Thursday, March 8

Arrogance and Entitlement

Having been a renter for 10 years, I've seen my share of apartments that could have used a little love. It's no secret that rental properties get the short end of the stick all the way around: sinking money into extras and niceties is a typically unrewarded effort on the landlord's part, and any money renters throw into a place is pretty much cash down the drain.

Not my apartment fortunately,
but a fair example of the craziness
many renters encounter.
I appreciate the challenge of working around particularly hideous or incomprehensible fixtures and finishes. (It took me weeks to find a bathroom set in chocolate brown, sky blue and cream that could pull the almond colored toilet & tub together with the randomly dark vanity cabinet and the shockingly bright blue tile floor in our current bathroom.)

While we all might periodically sigh in dismay at the mutilated drywall beneath the primer-posing-as-paint on our walls, I was taken aback by the chatter I ran across on Manhattan Nest blog.

Showing off a recent bathroom renovation they'd done in their rented apartment, the author was profanely in-your-face about not asking the landlord before he started and not caring what the man thought about the end result. The comments section overflowed with similar vitriol from other renters with the same condescending, devil-may-care attitude. For example:
This is absolutely great, I too am a renter who had a nasty/tiny bathroom. Upon deciding to re-do it, I simply wrote an email to my landlord stating, whatever I am doing to this bathroom will certainly up the value of your property, you should be paying ME to live here. Hahah. SO, I love where you’re coming from.

Granted most of the population represented there are not my type of people; they appear to be largely big-city types, much more brazen about everything than I would be. Still, it is worrisome that such an attitude is so easily accepted and widespread.

Did none of these people ever have a mother who taught them basic respect for authority? Did we not learn in elementary school to respect other people's property? Have we completely forgotten (or think we're above) common courtesy?

This is only a minor example, but the attitude is familiar. It's starting to show up a lot of places: the job market, the Welfare debate and public schools just to name a few. The saddest part is that by the time people reach adulthood, it's very difficult to unlearn arrogant bad manners and replace them with humility of spirit and basic courtesy.

While it's tempting to admonish teachers, parents and employers to push for better behavior and crack down on these attitudes, I know it isn't that simple. Instead, I would like to offer a suggestion each of us can follow every day: before you speak, think. Other people hear what we say and notice more than we think. If you need to rant, do it privately with people you trust who love you. In public, let's agree to take the high road. Be respectful, polite and self-controlled. If we don't provide an example of what the alternative to arrogance and vitriol looks like, how will things change?

What do you think? Do adults have a responsibility to model respect for authority across the board or does making it to adulthood exempt you from being polite?

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