The T-Shirt Of The Entitlement Culture

WARNING: This post contains a rant from atop one of my soapboxes!

Today as I walked across the campus of NKU a young college student walked passed me wearing a shirt that read: “Do More of What Makes You Happy

As I walked on to begin my day in Evidence class the message of that shirt continued to pervade my mind…I couldn’t help but think that this way of thinking has become the mantra of the United States of America.

We have created a generation of people who believe that the message of that shirt is something they should not only pursue and implement in their lives, but even more, they believe they “deserve” to live this way.  As if happiness came by living a “carefree, do-as-you-wish, its-all-about-me” kind of life.  We have become one of the most proficient countries in the world at teaching new generations how to live as hedonist.

According to one website “Hedonism is a school of thought that argues that pleasure is the only intrinsic good…a hedonist strives to maximize net pleasure (pleasure minus pain).”  But is that really what is going on in America?  Well let us evaluate the evidence…

We live in a culture where some actually believe it is the government’s job to take care of them…worse than that, we live in a culture where those in government themselves think it is their job to provide for people.  Now don’t get me wrong, everybody needs a little help from time to time whether it be from family, friends, the church, or yes even the government.  (I have received help multiple times just in the last year since starting law school!)  But when the attitude moves from “a little help from time to time” to “a lot of help all the time because that is what your supposed to do for me” we have crossed a line…and yes we as a Nation crossed that line a long time ago.

We live in a culture where entertainment is king.  We have convinced ourselves that “we work hard and play hard.”  But the problem is that somewhere along the way we dropped the “we work hard” part but still believe we are working hard.  Peruse the internet for just a few minutes and you will find article after article about how overworked Americans are and how American is the “no-vacation nation.”  I recently saw an article that was titled: “5 Reasons You Shouldn’t Work Too Hard”, Are you kidding me?  We are entertaining ourselves to death and the best thing we can come up with is that hard work is somehow the cause of all our health problems, family problems, etc.?

We live in a culture where right and wrong are seen at best as “old fashion thinking” and at worst “closed-minded.”  Regardless of your religious beliefs (or lack there of), every culture has an innate sense of right and wrong, one I believe is given by God.  One could walk into the most primitive of cultures and not have to teach people stealing is wrong.  If I walk into your hut and take your food that was just killed on a hunt or your spear, no one has to teach that’s wrong.  When a people’s innate sense of right and wrong become blurred, that culture or society is in rapid decline and cannot stand.  If we must, in the name of political correctness or some irrational “fairness complex”, say that something is “right” when our innate sense tell us it is wrong, the rapid decline is racing toward our end as a people.

All of these issues, and many others, are a sign of a country that has adopted a hedonistic mindset.  All of this points to the sad truth that we believe that our “pleasure” (I want to be lazy, I want to be excessively entertained, I want to believe whatever makes me happiest is true, even when it’s not) is the only intrinsic (or real) good, it’s the only thing that matters.

And yet the long-term effects of such thinking and behavior have never proven that “to do more of what makes you happy”actually brings about true happiness.  Benjamin Franklin in 1771 had already figured out that this way of life did not lead to the happiness it promised:

“…when Men are employ’d they are best contented. For on the Days they work’d they were good-natur’d and chearful; and with the consciousness of having done a good Days work they spent the Evenings jollily; but on the idle Days they were mutinous and quarrelsome, finding fault with their Pork, the Bread, etc. and in continual ill-humour.” –Benjamin Franklin, Autobiography, 1771

So in a way the message of the t-shirt I saw today is true, we should do more of what makes us happy.  However, it is not those things that are easiest…many of the things that truly make the heart of man the happiest are the hardest endeavors life has to offer…Work…Discipline…and Truth.



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