What's Your Beef: Entitled?

Jerry Schuster

What? You say you will continue reading this article anyway? Oh, you make me so much happier, and I can feel the cloud lifting. Thank you so much. We are good to go!

As a relative newcomer to Bozeman and the Gallatin Valley, but not the world, I’ve made a few observations and have formed some opinions about what I experience here. Mostly good, positive and wonderful. A few negatives, some of which I write about now. No one wants to read good news.

I am not a California transplant who had to flee that once beautiful state for something more sane. There’s no big chip on my shoulder, just relax a bit.

So, to start with, I am a life-long resident of the great State of Montana. Not telling you how many years that is, but it’s been a few. Well, more than a few. Learned life’s lessons the hard way, by living them. Born, raised, worked and lived here basically forever. A few years in the U.S. Army, but that’s as far away as I’ve gotten. My roots are here.

What do you think of when you hear of “Montana” values? What comes to my mind are basically good, honest, dependable people who care about one another, the land and the resources, willing to assist the stranger in need. We wave a friendly hi as we come upon another vehicle. Our good works are done quietly and without loud boasting and fanfare.

I recall my many years spent in Wolf Point in northeastern Montana. You remember me referring to it as “Old Town.” Life is pretty basic there. People appreciated the smaller portions of life’s pie. We struggled and managed to get along with others in that place and time.

What seemed absent was an attitude of entitlement; that the world owes me something. Seemed that we could get by with less, something well used and a bit worn. I did not sense that most people in the community thought they were better than others. If such attitude was present on occasion, it was not openly displayed so as to become the primary focus.

To be sure, we had our weaknesses and foibles, myself included. But, there was this sense of getting along and getting by, and stepping outside our own little comfort zone.

Why am I telling you all this? Actually, I have no idea. I’ve forgotten the point to be made, so just hang in with me for a while, it will come back. Hold on, I just remembered.

You should know that my observations about Bozeman, aka “New Town,” have some validity and are not just that of some pundit riding the hot air balloon now in view from my home office window.

Here it is in plain and simple language: Bozeman has a surprising number of people who feel “entitled.” Entitled to force their agenda, entitled to be seen as superior to others occupying this place. Entitled to everything, anything right now. Solipsism is ubiquitous here.

Let me give you some examples, so you don’t think I’ve boarded the balloon. Driving style for one. There’s this faction of aggressive drivers in this place who actually believe or at least act like they own the streets here. You experience this all over town, but 19th and Kagy are the worst. If you try to stay within a few miles per hour of the posted speed limit, you will likely find someone right on your bumper. Another bad practice is passing on two-lane city streets, then flipping you off to add insult to the vanity. Yes, these rude, arrogant drivers believe they are entitled to the whole road, at their own pace and time. Others on the street have to be on the defensive, or just stay home to be safe.

Another entitlement example? Okay, it’s perfectly acceptable to let your unleashed dog run and poop all over other people’s property. Do not bother to keep it restrained, as your dog is special and does not need such burden. Besides, it would be very inappropriate to interfere with the dog’s therapy plan which emphasizes freedom from restraint of any kind. My gosh, this is the West, not some restricted zone. Just leave the poop deposit, because you are too refined to pick it up. Just leave it for others to clean up; they have more time than you do. You are too busy, important and entitled.

What is especially aggravating about this entitlement is that there are just a few owners who fall into the category and thereby taint the many dog owners who respect others’ property and space. They leash their dogs and clean up as needed.

Please allow me to opine: When I see an unleashed dog in a leash-required area, the chances are good that the owner feels privileged and entitled.

An entitled person seems to have a world view which is summarized by, “The world owes me. If I don’t get what I want by the usual means of obeying laws and rules, working for my support and for those dependent on me if able, and listening to others, instead of doing all the talking for a change, I’ll just take it.”

So people think this is acceptable? It’s okay to cheat the “system.” It’s okay to be rude, arrogant and lazy because I deserve it and the world owes me. Been there myself on occasion and am still working on it.

The entitled mentality is limited to only the bemused few. What would the community be like if the few would have a change of heart, a metanoya, and show a little courtesy and kindness? You mean we could actually drive around and enjoy it, or sit out and enjoy our property without uninvited intruders? In Hawaii, there is this effort to make people feel welcome. They call it the “Spirit of Aloha.” Maybe we could start something similar in this community and call it the “Spirit of Bozeman.” Well, you come up with a good slogan then.

Just a final thought. If you feel entitled, ask yourself why and come to realize that improvement is possible, just requires a bit of effort.

This all sounds preachy and rather negative. Well, you were warned and read it anyway and I will not do it again. Well, maybe just a little. We’ll see.

Just needed to vent a bit of steam. Such beauty here, so much opportunity for a good life and happiness. Then along comes a wrecking ball. If only we could figure out a way to combine some Old Town values with what we have here. Now that would be quintessential Montana.

Hey, Spirit of Bozeman, I like it.  

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