By Warwick McFadyen
A park bench on a dull summer morning. Friends Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are debating the merits of apples and oranges when talk is diverted to the politics of entitlement.
Rosencrantz: Well you know Guildenstern if it were not for the apple there would be no gravity. It was an apple that landed on Isaac Newton’s head, thus allowing him to think up gravity, which is a very useful thing to have. Without it who knows where any of us would be.
Guildenstern: Rosencrantz, even by your standards, that is one of the silliest things ever to have come out of your mind and mouth. It could just as easily have been an orange that fell on Newton’s head, which would have proven gravity exists. The substance of the object has nothing to do with it. Indeed, the fact of gravity would still be whatever the alternative.
Rosencrantz: You’re entitled to your opinion my friend and I’ll stick to mine. Speaking of entitlements, I read yesterday that we are living in the Age of Entitlement. Did you know that?
Guildenstern: I did not.
Rosencrantz: We are. Well you and I aren’t and, strictly speaking 99 per cent of the world is not, but that other 1 per cent, it is for them a glorious time.
Guildenstern: But doesn’t everyone live in the one age? You can’t transport yourself out of an age. We are not time travellers quite yet, so isn’t the Age of Entitlement upon us, too? I must admit I can’t feel it falling over my shoulders, but if it is there then we must be part of it.
Rosencrantz: There’s a logic to your thoughts that unfortunately for you, and me, doesn’t align with the new stars in the heavens.
Guildenstern: But aren’t the stars steadfast and true?
Rosencrantz: Not in this age my friend. You think you know what the truth is, such as the shape and path of the sun, moon and stars, and then someone comes up with an alternative version. It’s quite remarkable how easily it is done.
Guildenstern: But people surely can’t be fooled by this?
Rosencrantz: Ah people . . . People follow whatever they think will lead them to the promised land. It only takes an appealing message said repeatedly to win them over.
Guildenstern: Surely, it is more than that.
Rosencrantz: Perhaps, but not much more. It’s the Stockholm Syndrome writ large. The followers are really hostage not to kidnappers, but to a different kind of fortune they can see will be within their grasp. The foolish thing is they think they are winners.
Guildenstern: And they have to think that because they have been losers so to think otherwise would be to reduce their lives and the meaning of their lives to nothing.
Rosencrantz: Yes. They are looking for salvation, from a point of anger. And the only way they think they are going to find it is to have faith in someone, anyone – could be a card sharp, could be a television host, could be a monkey – who says I am one with your anger and resentment. I am going to tear down your walls. Your enemies are mine. I will fight for you. I will purify our homeland.
Guildenstern: It’s just as well we have a park bench to call home in these times. At least we can’t be deported. You are a Christian aren’t you, Rosencrantz?
Rosencrantz: Actually Guildenstern, I’m agnostic. I’m too afraid to decide which team to barrack for. I mean, what if it’s the wrong one?
Guildenstern: Wise choice. If anyone asks, we can both say the same. None of the religions are pure of bloodshed and tyranny, but just now love Jesus if anyone asks. Oh, and love flag and country. But do not love refugees. If anyone comes to our bench asking for help, directions, food or water, tell them to go back to where they came from. Ignoring them isn’t enough.
Rosencrantz: OK. I must say for an Age of Entitlement it all sounds very severe. It doesn’t feel right Guildenstern. We would never say that to anyone. We’ve always shared our bench, knowledge such as it is, and food, meagre as it is, with any who asks.
Guildenstern: Yes, but we’re living in a new age. Those people aren’t entitled to it, friend.
Rosencrantz: Then who is?
Guildenstern: Those with the power, which we gave them through our system, to decide for us, who shall be entitled.
Rosencrantz: We place a lot of trust in them to do the right thing don’t we?
Guildenstern: Yes, but that’s democracy. As to the right thing. Ha, that’s like Newton’s gravity and the apple and the orange. What you and I see as the right thing, such as helping refugees, might be the wrong thing to another.
Rosencrantz: Yes. But aren’t some things beyond dispute? Otherwise the universe would be full of alternative facts. It would explode from people and events crashing into each other.
Guildenstern: Ah my friend, here’s the sad and depressing thing, some people can live with the big lie. They don’t see it as a refuge from the truth. They see it as a way to entitlement.
Rosencrantz: Yes, I agree. (turning to one side), Guildenstern, is that a raggedy-looking man coming towards us?
Guildenstern: It is. Make room. I’ll fetch some water.
Warwick McFadyen is a freelance writer and editor