Poverty is at present a fact of our human condition. For the majority of the people in this world today the most immediate and overwhelming issue of scarcity is the lack of clean water, food and personal safety. The people who endure these scarcities are the truly poor.
"Ask Not What Your Country Can Do For You..."
And then we have the “Occupy” groups, not just in the United States, but all over the world. These are the “99%ers” who assert themselves as the downtrodden. They are present day martyrs, victims of Capitalism, enslaved by the 1%. They demand that the world court of justice bring about economic equality. They insist that the rich give back. To them. They want better jobs, better pay, more benefits. Free internet. They want what’s coming to them. The good life.
When I first saw the Occupy movement on television I thought of President John F. Kennedy who said in his inaugural address, “Ask not what your country can do for you
, ask what you can do for your country.” I wonder what he’d think of the Occupy movement if he were still alive? The President spoke of hard work and determination…self-determination…and sacrifice.
The Occupy folks ask the 1% to sacrifice. Lord knows SOMEONE has got to pay for the good times…and it won’t be the 99%ers. Most of the 1% knows that it took a good deal of hard work and sacrifice…yes, sacrifice…to get to the 1%.
The 1% scoffs at the 99%ers who demand that they sacrifice. The 1% made the sacrifice necessary to find the good life. They worked hard for their 1%. The Occupy folks want the governments of first world nations to create an environment wherein (to quote Cisco…) the “oods would be more evener,” where the 99%ers would not have to work so hard to compete. Huh?
So I ask the Occupy folks this question. What does it mean to sacrifice? And why does the idea of sacrifice rattle the 99%ers? Is it that you want to get more and you think you will need to give up something in return? Are you afraid to yield, to surrender, to lose? And what is lost? What exactly is surrendered?
What on earth has generated such intense selfishness and fear? Hopelessness, listlessness and laziness abound. At some point in our lives we learn that there is no such thing as an earthly paradise where everything is easy and automatic. I learned this lesson when I was five years old, in the days before Velcro, when I had to learn to tie my own shoes or forego kindergarten.
Achievement on any level demands hard work and sacrifice. And yes, sacrifice is hard. And sacrifice is also rewarding. Very rewarding. It is the coin that must be paid. It is what makes the things we have worth having…especially if we want to keep them.
And so the 99%ers believe themselves to be the poor. I don’t mean poor in the sense that the 99%ers suffer from a scarcity of societal property or wealth. They are not impoverished in the same sense as those who have no hope of ever securing basic needs or personal security without international assistance. Think Darfur. The 99%ers are correct in their assessment of their beggarly existence for they truly suffer a type of poverty. A spiritual poverty. And to be fair, this type of poverty is experienced by all who are greedy and self-indulgent regardless of whether they are a 99%er or a member of the 1%.
But for the sake of this particular piece, might not the Occupy folks look to themselves for the help they insist they are entitled? For every one story of someone unemployed there are numerous other stories of people who made sacrifices, who rolled up their sleeves and found a way to make a living. I know. I’ve been there.
Here’s what worked for me. I followed the example of the mystics for direction. I embraced their example of self-sacrifice
and renunciation. I prayed. Not for myself or for
any “thing” specific. Like the mystics my prayers were of thanksgiving for the ability to catch a glimpse of the Holy, to feel God within me and the world around me. Through prayers of thanksgiving I found strength deep within myself to make the sacrifices that were necessary. In doing so I found that I had so much more in my life than I ever imagined. Where once I thought I was unlucky, there I found incredible and abundant blessings.
Have we become so shallow that we will not search the Spirit within for answers to questions about what is lacking in our lives? Can we be personally responsible for our own lives and stop comparing ourselves to others? Really, why begrudge anyone else anything they have worked hard to earn? Instead of asking “why can’t I have what the rich guy has” – why don’t we ask - ”how did he get what he’s got”…and then follow that path. Not every member of the 1% was born with a silver spoon and a trust fund. Those who did not worked hard and sacrificed.
Perhaps if we embrace true sacrifice we’ll move out of our selfishness and greed and ask not only what we can do for our country but also how we can help those who truly cannot help themselves? I wonder what would happen if the world-wide Occupy movement worked together to bring a united like-minded consciousness to the horrors of Darfur. Would they endure months camping out in city parks and rioting for the sake of the truly needy? To do so would take true sacrifice.