The words “Proud to be selfish” were scrawled on the stark white poster board. The young man who carried it strutted around like an insecure rooster. Of course, he wasn’t wearing a mask. His eyes darted back and forth as if he waited for someone to either challenge him or pat him on the head and say good boy, you’re such a good selfish little boy.
As I tried to understand why someone would be proud of such a thing, the pieces of the last few years began to connect. It was as if all the bits and scraps of a box filled with memories of those who came before him upended itself into the present. And the evidence stood in little territories of time as it screamed to be heard over anything else.
I saw once again the parade of drama queens with their incessant need for attention. No matter what the topic, what the reason for the gathering, whether it was a wedding, a funeral, or a conversation, they had to drag it all to the center with them in the middle.
They were shaped by the TV talk shows, the garbage that passed as news, the programming on every channel filled with pathetic stewpots that bred the roots of selfishness. Celebrities who did nothing to earn their place in the country’s living rooms. Influencers who peddled themselves for money.
No one talked. Everyone yelled to drag it all to the center with them in the middle. There was no right. There was no wrong. There was no middle ground or compromise. It was all who yelled the loudest, who stood on the biggest pile of unearned privilege.
I saw a world where everyone wanted to be special at the same time, and no one won or lost anymore because competition was suddenly bad. It affected self-esteem. It created insecurities. It kept the mediocre from rising. It kept everyone from being special. Everyone got a participation trophy, whether they won, lost, or surrendered.
The plague of specialness that created such privilege also bred a nation of petulant toddlers who believed their needs were more important than those of others. It helped them drag the country to the center with attention-hungry Karens in the middle who didn’t have to compete anymore to be better inventors, creators, workers, or human beings. Their privilege, their specialness was all they needed.
The emerging Karens evolved into the entitled who parked in no parking zones, the special snowflakes who cut to the front of the line, the privileged ones who whined when the rules didn’t allow them to do exactly what they wanted, when they wanted, and without any regard for others. It was and continues to be all about them and no one else.
It’s why white male Christians whine about persecution when all their presidents but one have been white, male christians. It’s why privileged little Karens think face masks that protect others are a threat to their freedom. It’s why for years privileged white men shaped what the rest of the country was allowed to watch, to read, to perform. The tyranny of the few in America has always dictated what art was funded, whose sexuality was acceptable, and especially whose bodies were controlled.
But even that wasn’t enough privilege for the selfish entitled toddlers. They wanted it all. Because they couldn’t control every aspect of life, because others were beginning to demand their share, they whined even louder about persecution and victimhood. They held the whole pie and complained because the rest of the world wanted to split a piece of it among themselves.
That was who that pathetic young man represented to me, those whiny attention seekers who wanted everything for themselves, especially the attention, the privilege, the right to be above everyone else even if there was no reason for it, nothing they did or were that gave them that coveted spot.
They wanted to park in a no parking zone when no one else could, but they should be able to because they were more special, more entitled than anyone else.
They wanted the privilege to walk unmasked into a supermarket, a restaurant, a crowd of people. They wanted the businesses to open so they could make money, even though it put the workers at risk.
The special people created a nation where selfishness became its own reason for existing and only benefitted them. But the facade is beginning to crumble as all facades eventually do, because at the root of their selfishness lies a tragic truth.
Those who demand special privileges, those who deliberately draw attention to themselves by yelling, by complaining, by whining, by standing on street corners with signs that say Proud to Be Selfish are failures, losers, shallow excuses for human beings.
They are takers, not givers. They are users, not creators. Deep inside they know they’ve lived a meaningless existence, that everything they tried ended up in failure. They know without the props of success they are exposed as failuress.
So they buy the big houses, the expensive cars, the designer labels, the exotic vacations. But none of it makes them better human beings. Inside themselves they suspect they’re not all that special. They are merely privileged.
So they whine in the hopes that no one will notice or make them change, because nothing terrifies them more than change. It means they must examine their own lives for the flaws they know are there but they’re too cowardly to confront.
It’s easy to just let selfishness become the default setting of privilege. It’s easily maintained by forming groups that keep out everyone else so the privileged can continue to tell themselves how special they are to exist in such a perfect world.
It doesn’t really matter what they call themselves, how they identify to cover up their flaws. Church member. Party member. Gated community. Living among those with similar flaws doesn’t fix their problems. It normalizes them.
But the wall their privilege tried to erect between human beings, the bricks they thought held it up, is beginning to crumble because it was built from the fear, the hate, the despair these selfish entitled overgrown toddlers felt at having to compete in an equal world. It was built from a horrible truth they suspect. In a fair world they would end up on the bottom.
That really isn’t something to brag about, no matter how good you think it looks on a sign.