“Responsibility” poses a quandary for us today, as it presupposes a standard toward which to be responsible. But as standards have been attacked as products of “white supremacy,” “patriarchy,” “imperialism,” and other nefarious forces, the notion of duty has steadily vanished.
The result has been a growing sense of entitlement and narcissism. Consider the widespread hostility toward a recent proposal to eliminate loan “forgiveness” for graduate students. The policy would stop the government from “forgiving” student loan debt after a certain number of years. The idea is that, if one is privileged enough to go to graduate school, one who isn’t shouldn’t be forced to pay for the one who is.
However, one outlet described the idea as a “sick joke. A billionaire president and billionaire education secretary, neither of whom spent a single day of their lives in public service before stumbling their way into positions of immense power, are targeting a program that’s basically meant to make life in underpaid government work a little more tenable.”
Only a mindset that says “I am entitled to graduate school on another’s dime” would argue that preventing other people from being forced to pay for (“forgive”) another’s loan is a “sick joke.” Furthermore, the idea that “public service”—meaning government employment—is nobler than private-sector work is only further evidence of our cultural entitlement. Private markets create wealth, products, and jobs, which improve lives. Government merely consumes the wealth private markets create. That those who consume feel entitled to the wealth created by others is the height of the narcissism that pervades modern society.
Without standards of virtue which transcend the self, the self becomes the standard. At that point, as Protagoras remarked, “Man is the measure of all things.” In today’s culture, that is increasingly so.
David Weinberger, “We Don’t Have An Income Inequality Problem, We Have An Ego Problem”