. It’s easy to forget just how good, full and free our lives are. But seemingly limitless affluence¬†has been paralleled, perhaps ironically, with increased (and increasingly strident) demands by individuals and groups for special benefits and entitlements.

Most of these demands attempt to leverage one (or both) of the following rationales for preferential treatment: 1) The cloak of victim-hood; 2) The recognition of one kind of right or other.

There is no end of potential arguments that victimization is rampant; seemingly everyone is a victim of someone or some thing. Tongue firmly in cheek, in “Get Over It” Don Henley ruefully intones, “victim of this, victim of that, your momma’s too thin and your daddy’s too fat”. But there are, increasingly, plenty of examples where the line between satire and real life is becoming blurry.

Recently, in Quebec, a severely obese woman demanded that her condominium corporation give her a parking space immediately adjacent to the entrance to the building to accommodate her ‘infirmity’. The corporation tried to persuade the lawful owner of the coveted space to relinquish it. She refused, ostensibly on the basis that she had a mobility problem relating to a leg injury. The corporation was made the subject of a human rights complaint, which resulted in a finding it had been “insensitive” to the applicant’s rights and ordering (!) the space in question to be turned over to the applicant (despite it’s lawful ownership by another individual).

Now cases like this are fertile ground for debate about the allocation of social advantage, but they’re also a harbinger of a potentially scary new ‘right’ – not to have your feelings hurt. Of course, most people won’t worry about the implications of whose ox is being gored as a result – unless it’s their ox, that is.

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