Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Disease of Entitlement

I just saw the Conan O'Brien documentary..."Conan O'Brien Can't Stop" (which should probably be called "Jay Leno Can't Stop" - har har har).

Anyway, as much as I like and respect Conan, the movie was a pointless waste of time. It had no real narrative, none of the poignant questions were asked, and overall it seemed like an afterthought on the part of the producers and director.

What I did find interesting though, and wished I could have seen more of, is Conan's real motivation for doing the tour and the documentary. Or really, what motivates a man to keep working after a $45 million settlement.

Although I can't recommend the Conan doc, I definitely would recommend fans of late night television pick up Bill Carter's "The War for Late Night". He gives an uber-detailed blow-by-blow of the whole Tonight Show fiasco.

To make a long story slightly shorter, back in 2004, Conan was prepared to leave NBC unless he was promised the Tonight Show in his next contract.

What's the big deal about The Tonight Show? For starters, the Tonight Show airs at 11:35pm, and at one point, was hosted by Johnny Carson. The earlier time slot means more money. The fact that Carson hosted it at some point also has some sort of symbolic value for the sycophants who actually watched that turd of a show. Translation: Conan wanted his name alongside his idol's.

Conan had followed Leno for some 15 years, and felt it was his time to stand in the slightly larger spotlight. Conan could have stayed in New York, and he could have stayed at 12:35. But he NEEDED to be on the Tonight Show. The documentary never really explains why Conan felt this way...and they probably avoided it on purpose, because the answer ain't pretty: Conan is sick with the disease of entitlement.

Conan repeatedly claims "I'm the least entitled guy I know", yet two seconds later is saying "I'm so angry other people [i.e. Jay Leno] get to be on TV, and not me."

Television ain't the make-a-wish foundation. It's based on ratings, revenue, star power...but mostly ratings. Conan's ratings sucked. I'll be the first guy to say that NBC didn't really give the show a chance to succeed, but nonetheless, Conan was master of his own destiny...not to mention, nobody really owed him the chance anyway  [I understand it's popular belief, but beyond your parents (and maybe your siblings) nobody really owes you shit in life. It's sobering, but true...more on this later].

The truth of the matter is, this sense of entitlement...that he is somehow owed something better than he received, is indicative that Conan O'Brien is likely a narcissist.

I'm not a big fan of Murray's "narcissistic triad", but bear with me, as it seemingly applies to Conan O'Brien:
  1. Entitlement: Conan felt he deserved the Tonight Show...because he's special...and, well, just because. Also, Conan worked hard...[so did Jay Leno]...but Conan worked hard too dammit...and Conan's a special little boy.
  2. Disappointment: Conan gets shived by NBC execs/his own team of agents, and becomes despondent. 
  3. Rage: Conan gets mad.
  4. Time-out: Conan is sent to his room to think about what he's done.
Alright, that last stage I made up.

But, in any case, it did get me thinking about what role entitlement, jealousy, envy, and to a lesser degree, jenvy, play in our lives and society at large.

As a kid I learned all about the green-eyed monster...mostly from those lovable Jewish grizzlies, the Berenstain Bears.

I'll be honest, I don't really remember the story too well. I think Bart or whatever the boy's name is, gets a cool looking bicycle (pictured above) and then his sister gets jealous, so she pushes him off the bike...or maybe she stole it and took it down to the ravine where all the potheads toke up, and traded the bike for some shit hash. I don't remember exactly, but it's something like that.

Anyway, the point is this: It's bad to be envious of what other people have. It's bad to feel you should have what others have.

I guess.

And yet entitlement seems to be an intrinsic part of North American culture: 'Oh, you don't have the new iphone? What a loser.'...'You bought a new car? This is a newer one'. From a young age, we're taught to want what we can't have, and be envious of who we're not.

Now entitlement can't all be a bad thing...otherwise, how could it still exist? It must somehow have benefited mankind at some point, since it's been selected for over the last few millions years: Ergo, entitlement increases your chances of survival.

Humans wouldn't have been around for long if we sat around saying "Please, big tiger, no, you eat me! I know we're both hungry, but I had lobster last you go ahead..."

Bad example.
So it then makes sense that we have feelings of entitlement...and that we even get jealous of people who have more than we do...because, quite frankly, it's good for you and your survival!

Jealousy, envy, and entitlement are also all linked to upward-social comparisons. And being upper class is something we all strive for...I've never seen a person walk by a homeless man and wish for the hobo's clothes...and really, when was the last time you heard someone say: "You know what I deserve? A shittier job WITH LESS PAY!!!"

And it wouldn't make sense to hear that anyway. If you have less, you're less likely to survive.

So if entitlement is essentially good for your is it also a disease?

Entitlement works against the community and the populous at large. I could whip out some bullshit figure now, about how 95% of the world's wealth is under the possession of 5% of the people...but I don't really need to. All you gotta do is look around the world and see that humans aren't particularly good at sharing. It's the same thing that makes public health-care a novelty instead of the norm. The arguments are always the same: Why should I pay for yours? What did you do to deserve it?

In a bizarre way, entitlement slowly becomes this weird, wicked, misanthropic attitude. Entitlement blinds makes us incapable of performing acts of benevolence.

At this point, I should probably point out that entitlement and benevolence are pretty much human concepts. I don't think a pack of hyenas considers benevolence, or entitlement for that matter, while they're tearing apart an old ass lion (I don't know if hyenas eat lions, but I think I saw it in the Lion King).

So maybe as a society, and as a human race, we're actually getting better, not worse. Maybe we've evolved from animals that had ZERO benevolence and 100% entitlement (with survival in mind) and we've slowly become...dare I say it...wiser? Kinder? Gentler? Nobler? (Is nobler a word? Fuck).

I know we have wars, and commit horrendous crimes against one another...but maybe the world's not headed to hell in hand basket. Maybe we're actually getting better.

The only thing I'm really basing this on is personal experience. I think entitlement is a very childish sentiment or attitude. We've all been the kid in the candy store.
I want it I want it I want it I want it (No, seriously, I kinda want this).
 But I've found that the older I get...the less I feel that way.

Quite frankly, there are very few things that I really want (besides basic human rights...which I'd also like to point out...are human). But of the things that I do want, I don't really feel all that entitled to have any of ' I guess what I'm arguing is that it's probably possible to live without a huge, overbearing sense of entitlement...

But in its defense..entitlement is obviously a tremendous motivator for some people. Like good ole Conan.


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