Thursday, March 6, 2014

Pagan Blog Project: E is for Entitlement

Entitlement is one of the more aggravating and widespread problems of the (overall) Pagan community*. It has a multitude of facets and tends to crop up repeatedly. In my experience, it appears the most among the Eclectic (Neo)Pagan scene, probably due to the scene's emphasis in individualisation, the lack of organisation and the - seemingly - large percentage of younger practitioners.

What is entitlement, though, and why is it so much of a problem?

Entitlement is having a right to something. It's not always a bad thing, although the term is used mostly negatively in the common vernacular. Feeling entitled means you believe you deserve a certain thing or result. In the way the word is used in this post, feeling entitled is believing you deserve a number of things whether you fulfill the requirements for said things or not.

There are many types of entitlement present in the Pagan community. Personally, I have observed entitlement in regards to knowledge, availability, recognition, training, gratification and others.

In the - nearly - 9 years I've been part of the Pagan community, I've come across people who demand that others hand out painstakingly acquired (or even secret!) knowledge "just because". The justifications range from "we're all Pagans so we should help each other" to "you're elitist snobs if you withheld knowledge". I've noticed similar behaviour from people who demand training or help while committing fallacies (such as appeal to emotion) as well as from people who want everyone to cater to their sensitivities and desires.

Entitlement in the Pagan community is a problem because there is very little anyone is entitled to within our religions. If one takes into account the fact that the Pagan community is actually a misnomer and an imaginary case (see note) and there are many, many different religions under Paganism, with their own limits, requirements and standards, then it becomes obvious that no one has a right to anything - at least not by virtue of association or "specialness".

No one has to cater to your sensitivities. You're not entitled to training, help, knowledge, acceptance or association simply because you want any of those things. Those things have to be earned (and for valid reasons - not mere desire or envy). Entitlement in the Pagan community is poisonous and problematic because it attacks the notions of hard work, effort, responsibility and progress.

Entitled people don't want to work to achieve their goals. They don't want to make an effort towards improvement. They don't want to build their spiritual and/or religious lives. They don't want to go through trial and error or to fight for their ideals.

Entitled people want to be handed everything for free. They want instant gratification. They want to be pampered and cared for regardless of their own worth. They want to be given everything without contributing anything. They want to have their pie and eat it too.

Unfortunately, entitlement stems from the flaws of our Western society, in many ways. It stems from bad education, from the issues of the demographic generations (such as the baby boomers and the millennials) and, last but not least, from social privilege. I don't want to go into the thorny subject of social privilege (not to mention, I don't have the qualifications to discuss it) but we can't deny that entitlement is rooted in it.

There are, thankfully, ways to battle entitlement. As Pagans we can strive to improve our respective communities; to choose and support our representatives carefully; to educate and improve ourselves where we fall short; to learn how to debate and discuss controversial issues without resorting to fallacies and fights; to reinforce the notions of hard work, valiant effort and co-operation.

These are neither easy nor quick solutions. However, few true and valid solutions are quick or easy.

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NOTES

*Pagan community: In truth there is no single, unified Pagan community. Rather, there is Paganism, which is a religious category, and countless communities within the belief systems that belong to Paganism. While those that identify as Pagans may feel a sense of connection to one another, even if their actual religious identities differ (e.g. Wiccans, Hellenists, Eclectics etc), the fact remains that "Pagan community" is an intentional misnomer utilised solely for simplicity's sake (instead of saying "the various religious and spiritual communities under the umbrella of Paganism").

6 comments:

  1. As an Indigenous woman and a Kemetic who has seen much of what you describe, I am in full agreement with you, my friend. Well done and well said. :)

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  2. This is spot on and such a huge problem in paganism. Though, I wouldn't agree that it's particular of any generation. Entitlement can be found in every generation of the West.

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    1. I've seen it the most in the youngest and oldest generations, although I don't exclude anyone of any age, from exhibiting entitlement. It's just what I have observed. :)

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  3. Thanks for posting this. I posted about the same concept. Guess it was on our minds this week! -Agi (http://adytumnox.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/entitlement-pagan-blog-project-week-10/ )

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  4. I feel that my generation was the first generation to be raised entirely on T.V. Both parents worked while my siblings & I made our breakfast and lunch...cold cereal and cold sandwiches...T.V. told us we could be whatever we wanted and we believed it...as we got older we realized it was a lie and we got angry...but before we were disillusioned we spread the gospel of entitlement...each generation feels more entitled than the previous one...and the gospel of entitlement continues to spread via the media in all its forms...true humility is the only way out of that seductive lie...

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