While many will discuss the economic prevalence of socialist ideas among the youth of our society, the socialist grip on our culture is perhaps neglected. Socialism manifests in various ways in our everyday lives, even when we’re not talking about the economy. The upcoming generation of mothers, fathers, coworkers, neighbors, and leaders is alarmingly marked by a sense of entitlement.

Economically, because socialism derives its purpose from providing equal materialistic results no matter the circumstantial, personal, or experiential differences, people are instilled with a sense of entitlement to material goods. Similarly, cultural socialism takes root in a mindset of entitlement to societal comfort, wherein one’s feelings trump the rights of others to say what they please.

Our nation was founded on the notion of “equal opportunity.” However, this wonderful concept, brimming with freedom and individual rights, has been mutilated into a pop culture demand for equity. Instead of fighting to provide an environment of universal opportunity open to all and equality of treatment under the law, the rising generation is demanding equality of outcome in all areas of life, equality that can only be achieved by rewarding some at the expense of others’ rights and liberties. From economic status to housing, to healthcare, this demand for equity even sinks into words, thoughts, and interactions.

The emergence of microaggressions, social media censorship, hate crimes, and cancel culture demonstrates the alarming permeation of the socialist agenda within our culture. Each entails responsive measures to a societal entitlement to not feel offended. Schools include trigger warnings, safe spaces, and selective content elimination to provide an environment of equity and accommodate the ever-growing number of students who feel entitled to not be offended. The University of Colorado Boulder gives us an explanation for why microaggressions ought to be taken seriously: “Microaggressions in the classroom can disrupt students’ ability to engage in the learning process because their feelings of belonging are called into question.” The underlying principle here is that students are entitled to emotional and psychological comfort no matter the cost. No one wants to discuss how infeasible this is because the offense is inherently subjective. When the standards by which classroom content is deemed acceptable are arbitrary and constantly changing, the veracity and integrity of the material cannot be preserved. Truth takes a backseat to entitled students’ fluctuating feelings.

Furthermore, this principle is not even universally or equally applied. Not all students’ feelings and comfort matter, only those who can be weaponized to fit an agenda and make political gain. In June of 2020, Arizona Christian University withdrew admission for a young girl whose post on Instagram used vulgarity to describe her opinions regarding the arrest and death of George Floyd. The post was deemed “offensive” and “hurtful,” and the school rescinded her admission on that basis.

Meanwhile, students and professors alike insult, slander, and threaten non-left-leaning students across the nation with no repercussions. In fact, most times, the academic institution protects their words and actions. Following the election of President Donald Trump in early 2017, a student at Orange Coast College was suspended for recording his professor’s violent and threatening monologue against Trump and his supporters. When his video went viral, the professor then claimed she felt threatened. Orange Coast College stepped to her aid, suspended the student, and only reneged on his suspension at the introduction of a major lawsuit. As in economic socialism, the security and benefits do not extend to all, but to the elite who control the system.

More recently, we can see the parasitic impact of socialism in our nation’s response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The narrative behind the propaganda justifying the oppressive shutdowns and restrictions holds that you are responsible for the health of others. In other words, others are entitled to your actions regarding their health. This collectivist and socialist notion undermines the very individualist foundation of our free society. Instead of providing everyone with the means of protecting themselves from the virus, the government decided to impose the burden of protecting others’ health on you.

A free society means that not everything will go your way, and sometimes things happen that you don’t like. However, the government exists to prevent others from infringing upon your personal liberty and protect your right to live as you see fit. Individual freedom is lost when academic institutions, government entities, and culture as a whole humor and even incorporate this socialist sense of entitlement. The two cannot coexist. As we see more “woke” elitism and intolerance, the more our liberty is chipped away. Defending the rights of others to act in a manner with which we may not agree is the only hope we have of preserving freedom for all.

Rachel Hall is a senior at Clemson University, studying political science and Spanish. She anticipates graduating in December 2021 and enrolling in law school in the fall of 2022.