Entitlement is a topic we don't speak about often enough because it's uncomfortable for people to be told the way they live is something they should change if they care at all about the world and the future of our species. As far as I see it, entitlement will be our downfall because it’s such a difficult thing to put back in the cupboard once it’s been pulled out and played with. Still, it’s a conversation we must have. It’s not going to be fun, but introspection and learning to understand where you fit in the world never is.
You are entitled to nothing—well, you’re entitled to die, but everything from birth and between is not a given. I’m profoundly concerned with the trajectory of the world today and believe the only way to extend our lives is through consuming less and reducing our standard of entitlements. No one wants to be given all the amazing things we have and then have them taken away, but we’ve grown too glutinous, and Mother Nature is seeking to balance the scales.
For the last hundred years or so, we’ve done nothing but increase our consumption of resources year over year. When does it end? Unfortunately, we don’t know the answer to that ominous question, but the future already looks bleak. I can see cracks along the foundation and chipped paint on the walls. Our time here is limited; as history has shown us, why don’t we become the generation that breaks the spiraling cycle and return to living our lives in partnership with nature?
You are not entitled to have your 2,000 sq ft house. Some might bring up the argument that they worked hard their entire lives to be able to move into their dream home...which happens to be 2,000+ sqft. I'm here to burst that bubble because you aren't even entitled to housing. I know that society feels housing should be a "human right," but a lot of that yelling and hollering is empty drivel. No, you are not entitled to live in a building. We've just become accustomed to it because it makes life more comfortable and safe for us, but there is no decree or law stating everyone must be housed as a right.
I'm not advocating for anyone to have their houses taken away, thus rendering them homeless and vulnerable. Instead, I'm highlighting how much our gluttonous consumption has poisoned our expectations. During the era of cheap resources and seemingly endless oil, Americans, as well as some other countries around the world, continued to increase the size of their houses almost yearly. Was there any great need to increase their house size because they were having more and more children—no, having a bigger and better house than the people around you or in your social circles was an ego boost. Keeping up with the Joneses made a fool out of so many people. In America, the average cost to buy a home in 2022 is $428,700, while the average yearly income is $67,521. So how exactly are average working Americans supposed to afford the average house?
Not only are 2,000 sq ft expensive to make, but they also consume unnecessary resources, all for the owner's vanity. Take air conditioning, for instance, which didn't become common in our culture until the 1970s, is now seen as an unquestionable necessity. Christopher David and I live in a forty-foot shipping container we made into our home. The square footage is 320 sq ft, and we have all the space we need. Our home is not our identity because when we simplified our lives, we put into perspective what we needed versus what we wanted. Now, we can heat our house with a small woodstove (which we also cook with it in the winter) instead of using on-the-grid resources or a few cords of wood per year. I can’t imagine what people will do in their mini-mansions when the lights go out and they can’t heat them anymore.
You are not entitled to go on vacation. This might sound antithetical to my ordinary preaching to take time to rest and understand yourself, but what I mean by vacations is going more than fifty miles outside your normal area to make yourself feel good by spending money and wasting resources. Growing up, my stepmother found it to be her God-given right to spend two weeks at the beach during the summer. There was even a time when she started a new job, was there for only four months (not enough time to accrue any significant amount of paid time off), and quit when they wouldn’t allow her to take her usual two-week jaunt to the shore. Even though they could barely keep their lives together and pay the bills, the beach took top priority, and my stepmother boasted to her social media family about quitting in the manner she did. I thought it was embarrassing even back then.
Were you aware that the average American takes four vacations a year? When I read that during the research for this article, I was actually blown away at the entitlement of it all. Vacations are about being selfish, plain and simple. We are facing legitimate threats to our survival with the advent of peak oil, the energy crises worldwide, increasing food shortages, and out-of-control inflation, to name a few. Yet, how many people are willing to raise their hand and relinquish their entitlement to a vacation so that we as a group can have more time to simplify before a major societal collapse? I’m guessing not too many because of their egocentric need to feed their id.
You are not entitled to be an asshole to other people. Boomers, turn your hearing aids up because most of this section is directed toward you. We have no incentive anymore to be nice to each other. Why should I be nice to my neighbor who adds nothing to how I’m living my life? Back before the industrial revolution, when most people worked in agriculture or a related field because feeding people was the daily number one priority, if you were an asshole to everyone, you probably wouldn’t be around for a long time. Why should the milk merchant give you his product if you’re rude and yell at him because he took too long to get your order? In more unruly times in history, he probably would have told you to fuck off if he didn’t shoot you first.
The way our communities and society are set up today, we have to rely on practically no one we come in contact with to get what we need. I can get in my car and drive to the grocery store to get anything they have available, and in most cases, I don’t have to say a word to anyone. What do you think that will look like as our society continues to crumble? The Karens and the Bobs of the world, beware, if you’re an asshole to your neighbors, they aren’t going to help you when all hell breaks loose. You’re on your own.
You are not entitled to have multiple vehicles, including recreation vehicles. I’m not talking about a family with two cars because both parents work. That makes sense, for the time being, but what does not make sense is having more than that. Recreational vehicles are a luxury that has no place in our society going forward. All the old people driving around in their gigantic road mansions are guzzling up our finite resources because…why? Why does someone have the right to overconsume resources just because they have the “money” for it? It’s common knowledge for anyone smart enough to read books that we have a global resource scarcity issue. Yet, the people of the world (especially in the west) are consuming at ever-increasing levels.
You are not entitled to have a manicured lawn. I’m going to use a quote from the article CD, and I wrote for the fourth of July this year, “A Declaration of Independence,” specifically the section talking about lawns, so you understand why they have no place anymore:
“Hear us out, what if, and it's a big IF, Americans took responsibility for their lives and started growing their own food via Freedom Gardens? What if the 40-50 million acres of useless lawns in the United States were converted to food production? Homeowners would no longer need to dump 59+ million pounds of toxic pesticides on their yards, waste 3 trillion gallons of water irrigating them, or spend $105 billion in yard care just to make lawns look nice. It's excesses like these that we can no longer afford.”
As cheap fuel becomes harder and more expensive to find, Americans will face a food crisis unlike any before in our short history. The world has experienced famine, but the entitlement of the U.S. has mostly shielded us from mass starvation, but what happens when the trucks stop running and the shelves of the grocery store are stripped bare? You are not entitled to waste resources on your lawn because your main concern from this point forward should be how you are going to feed yourself and your family. So do yourself a favor and till up whatever open lawn you have and turn it into a massive garden. It’s going to take work, but your stomach will thank you.
I can be harsh, I understand that, but it’s for a purpose. Quietly trying to hold your hand as you refuse to acknowledge that overconsumption and entitlement will be our downfall as a society will just not cut it. I’m pleading with you, for yourself and anyone that you love to simplify now so that you can set yourself up for as much success as you’re willing to go after. If you want to understand simplifying more, I encourage you to read CD’s two-part article on the subject, “What Do We Mean By Simplify?”. In the articles, Christopher goes into what we mean when we say simplify, and it’s a great read to understand a different way of living. At the end of the day, you are the master of your universe, and my words may mean nothing to you, but I hope you know what you’re in for over the next few years. There’s still time for you to walk away from society’s idea of the status quo. Don’t be afraid to look like a crazy person by going and plopping some shipping containers in the middle of an old cornfield and calling it home. Your madness will become understood in time.