Targaryen Entitlement: A Case Study for Milennials

The word “entitlement” gets thrown around a lot these days. It seems like every week there’s another lazy, throw-away op-ed written by another boomer who either is up against a deadline or craves self-validation through the old “I earned my keep” narrative. “This generation doesn’t have the same work ethic I did.” Blah blah blah. This is nothing new. If you look through the history of lazy journalism, you’ll see this comes up periodically. Old people feel threatened by young people. It’s just biology. So while they piss and moan about the sky falling, the world keeps spinning anyway.

But what does it mean to feel “entitled” to something. It’s become such a dirty word. However, the actual definition is quite innocuous: “something to which a person is entitled, esp a social benefit.”  To “entitle” someone is to give them “a just claim…a right.” That’s the Canadian Oxford Dictionary anyway.

What people really mean when they talk about “entitlements” is a false sense of entitlement. If you say someone has a sense of entitlement what you’re saying is they’re full of shit and don’t deserve anything. This may be right or wrong, depending on the situation. I would contend that having a sense of entitlement isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Many great social movements have been achieved because a marginalized group felt entitled to rights they’d been denied (women and the vote, etc.). But even in every day life, you can feel entitled to certain things. Maybe you feel entitled to peace and quiet, a good relationship. That sense of entitlement can drive you to achieve these things.

Generally, people who criticize another person’s sense of entitlement don’t appreciate their own privilege. For example, when boomers criticize millennials for feeling entitled to a middle-class lifestyle, they don’t take into consideration how different the political economy is for young people right now. It’s not like the old days when you could drop out of college and find a nice job with benefits, get an affordable house and car, then retire with a full pension. Now, even if you have multiple degrees, you’re guaranteed nothing. And even if you get a nice job, well guess what, you’ve just been laid off so a foreign temporary worker can take your place.

Basically, young people feel entitled to lives their parents enjoyed, but are getting the door slammed in their faces. We put in the work, we took on the student loans, and we can’t get the same job someone with just a high school diploma had. Shit is lame.

“Maybe you should’ve got a trade.”

For these reason, Daenerys and Viserys Targaryen are interesting case studies for millennials. Hear me out.

(There’s some slight spoilers ahead for the first couple seasons of Game of Thrones)

House Targaryen ruled Westeros for three centuries until Robert Baratheon led a rebellion and dethroned the mad king Aerys II. Targaryen loyalists rescued Aerys’ youngest children, Daenerys and Viserys. But the children were exiled from Westeros. Daenerys was too young to remember her life as a princess, but Viserys does. He is filled with bitterness. The siblings move from house to house on another continent to stay safe from any assassins Baratheon might send. Meanwhile, Viserys envisions returning to Westeros and reclaiming the throne that is rightfully his by birth.

Viserys sells Daenerys to Khal Drogo with the understanding that that Drogo will take Daenerys as his wife and then lead his dothraki army into Westeros and take back the throne for Viserys. However, the dothraki like to do things on their own schedule and Viserys gets impatient. He makes the grievous mistake of offending Drogo, which is a great way to get your ass killed.

“A crown for a king.”

Daenerys, on the other hand, takes everything in stride.

Initially, she’s content to play along passively as her fate is dictated to her, but as her arc continues she gets increasingly ambitious. She decides that she wants the throne. Slowly, she builds an army and is soon poised to take Westeros.

What’s interesting about Daenerys and Viserys is that they both feel entitled to throne. The difference is that while Viserys has a passive sense of entitlement, Daenerys’ is active. Viserys expects the throne to be handed to him, whereas Daenerys understands that she is going to have to work for it. She isn’t paralyzed by indignation. She doesn’t care that her fate isn’t “fair.” She takes the situation for what it is, makes the most of it, and acts strategically.

“I will take what is mine with fire and blood.”

More importantly, Daenerys sees that the system is broken. To her, the warring houses of Westeros are “all just spokes on a wheel. This one’s on top, then that one’s on top, and on and on it spins, crushing the people on the ground…I’m not going to stop the wheel. I’m going to break the wheel.”

Millennials should aspire to the same disruptive ambition. Every time our present day neoliberal ideology runs into a problem, the powers-that-be simply double down on outdated models. “Oh the banks destroyed our economy? Let’s bail them out. They’ve surely leaned their lesson so no need to worry.” So the wheel keeps spinning, and the privileged few consolidate their power bit by bit. Breaking the wheel is the only way we can carve out something for ourselves.

Cheers

-b

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~ by braddunne on November 1, 2015.

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