I’ll preface what I say by acknowledging a fact: I am entitled. I was smart enough to be born within a certain spectrum of pigments that classifies me as white, in a society that generally favors those of my like pigment. Additionally, I personally finagled it so that my parents offered me opportunities because of their decisions: they made enough money for me to have a childhood(and young adulthood) bereft of many troubles. There was a roof over my head, food in front of me, and encouragement to better myself. Yes, by the grace of myself alone, I am entitled.
Moving past the obvious amount of dry wit, I despise self-entitlement. There is nothing I can change about how I was born, what society I was born into, or who I was raised by. I especially loathe entitlement when it exists in a forum that is self-mentioned as an aggregator of knowledge, and ideas that should be spread. Additionally, I question the motives of those who have the expressed purpose of enriching others. Hopefully, I can be a little less ambiguous in the next few paragraphs.
The first case I am talking about was the TEDxUF event that occurred this year(I also attended the talk last year, and these following disparities existed there as well). This event was free and open to the public, but it did require an “application” process. While I am not sure how processed the application was, it existed. Once I was processed and accepted, I went to the event. Overall, the event was phenomenal and thought provoking, but what bothered me was the distinction between normal attendees, and the VIP’s. If you were associated the the organizers, or with some of the sponsors you could enter the event before others, and were segregated away from the normal attendees. Wristbands denoted that you were special, only because you knew a company.
This didn’t affect the event in any substantial way for me, but I have to wonder: Was the application process less involved for those associated with the sponsors? Would the true application process weed out some of the attendees, and have opened the door to people were interested but were pushed out because they weren’t properly entitled?
My second scenario was that of the talk Neil deGrasse Tyson gave at UF this past month. He was expectedly awesome, and I am terribly glad I managed to weasel into one of the 1900 tickets for the event. However the event was sullied by its sponsors : ACCENT . The tickets were free, but open to students of UF first starting at noon on Thursday of the event. Knowing how compelling and alluring the event would be, my girlfriend avoided her shift at work and waited in line starting at 8am . She wasn’t the first in line, rather by the time she received her pair of tickets she was ~20th in line. The entire bulk of the tickets were gone in half an hour.
This was a popular event, open to anyone with a Gator1 card. Knowing the allure of this astrophysicist, I showed up to the venue hours before the doors opened. Again I wasn’t first but I was within the top 20 people. Once allowed entrance to this event I was surprised to see a large block of seat cordoned off at the front of the theater.
Poor image quality aside, you can see that despite my investment of three hours and Laurels four(no small amount of time), we we well behind those mystery VIP seats. Eventually I found out who went in those seats: the members of ACCENT and student government themselves, and whoever they arbitrarily considered dignitaries.
I have contributed to similar events. I have been a member of, and later a leader of similar events. I was never given, nor looked for special treatment. In fact, I spent my time bettering the experience of attendees. Specific examples include working music honors society events where I swept the floor, directed visitors and participants, everything that goes into the logistics of a large event. I never once taped a printed sheet of paper with my name of it to the front row of seats. At best, I stood backstage or at the back of the theater and watched. With stark opposition, I saw the entitled ACCENT members and their friends occupy the first rows.
The worst came when I researched what ACCENT actually was. ACCENT is a branch of the UF Student Government. The SG is primarily funded directly by every student enrolled in classes – $14.55 per credit hour of every students’ tuition goes to the SG. That earned the organization ~$17.5 million for the 2012-2013 FY. By Florida law, that massive amount of money must be:
“The student activity and service fees shall be expended for the lawful purposes to benefit the student body in general.”
The student body in general. There were members of the general student body who were excluded so entitled affiliates with the sponsors of the event could go. I found this appalling: students are directly funding a small minorities’ entitlements.
This truth still pains me a month after the event. It is my motivation for rambling as long as I already have.
I am not naive, I know this is how the world turns. Additionally, based on my own predilections I assume that human nature seeks entitlements. We all want to get ahead, and very few would halt personal progress if it infringes on another. Still, I cannot help but notice a sinking feeling when confronted with this reality. If I were to dream, I would find myself thinking of a society that valued unending humility and self-sacrifice rather than greed and self-entitlement.