I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about what entitlement means. I watched a PBS news segment about the town where I live: “Why white nationalists hear a political ally in Donald Trump.” One of the men interviewed in the piece said:
“You know what…Yeah, make America great again. Build a wall. Kick these people out. This is my country…this all belongs to ME.”
This statement seemed to exemplify entitlement. But just labeling it didn’t lead me to understanding the deeper relationship and source of it. So I just sat with it for a few days. I then started wondering if entitlement is the opposite of belonging. More specifically, if entitlement is the opposite of being claimed by a place such that who you are cannot be pronounced without the place that holds you as the words. I felt a deep sorrow for the man in this video and for all of our poverty-of-not-belonging and I became deeply present to my own desire to be claimed by the place that holds me.
When you have lost the skill of being claimed by a place, you feel abandoned. Your identity is not your relationship to the land or to the more-than-human. You likely have learned few skills to connect to either of these or to your ancestry. You have been left to make the case for yourself.
And that is what entitlement is: It is having been left to argue for your own merit. It is having forgotten that you have allies. You have to generate your title and statement of worth from the poverty of a collapsed self.
From this place of abandonment, your arguments have a sense of desperation to them…like a cornered dog. You think you are arguing with an enemy, but to those who belong to a place, it looks much more like you are having an argument with a shadow. You are trying to convince yourself of your right to be here. Everything else just gets in between you and that enemy (you). Woe to anything that gets between a man and his attempts to prove he has a right to be here. And woe to us all… as there has never been a better stage for acting out self-hatred or violence.
And while there are resources that could be accessed to learn to rebuild the community of identity from which one is claimed, it is difficult for someone who feels alone and desperate to reach out. There are humans who understand and practice deep belonging all around us. But there is little space held for these people to teach.
Mostly what happens, in situations of entitlement, is further isolation. Build a wall. Find other entitled people to be with. Make sure there is a space for yourself by any means possible. Because when belonging collapses into defensiveness, holding space collapses into large concrete border walls, automatic weaponry, and bloodlines.
My first suggestion of my ten theses is to give up your entitlement to live. The goal of this is not nihilism. We are not seeking to give up making meaning. The goal is to be free to participate in life that is larger than the isolated bunker graffitied with violent claims of why you deserve to be here. But this is not a simple task in this day and age.
The problem seems to be, that relearning to be claimed, is something that only grows out of the fertile ceremonial ground that grief creates. And grief is a scary, foreign, and vulnerable way of proceeding to most. Grief is steadying ones gaze at how it is you have been left alone to define what your life means. It is steadying ones gaze at how it is you were abandoned by a language, land, and kin that once claimed you. It is apologizing to the orphaned longings that you denied knowing and made no space for as you huddled in your bunker. It is hard work.
I’ve been reading Yeats’s 'The Second Coming' frequently as of late. The centre is slipping. No centre is meant to hold forever. The centre needs to die, so that the new centre may root in the soil of that death. This is not an ‘if,’ but a ‘how.’
There are two ways that the guest of death is met at the door in our current time: violently (attempting to defend a collapsed world where humans alone define what it means to be human), or as an honored guest. The latter is one of the most intimate acts of feeding a place...of feeding the guest. With this set of choices, I cease to ‘lack all conviction’ and throw my passionate intensity into holding space for grieving . Grieving is how we set the place for this meal. May we look down through tears, at the banquet of this beautiful life, to see that we are the feasters and the feast. What a joy to give up entitlement for this. May the party of good endings begin.