holding title on entitlement

When I’m angry or frustrated with someone or something, I can almost always chalk it up to an overblown sense of my own entitlement. I think it’s human nature. I think (well at least I hope) it happens to everyone. Next time you curse the weather or damn the traffic for messing up your carefully laid plans, check your sense of entitlement. I’m guessing it’s a bit on the high side.

There’s a chaotic battle of entitlement happening right here, in my still charming small town, as we collectively trip and stumble our way through an especially complicated development process.

Smart Centres has purchased a parcel of land on the edge of town with the intent of building a gigantic shopping mall. The promise of new jobs, better prices and more selection is hard to resist. Many, in fact, feel they are entitled to their own big box mall after years of shopping in neighbouring communities. The bloggers and facebookers in support of the project blast local retailers for price gouging and poor selection. Other supporters feel entitled to benefit from a project that will help their businesses, increase their traffic or their property value or whatever it is they feel they deserve.

Smart Centres also shows its own sense of entitlement (especially having been refused once before by the City of Salmon Arm). As owners of the property, they intend to develop it. Trouble is, there’s the small matter of the Official Community Plan Amendment they need (and indeed feel entitled to) from the City to move ahead.

For its part, the City Council has also shown its sense of entitlement. Entitled to follow its own processes. Entitled to take in or block out information. Entitled to listen or ignore. Entitled to get the job done- not an easy task by any measure.

Those opposed to the project (and I count myself among them), feel this development is wrong. For some, it’s the wrong size and wrong location. For others it’s the wrong developer and the wrong tenants. For others still, it’s the wrong politics, wrong ethics and wrong tactics. Sometimes it’s for all of these reasons. Sometimes it’s only for a few. But we too have a sense of entitlement. We feel entitled to transparency, information, clarity of process, a rational list of priorities. We feel entitled not just to our opinions, but to have our opinions heard. Even if they are critical.

Those in support feel they are entitled to call the opponents nay-saying, extreme, elite, environmental yahoos or other, often much worse, names. Opponents feel entitled to show supporters they may ignore a fact or two. I, for one, feel entitled to tell the world the whole thing frustrates me to no end and could have been avoided had the previous council not been so keen to bring more shopping to town.

But back to my point, when I’m frustrated with something, it’s usually my overblown sense of entitlement. Truth is, I’m not entitled to grand stand on this or any other topic anymore than a neighbour who loves to shop is entitled to cheap prices and great selection as if it were a human right. It’s not. It’s economics. And economics is based on unlimited wants and limited resources. That’s the truth of it. We can’t have everything. We just can’t. So then what, how do we decide? I do think we are all entitled to the basics. Clean water, fresh air, a roof over head and food on our plate. I also think we’re entitled to our opinions and our processes.

But we get in real conflict when we delude ourselves into thinking our opinions, our expectations or even our demands, matter more than someone else’s. If we’re all going to hold title on our entitlements, this particular proposal turned debate turned impasse isn’t going to end neatly or anytime soon. And i’ll keep my last bit of entitlement to add that I think it’s a shame to spend so much time on this when, clearly, many other, dare I say, more important matters, need our collective attention.

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4 Responses

  1. […] } Louise Wallace Richmond, in a post entitled holding title on entitlement on her blog, The Blahgg Blog, reflects on how a misplaced sense of entitlement can affect the lot […]

  2. Thank you Louise.

  3. And I think that Salmon Arm, being a small community, is entitled to have a downtown that is vibrant instead of sporting stores gone out of business and all boarded up. Those people who drive to Vernon or Kamloops – as is their right – think they are saving by shopping at large box stores. By the time they add the cost of fuel and car use, won’t have saved. On the contrary, they will have created more air pollution.

  4. Thanks for this succinct and valuable post.

    While I respect WalMart’s accomplishments, efficiencies and scope of operations, what I resent is their bullying and bulldozing tactics as they assimilate communities. Years ago, Sam Walton lamented that he could not visit his old favourite restaurants because they had been situated in the town core, and were soon driven out of business. Sadly, ON-based “developers” like Smart!Centre take pride in creating these types of suburban destination retail outlets, whose intent is to provide new retail hubs. These outlets not only reward adjacent property speculators, but also, serve to predatorily marginalize retail operators remaining in town centres. The choice comes down to responsible, appropriately concentrated urban development, versus irresponsible, scattered suburban development – and this time on an environmentally sensitive area. To SA Council, if you must welcome WalMart – why not have them select a time and location which will not be so divisive and disruptive? Keep the city plan as is, and make WalMart wait until the city is respected, receptive and ready.

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