E-letter: Pecking order

“Well, boys, like I say,” the coach’s voice was a monotone. “There’s the right way to do things, and then there’s the Knudsen way.” The place was Grade 8 phys ed, and the issue was rope climbing. The time was late spring, and I suppose I had watched one too many Tarzan movies. In any event, the result was another session with The Paddle. I don’t recall feeling picked on. I was out of line, and I knew it. I had decided the benefit was worth the cost.

Kerry Knudsen

Kerry Knudsen

Time passed, and I was riding a hay wagon, stacking bales in the 102 degree sun. The farmer I worked for and his son drove the tractor or the pickup, and as the wagon came each round to the truck they would drink ice water out of a jug and shake it so I could hear the ice. However, nobody offered me a drink, and I was not about to ask. My rate that summer was $25 a week, plus room and board. I mentioned later that they had never offered me water in that heat, and they replied, as expected, I had not asked. It was a game people play called pecking order.

Other stuff happened, both in school and at work, some of it very unpleasant. Stolen sales, sabotaged projects, and a few times in high school that came to blows.

I often wonder, looking back, what I would have done had I been able to blame my religion, my race or my sex. I would like to say I would not have done so, but I can’t. Maybe yes; maybe no. I do know, however, that things I was told to suck up and shut up about would, today, be grounds for a class action suit for people with the right credentials.

As the baby boomers, of which I am one, came of age, we were encouraged to discover a sense of entitlement. The idea was that society owed us something, and that idea was based on a sense of “rights;” rights we saw being allocated to others based on sometimes very convoluted arguments. I recall being confused, for example, by arguments on what percentage of black “blood” one must have to be considered a Negro. In the racist South, if I recall, any black heritage, whatsoever, was sufficient to categorize a person as black. Odd that now, 50 years or more on, we saw a news splash in the States about a president of an NAACP chapter in Washington state claiming to be black when she had no black ancestry at all.

Whether it came from the ‘60s or not, we seem to have evolved a generation of people that believe in entitlement as a basic right. Now, however, irrespective of whether one has a religious, racial or sex claim to minority status, people seem to think they are entitled to a job in their chosen field at a set rate.
By the set-up for this column, it should be obvious that I have little use for children of privilege that want to piggy-back their entitlements on the blood and tears of past generations that not only had no entitlements, but usually had the choice of conforming to an oppressive environment or dying. To me, it seems there is a huge distinction between people that are owed a hand up by society and those that simply don’t want a job in the sun.

We are a wealthy society, and we can afford to take care of our young, our elderly, our sick and our disadvantaged. We do, and we see that as our responsibility. However, that “responsibility” word is the divide. With each of our rights comes a responsibility, and the entitlement grabbers seem to authorize themselves to tell society what our responsibilities are, and what are their rights. As you can expect, the scales do not balance.

Looking up the ladder, we see much the same set of circumstances. The larger corporations share the sense of entitlement and share the lack of sense of duty. It is unheard-of that a car company, for example, would open a new assembly line in Canada without first securing all its entitlements from all levels of society. And we can throw in the unions for good measure. Rare is the union that does not know its rights, both real and imagined.


I like calling government and society by the same names
, interchangeably. Society is who we are, and government is how we order ourselves. In society, our sector is made up largely of small-business owners and their employee families. And, if you look up and down the ladder, you can see that the regulations, the entitlements, the costs of compliance and the taxes are not spread out equitably. The entitlement seekers push their demands up onto the small businesses, and the mega-corps offset their costs by pushing the tax burden down and claiming the lion’s share of government largess for themselves.

This process is “pecking order” taken to a national, economic level, or “politics.” Along life’s way, businesses and business magazines were warned never to talk about politics. It makes one wonder who said so, and why. In any case, it has not worked. If we cannot defend our property, it will be allocated.

We are facing a federal election again. Seems like it was only yesterday …. As we move into this election season, be sure your representatives know who you are, and ask them if they understand the balance of rights and responsibilities in your riding.

Our society depends on it.

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