Bryan Gillette lives with his husband, three rescue dogs, one crafty kitty, and his mom in the mountains just outside of Asheville, NC. When he’s not situated in the midst of frequent awkward social scenarios, he takes great pleasure reading Merton, spending time with family (both two and four legged), British comedy, and in the contemplation of nature. Although he has always felt like a religious “outsider”, he will soon be trying his hand at Chicago Theological Seminary. (“May God bless her and all who sail in her.”)
The Struggle of the 99 Percent: A Call for Reflection…
weoccupyjesus — June 29, 2013
“We are the 99 percent.” How many of us identify with this slogan and with the Occupiers? Perhaps when we hear it we burn with righteous indignation and raise our fists at the lack of justice in our society. The richest one percent owns 40 percent of the country’s financial wealth. Meanwhile for the rest of us things can get really scary, really fast. If we are lucky enough to have a job, many of us are just one pay check away from financial ruin. Therefore, we can identify with our sisters and brothers here at the bottom, and perhaps we even revel in that (at least a little). There is a dignity in being in the 99, but as for the other one percent we know where they stand. But before we start beltin’ out the Internationale, the Billy Bragg version of course, let us take a swig of reality.
Let’s widen the lens a bit. As Americans, how much wealth, opportunity, and resources do we claim in comparison to the rest of humanity? Instead I want to expand our lens even further. Let’s consider life forms on earth, and let’s just consider animals. A cursory examination of the web reveals that around 80 percent of the total number of animals on the earth are insects. If one also calculates the number of rats, bunnies, fish, snakes, elephants, and all the other non-human animals on the planet, it would be easy to say that we must make up, at the very most, one percent of the animal population on the planet. The question then is how are the one percent of animals, us humans, treating the 99 percent, the rest of animal life on earth?
Think this is a ridiculous question? Remember back when you were still in the 99 percent? Were your concerns trivial or ridiculous? Back then didn’t you think that 100 percent of people deserved equal consideration? Surely justice did not merely apply to a small fraction of the population. And yet we the 99 percent, even as crappy as things are down here, rarely want to consider in what ways we are the 1 percent in the grand scheme of things. But I still want to ask you, how are we treating the 99 percent?
Again, I will pass on the opportunity to speak of the mountains, the rivers, the polar ice caps, and stick with animals. How have we treated our fellow creatures? First, we often refuse to identify with them. No matter what science tells us, many in our society STILL refuse to call ourselves members of the animal kingdom. (The Scopes Monkey Trial, anyone?) Secondly, we lay waste to their resources as we pillage Mother Earth. Sadly we have not really learned the lesson that their fate is ours as well. Thirdly, we divide animals into categories and we call them “pets,” “wildlife,” “endangered,” “livestock,” and even “pests.” We protect some and harm others.
There are four animals in my household, and I consider them family. Judging from the photos on all the social media sites, I am not alone in my affections. And yet, as a society we allow one cat or dog to be euthanized in US animal shelters every 11 seconds. We consider this a “necessary” evil. But we still must wonder why these particular animals are so expendable. Additionally, we draw up animal welfare legislation to protect animals, but only certain species. As of this writing there are virtually no such laws that protect “livestock” even though they feel the same pains as our beloved cats and dogs we call “pets.” Therefore, the agriculture industry subjects millions of animals to frequent torture, mutilation, and stifling confinement before they end up on our dinner plates. Look it up. The information is out there, if you dare!
And so it seems that when the tables are turned, we are not as fair-minded as we would like to believe. Therefore, as we call out for justice for ourselves, it behooves us to widen our lens and consider the meaning of the word. It means that we need to ask how we’re treating the 99 percent. So, how do you think we’re faring?
“The more you are motivated by love, the more fearless and free your action will be.” – Dalai Lama
Founder and CEO of We Occupy Jesus. Also, I enjoy paying too much for coffee.