- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 14, 2011

Culture Challenge of the Week: Entitlement’s Rampage

Americans stand aghast at the chaos that unfolded in Britain last week. Young people rioted, burned and looted their way across London neighborhoods for days. Two vastly different narratives about why it all happened are competing for the public’s ear.

To hear the liberals tell it, Britain’s young people finally came together to protest the plight of the underclass. They acted out their rage, we’re told, over police brutality and the government’s impending cutbacks in services. Young people’s “alienation and resentment,” the New York Times suggests, is understandable, given Britain’s climate of economic despair. Who could blame these jobless youths for sending a message that the government could ill ignore?

Interviews with the looters themselves, however, paint a very different picture. They say quite bluntly that “the rich” and “the government” are at “fault.” Their “grievances” make their behavior seem to be little more than a collective, foot-stamping tantrum that they can’t get more of what they want - and feel entitled to have.

Worse, they show little regret over the destruction they’ve caused and no empathy for the suffering they’ve inflicted on others. In the words of two teenage girls, the looting and rioting have been “good fun” and a chance to show the police “we can do what we want.”

The “villains” under attack? Neighborhood businesses that provided the only jobs around - until looters burned them to the ground.

How could this happen in a country like Britain, known for its civility? These rampaging mobs of young people, British conservatives say, are the products of broken families and a generous welfare system: It’s a marriage that spawned the evil twins of dependency and entitlement.

Britain is being held hostage by a generation of young people taught to believe they’re owed all sorts of things at public expense. They assert the right to “do what we want,” unconstrained by civility, morality or personal responsibility.

The worst part is that America is not far behind. In Philadelphia this summer, “flash mobs” of young people repeatedly terrorized city residents, brutalized bystanders and vandalized property just because they felt like doing so.

Liberals offered the same explanations as their British pals, blaming the criminal behavior on statewide cuts to youth programs.

To his credit, Mayor Michael Nutter pushed back strongly, saying that it’s not the government’s job “to provide entertainment” for teens and adolescents. Instead, he imposed tight curfews and threatened parents with penalties. (Curfews, while good, do precious little to piece together fragmented families or tighten the spigot on government benefits. And they fail to silence the cultural messages of entitlement.)

How to Save Your Family: Teach Sacrifice, Perseverance, and Gratitude

As parents, we have no influence over Britain’s disintegrating situation. Nor can we retool the characters of rampaging Philadelphia teens. We do, however, have influence over our own children.

Yes, the culture bombards our children with destructive messages of entitlement. (“You deserve it!”) But we can set higher expectations for our children. Three important virtues - sacrifice, perseverance and gratitude - not only strengthen character but also shield against the spirit of entitlement.

• Sacrifice - Achievement takes sacrifice. One track coach used to tell his runners, “To embrace the finish line, you’ve got to embrace every step along the way.” Teach your children to work hard - and be willing to work even harder. Let them discover the personal joy of an earned reward and the inner satisfaction of a goal well met.

• Perseverance - A person who feels “entitled” quits easily and rarely crosses the finish line. Perseverance doesn’t require talent; it requires heart.

• Gratitude - No one achieves a goal alone. Friends and family support, encourage and teach us. God provides inspiration and strength. Thank them all!

Rebecca Hagelin can be reached at Rebecca @howtosave yourfamily.com.

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