The Lucky Country: Australia’s Affair with Entitlement

// Steph H - @lefthandedchimp //

When Joe Hockey stated that the lucky country was in an ‘Age of Entitlement’ he actually made a very accurate statement – he just completely fucked up the way in which we are entitled. Education, healthcare, respectful treatment of the elderly, and welfare for the disabled or disadvantaged – none of these are entitlements. These are rights, but we will get to some definitions in a moment.

I am too often embarrassed to be Australian. I don’t hide this – I am able to embrace the embarrassment I feel from living in a great country that squanders opportunity while holding onto entitlement with a death grip. Entitlement would have to be our number one national identity characteristic. But we are a contradiction – born within the lucky country, but with expectations that if we are born Australian we can defend an entire nation against those who would choose it: those who were not so lucky.

Entitlement isn’t the fault of previous generations. They wanted better for themselves, and better for their children. All humans want this. Prejudice and racism were encouraged through government policies and by politicians drumming up fear of the ‘other’. And it worked brilliantly.

The Australia inherited by millennials is the Australia we all take for granted. We embrace national characteristics of privilege, racism, bigotry, and worst of all, apathy. And yes, I mean all of us, because our apathy (even if we tell ourselves we care) prevents any real action. This allows prejudice to run rampant and unchecked. A lack of action can indeed be equal to an active negative action.

Most of us won’t get off our own asses to do anything, let alone actively participate in creating a better Australia. And this apathy does not apply exclusively to millennials. In fact, it applies equally to those generations before, those who created the life they wanted, or at least had parents who did. This generation was told they could have the world, and so they took it. But no one can hoard that privilege. Equality should ensure opportunities for everyone through a peaceful, progressive society – not just for those who were born in a fortunate place, with the right nationality, at the right time.

It may have been done to death, but the famous quote “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing” should really hit a nerve here. And my, haven’t we been heading towards the negative side of that sentiment with breakneck speed?

But the thing is, we should have seen it coming.

Time for some definitions

We have always labelled ourselves the ‘lucky country’. Luck, by definition, is success brought about by chance rather than hard work. This is already a complementary concept to privilege.

Privilege is defined as being an advantage granted to a certain individual or group. Note that the definition of privilege includes the verb ‘granted’ – it is something available to a particular person or group. It is not a right.

This brings us to entitlement. Entitlement is either: the right to something OR the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges. See, you can be entitled to a right – a universal human right example is that “everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of person”. That is from the UN Declaration of Human Rights. Another incredibly relevant example of a universal human right is within Article 7: “All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination”. Unfortunately, it seems that most Australians believe the secondary definition of entitlement.

So, good luck may result in privilege. But, privilege itself is not an entitlement or a right. We can see that all humans are entitled to rights. However it should be apparent that not all humans are entitled to privilege.

Privilege as luck, but not as entitlement. 

Those with privilege may state that they had worked hard for that privilege. Working hard doesn’t necessarily give you the right to anything. Perhaps in our society it can give you the right to be paid, as per Australian law. But having money doesn’t even entitle you to having a good life. You might not be very good with managing money, because good money management is a skill (not a right or entitlement). For more on that, take a look at this article here.

In most cases, privilege is granted to individuals or groups based upon where they are born, what colour their skin is, how fortunate their parents have been in their lives, and so forth. Privilege is then available to these people. Making the correct decisions impacts a person’s life, too. And it is probably fairly clear that no one is entitled to making the right decisions.

It is almost as if Australians now have the expectation that people working hard for generations before them precludes any demand for hard work now, and that by simply being born with the Australian nationality automatically serves to make each individual deserving of a fantastic life.

      Privilege is defined as being an advantage granted to a certain individual or group. Note that the definition of privilege includes the verb ‘granted’ – it is something available to a particular person or group. It is not a right.

Being lucky doesn’t give you the right to be a jerk

Being born somewhere does not entitle you to privileges. However, being born at all, anywhere in the world, should grant you basic human rights. People are entitled to their basic human rights, you see, no matter where you come from, or where you are going. Place of birth certainly does not grant the right to dictate who can enter your country. Not in this day and age. Australians – and westerners in general – would do well to remember that our ancestors were immigrants or refugees at some point in history.

The great thing about globalisation and international law is that we are really able to become more open and united. World governments, wars, political motivations and endless reports on negative events are not doing much to stop migration. People will migrate regardless of perceived risks or negativity because most people know it to be a fact that the racists and bigots of a country do not represent that population as a whole. The opportunity to have a better life for oneself and one’s family is a bigger motivator than these risks are deterrents.

Australians need to stop acting entitled to a good life, and get out there and work towards it. Australians would do well to remember too, that being Australian does not entitle you to preventing others’ access to their basic human rights. If you are an Australian who doesn’t like the way this is currently being enacted on your behalf, get out there and take action against it.

There are enough good people – and people with great potential to do good – within the lucky country that there is still time to turn it around. Opposition to racist ideas, protests against government policies and citizens taking positive action in their everyday lives is far more common than the media allows you to realise. There is still a chance that through such action we can collectively shed the barrier of entitlement. There is growing anger towards the lack of humane and fair treatment of migrants – refugees in particular. Anger is good. Anger leads to action. And the more individuals who take action, the bigger that movement will become.

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