Stefan Lorimer is a multi-talented digital technology strategist, community advocate and blogger .  Stefan has single handedly built the infrastructure for PLAN's web strategy. He is also the person who convinced me to become intentional and conscious about digital strategies and helped me become a blogger.  Most important for purposes of this series he is the designer and technical advisor for Becoming Visible.  Here is his response to   What would you like to become more visible in 2011?   You can also Download Becoming Visible  -  the complete collection of 63 essays. Thanks to Stefan we have added 5 new essays to the original series.

Entitlement

Being born should not mean inheriting a life where your primary purpose is to pay for the unrestrained social, environmental and financial decisions of those who came before. The abundance of today should grow and not be diminished for tomorrow.  We should not hold future generations of citizens to ransom.
 
In 2011, I'd like a discussion of entitlement to be taken seriously. What makes us feel entitled? Why does that justify our actions? How does this help future peoples? These questions should inform our actions. Inter-generational entitlement, should be embedded in a revision of the concept of citizenship.  It should govern, and inform our rights, privileges and obligations as citizens.
 
For example, a citizen should be entitled to clean air, free education and affordable housing.  If we took entitlement seriously we might have to establish laws to limit the exposure of future generations to burdensome taxation, and massive debt and ensure the fair distribution of wealth from one generation, class, or government to another. They should not suffer the consequences of a problem they did not create. A serious entitlement discussion would also look at what is fair for both current AND future citizens. 
 
The fight to rebalance societies is ongoing.  The short-term needs of the dominant economic class should not create second-class citizens. Unfortunately, the current economic crisis shows evidence of this type of imbalance and injustice. Reduced expenditures for health care, for primary and secondary schools, for jobs, for tuition, and fair tax breaks for those who need them, all speak to a growing disparity of wealth. Witness the concentration of corporate wealth, extravagant bonuses to financial sector CEOʼs and growing military defense budgets, in the face of widening poverty and environmental degradation.

Just a few years ago it was reported, “the 500 million wealthiest people (7% of world population) are responsible for 50% of the gas emissions that produce global warming, while the poorest 50% (3,400 million of the population) are responsible for only 7% of the emissions.(Fred Pierce, New Scientist 2009) These signs of the time reflect a crisis of entitlement, not only because of the lack of fairness in the existing distribution of wealth but also because the systems used to create it; systems that no one small group should be entitled to use exclusively.

Todayʼs crises, financial and otherwise, are alarming not just because the impacts were predicted long before they occurred, but particularly because this type of short-term thinking is still largely viewed as acceptable. Somehow in the midst of our present efforts, campaigns, and policy changes, we forget we are dealing with a double whammy – the effects of previous decisions plus current decision-making without a serious consideration of entitlement.  More of us need to say, ʻthese resources are being set aside for people 100 years from now, and it is our responsibility to ensure they are kept that way.ʼ
 
A discussion about entitlement will force us to swallow some bitter pills. Today we need bold changes, world-impacting change, stop in the street and talk with strangers kinds of change and that kind of change doesnʼt start in the court-room, nor end in a parliament. A good place to start might be to consider this simple idea that “you are only entitled to the value of the investments you make in the future of others” and see where that takes us. 
 
Our lives cannot be defined by a race to the bottom for the declining resources we have available on this tiny planet we occupy. Nor should it be lead by members of our human family who dictate we fight each other for the scraps they leave behind. 
 
As the Globe and Mail has been stating recently, "The next discussion we need to have" is about entitlement. In 2011, I hope that you will sit down at a dinner table with your friends, family or colleagues and ask yourselves this simple question, “Am I taking more than I am entitled to?”
   
NOTES  

The new essays are from Allyson Hewitt, Budd Hall, Cheryl Rose, Ilse Treurnicht and John Restakis.

You can download the complete collection of Becoming Visible responses here: Download Becoming Visible.  Or by clicking the Becoming Visible Category on the right hand side of your screen.

Please share and distribute to your friends and through your various networks, websites etc.  I think you will agree – these are too good to keep to ourselves.

One Comment

  1. Gord Tulloch

    Hey Stefan! Right on!
    It’s interesting how corporate and commercial interests have carried implicit and unexplored assumptions around entitlement (for example, the premise that stakeholders consist only of current financial investers and owners), and the legal framework that supports this, and that carve up the earth’s resources and distributes them to interlopers in world history who have myopic interests. It’s also interesting to me how social service systems create and reinforce entitlement through non-reciprocal exchanges, and through social justice principles which make redistribution a matter of rights, rather than moral obligation and care.
    I know it is a rhetorical question “what if women ruled the world,” but there is something worth exploring about how the operant frameworks of justice and morality, which underpin entitlement and “claims”, are fundamentally abstractions which only loosely resemble the complexity of social relationships. What would happen if we incorporated an ethic of care, which is about our concrete and lived obligation to people rather than to abstract rules? Would we see less of a culture of entitlement, and more of a culture of obigation–one that every individual and organization participates in? Imagine if communities took responsibility for one another, rather than divesting themselves of personal responsibility and pointing to government systems to take care of others?
    What a great topic; thanks for raising it.

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