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In the aftermath (hopefully) of one of the most stressful political periods in American experience, we’re left wondering about the cross-currents of ideology and communication that have produced such a destructive undertow in public life and decorum.

What underlying dynamics could possibly ignite the passion to attack the very foundation on which our collective house is constructed?

There are no easy answers to the question, although one pervasive and recurring theme has been the perceived resentment of Trump loyalists directed at “the coastal elite”. A nom deguerre for the so-called privileged class is “entitled”.

The word entitlement has medieval roots: as described in an article about the British Peerage on the site Historic UK, entitlement was a privilege granted by a higher authority, usually a sovereign, bestowing the “title” to an estate or perhaps an entire region. Originally, this entitlement came with the actual title of “baron.” (This of course confirms the entitlement of Donald Trump’s youngest son).

Six centuries later, the term has less noble connotations. Perhaps the now-commonplace resentment toward entitlement involves a rebellion against the stratification of society that creates “haves” and “have nots”.

This must be deeply rooted. A New York Times article, How Much Is Anyone ‘Entitled’ To, in the End?, helpfully points out that “We are clearly galled by people [who] we believe think they deserve something the rest of us don’t.”

For this month’s Big Questions Forum, we’ll investigate the idea of entitlement. We’ll use the work of Michael Sandel, professor of government at Harvard University and author of recently published The Tyranny of Merit, as a way of framing the conversation.

A recent review of The Tyranny of Merit in The Guardian describes Sandel’s orientation this way:

The Tyranny of Merit is the latest salvo in Sandel’s lifelong intellectual struggle against a creeping individualism that, since the Reagan and Thatcher era, has become pervasive in western democracies. “To regard oneself as self-made and self-sufficient. This picture of the self exerts a powerful attraction because it seems on the face of it to be empowering – we can make it on our own, we can make it if we try. It’s a certain picture of freedom but it’s flawed. It leads to a competitive market meritocracy that deepens divides and corrodes solidarity.”

We hope you will be able to join us on Tuesday evening, January 26th, to explore the subject! The session will be held on Zoom at this link: