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Culture of entitlement

As I walked out of a shopping mall recently, a car drove up the driveway and stopped in front of the mall entrance. Its middle-aged driver quickly stepped out and around the car to open the rear door for his casually dressed twentyish young passenger, in true chauffeur style minus the uniform.

The young man, who had just emerged from the mall with nothing in hand, walked up to enter and take his seat comfortably in the vehicle. The driver dutifully closed the door after him, got back into the driver’s seat, and drove away.

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To others around, it may have been an ordinary everyday scene, but witnessing it somehow left me disturbed. The young passenger obviously belonged to a wealthy family, perhaps the son of a politician, and probably grew up accustomed to having doors opened for him—never mind that opening the car door and closing it himself couldn’t have taken much effort on his part. Perhaps I wouldn’t have been as disturbed by the scene had the passenger been an elderly person having difficulty in moving, or a young person with an obvious disability—or even if it was the same young man laden with shopping bags and unable to open the car door without difficulty.

But I couldn’t help feel something amiss when a driver has to get out of the car to open the door for a person very much his junior and clearly more physically fit than he, never mind that the latter happens to be his employer. I see much more mature business tycoons get into their chauffeur-driven cars by themselves all the time, if not drive their own car outright.

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I’m similarly disturbed and annoyed when I find myself on a two-lane road where the oncoming traffic is crawling with traffic congestion, and swarms of oncoming motorcycles just keep on coming, taking over part of the lane that is rightly my side of the road. I’d usually stand my ground and make no effort to give way, thereby heading on a collision course with these oncoming motorcycles to force them back into their proper lane, together with other vehicles patiently waiting in line for traffic to move. This has occasionally put me on the receiving end of angry yells from some such undisciplined motorcyclists—never mind that it is they who are misbehaving on the road.

I know a small business owner who constantly rants to me about hurting from having to grant discounts to what he believes to be a suspiciously high number of customers holding a PWD (person with disability) card, often with no visible disability. He has even encountered entire families with every member holding a PWD card. When he politely asks about the nature of the customers’ disability, it would invariably be visual impairment. And yet these same customers, he rues, would have such eagle eyes in inspecting their bill when disputing the size of the discount granted.

All this makes one wonder how widely the PWD card may be abused, even faked. I’m told that one only needs to show a doctor’s certification to obtain one, with no effort or means to determine the veracity of the certification, or if the signing doctor even exists at all. When I recently saw a disabled person on TV wearing a humorous T-shirt that said “I’m only in it for the parking,” I recalled someone I know who boasted of getting a doctor friend to issue him a certification of disability, just so he could use convenient PWD reserved parking slots.

How many times have we witnessed or heard of individuals, often some public official, who makes a scene after failing to get special or preferential VIP treatment, be it at the airport or in any public facility, refusing to wait in line or yield to inspection like everyone else? These are the ones who would say, “Don’t you know who I am?” to some hapless functionary quietly doing his/her duty. And how many cases have there been of public officials treating public funds as their own, and getting away with it, even getting repeatedly elected time and again?

“Entitlement” is a word I hear a lot whenever the conversation turns to what is wrong with the Filipino. This culture of entitlement could well be our most formidable impediment to attaining a more just and equitable society, and a more progressive nation.

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