It's Not Guns, or Sex. It's Entitlement.

Steven Dutch, Natural and Applied Sciences, Universityof Wisconsin - Green Bay
First-time Visitors: Please visit Site Map and Disclaimer. Use"Back" to return here.

On May 23, 2014, Elliot Rodger killed six people near the University of California, Santa Barbara. What made his case unusual was that he came from a highly affluent background and left detailed video and written manifestos explaining his actions. He was angry because women refused to swoon at his wonderfulness. Ironically, four of his six victims were male. That probably makes sense because he pictured them as unfairly getting all the action.

I like that posters are using the "entitlement" label about this case because that's what the problem really is. Arthur Chu (the Jeopardy guy) had another good one over at Daily Beast. It's not guns, because every home in Switzerland has a military rifle and we don't see this in Switzerland. And it's not sexual frustration, egged on by hyper-sexualized media. Porn is far more available in Europe and we don't see this in Europe. It's the feeling "I'm entitled, and if I don't get it, someone has to pay."

Forget welfare recipients. They may have a sense of entitlement, but they're small potatoes. The problem is the sense of entitlement everywhere else. Like the people who do lackluster work but think they're entitled to a good job, and who harass people who actually do do a good job. The people who merely occupy a house for thirty years and think they're entitled to sell it for a huge profit.

We see it whenever there's a story about a bank making a huge error in someone's favor and then wanting the money back. All the enraged comments about how the recipient is "entitled" to the money. Or someone finds a large amount of money and turns it in, and all kinds of anger is directed against him for being so dumb. See, they'd keep the money if they were in that position, and by turning it in, the finder is offending their sense of entitlement.

Of course that bikini model I met on line wants to date me. Of course that Nigerian prince wants to share money with me. Because I'm entitled to have wonderful things fall into my lap.

There's a story about a guy who prayed desperately to win the lottery, but he didn't win that week. Next week he prayed again, even more fervently. No go. Finally, on his last legs, he beseeched God from the depths of his heart. Again no luck. So he cried out "God, I've prayed to you and trusted you, and you let me down. Why?" And God answered: "Work with me on this, pal. Buy a ticket."

That's why nerds take so much flak. Here you have a whole school full of people who think they're entitled to coast and blow off their courses, and nerds ruin it all by taking things seriously.

It's been a persistent thread throughout U.S. history. We're entitled to all that land. We're entitled to find gold and plunder resources and clear-cut and dump our waste in the rivers. Cliven Bundy is entitled to graze his cows on public land for free. In fact, he's entitled to take your public land because he's entitled, that's all. But you can bet he'll shoot at you if you tresspass on HIS land, because he's entitled to. We're entitled to wear our guns in public. We're entitled to have more rights and privileges than that other group. Then there are people who think they're entitled to carry a gun and go out and interrogate people who are just walking down their street. Or stop some other driver for violating their concept of road etiquette. Or correct other people's kids. Or go ballistic on teachers or police when their kids are lawfully corrected. I have a right to kill people if I get "disrespected."

So let me spell it out. Unless you have a badge, or a military rank, or authority derived from your job, you have exactly zero authority over anyone else. You do not have the right to tailgate them if they're not going fast enough for you, or try to pull them over. You do not have the right to mouth off to a cop, or a judge, or your kid's teacher. You do not have the right to correct anyone else.

Elliott Rodgers is newsworthy only because he killed six people, but it happens in onesies and twosies all the time, every time some guy can't deal with the fact that he's not entitled to own his ex body and soul, or his girl friend comes to her senses and wants to get out. For at least 50 years people have been warning about an emphasis on rights without responsibility. You get a culture of entitlement.

Return to Pseudoscience Index
Return to Professor Dutch's Home Page

Created 11 March 2013;  Last Update 24 May, 2020

Not an official UW Green Bay site