Ailin Quinlan: When self-entitlement reigns over responsibility to others

Have we become very selfish? So asks Ailin Quinlan in her weekly column
Ailin Quinlan: When self-entitlement reigns over responsibility to others

Have we come to the point where our personal needs and wants and those of our children are utterly paramount - and hang everyone else? asks Ailin in her weekly column. Picture: Stock

WITH golden curls, perfect features and a heart-stopping smile, he came cycling up along the footpath beside me, heading for the pedestrian crossing on Infirmary Road.

He rode across at his leisure, and I caught up with him as he mounted the footpath on the opposite side and prepared to speed up again.

I inquired whether he thought he might be a bit old for cycling on footpaths. He looked down his angelic nose at me. How else, he inquired smartly, the charming smile melting, was he, like, supposed to cycle down a one-way street?

“Dismount and wheel your bike? I suggested. Don’t you know that it’s illegal to cycle on footpaths?”

He looked at me. He sniffed. He raised those perfectly curved eyebrows . He thought for a second.

“Don’t you know about something called minding your own business?” he asked, and whizzed off along the middle of the pavement, peddling the wrong way down a one-way street, no doubt all fired up by his response to the stupid bint trying to make life more difficult for him.

The next day; a traffic roundabout. I was about to take the exit I needed which leads directly into a large and busy supermarket car park. But I found there was a hold-up. I couldn’t get off the roundabout. A build-up of cars had appeared right at the exit into the supermarket.

The reason for this was, it appeared, because a mammoth four-wheel drive had stopped slap in the middle of this exit, its rear protruding into the roundabout. The big jeep stayed on pause. For a few moments, nothing happened. There was one car in front of me also trying to enter the supermarket, and a build up of traffic starting behind.

It didn’t take long to make out the life and death crisis causing a dangerous traffic build-up on the roundabout and on all its approaches: Two teenage boys in school uniforms had wandered through the supermarket car park towards the waiting jeep. As we watched, they strolled around the vehicle, oblivious or indifferent to the escalating chaos on the roundabout. They conferred in a leisurely way, then opened a back door and unhurriedly climbed in. The jeep finally moved off, allowing the rest of us entry into the car park – but came to rest again about 20 yards in, where it reversed into a parking space.

In other words, this driver interrupted the flow of traffic onto and through a roundabout and caused a dangerous build-up on its approaches because two sturdy teenage lads couldn’t be asked to walk 20 yards.

I was in Killarney recently walking along the the road which skirts the wall of the National Park, when a man on a bicycle followed by two children also on bicycles swung straight out of one of the park entrances and onto the pavement right in front of my husband and I.

“Hey,” my husband called. “You’re cycling on a pavement!”

“Yep,” the dad said and he swerved around us with his nose in the air, followed by his children. All three just kept going – on the pavement. Is this what we have become as a society? Is this who we are as a people?

Like the young man who couldn’t see why he should be inconvenienced by dismounting from his bicycle and pushing it along the pavement rather than cycling down it. 

Like the driver who couldn’t or wouldn’t allow two teenage boys to be inconvenienced by having to follow her into the car-park and wait while she parked.

Have we come to the point where our personal needs and wants and those of our children are utterly paramount - and hang everyone else?

What, one must wonder, did that young male cyclist grow up learning about the force of his personal entitlements versus his responsibility towards others?

What are those two young children learning from their own father other than they should always be driven by the sheer force of their own personal convenience?

Have we become that selfish? Was this typical millennial behaviour, I wondered. Oh no, said a twenty-something young man, to whom I was telling this story. The cyclist guy on Infirmary Road was probably not a millennial (which, when I researched it later, seems to be a person born between 1980 and 1995). This was, he diagnosed, most definitely Generation Z behaviour!

More research by me unearthed the fact that Generation Zs are people born between 1996 and the mid-2000s, though it should be said, the age categories probably depend on which website you look at.

Personally, it doesn’t really matter what they are or which generation they belong to. What matters is that, to put it simply, we have been raising people wrong.

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