Sunday, October 16, 2011

Peaceful Protests vs. Violence

Over the past few weeks, a movement has been growing both in the United States and in other countries protesting the inequality between rich and poor - between the middle class and the corporate giants who control a great deal of the wealth in the country.  It began as a movement citing the 99% of people who do not have the wealth as contrasted to the one percent that control much of the wealth.

As in any movement such as this there can be divisions of opinion as to whether the numbers are right or whether all those with wealth are not doing enough to aid those less fortunate.  We know that there are those who are wealthy who have given much time, energy and their wealth to aid others (e.g., the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation).  But there is evidence that inequality exists and thousands are growing frustrated and taking their message to the streets of our cities and to the corporate headquarters.

I can readily sympathize with the feelings of those who are protesting this inequality.  One professional I know - a teacher by profession - still owes approximately $45,000 in students loans even after twenty or so years out of college.  She told me that would probably be 85 years old (should she live that long) before they are paid off.  This is causing large number of students and former students to call for changes in how the corporate world treats the rest of society.

One of my fears is that when large numbers such as this gather to protest violence may follow.  This can be caused by a number of factors: some overzealous group members who feel that some destruction is needed in order for the corporate world to wake up; some overreacting members of the police who in trying to keep order get carried away with the tensions of the moment; and on and on.  One example of how destructive things can become was the news from Rome that a medieval church was desecrated by some of those who had gathered to protest.  I don't believe the majority of those protesting are prone to violence but one way to quickly lose support for a cause is for that cause to become enmeshed in violent behavior.  Let us hope that those who are sincere will continue their protests by bringing their message to those who need to hear it without anyone being hurt or property destroyed.

There is nothing inherently evil in wealth.  It is how that wealth is used that is important.  Those who are blessed with it need to know that their wealth can benefit others and should be so used without the wealthy person(s) having to become poor themselves.  Perhaps we all need to re-read the 25th chapter of Matthew's Gospel:

"Come, you who are blessed by my Father.  Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.  For I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; a stranger and you welcomed me; naked and you clothed me; ill and you cared for me; in prison and you visited me."  Then the righteous will answer him and say, "Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?  When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?  When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?"  And the King will say to them in reply, "Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers or sisters of mine, you did for me."

We are all called to help those in need without questioning whether they are good or not.  If they are in need they need our help - be it the single mother trying to raise a family on a meager salary; a disabled person whose work output is limited; one of the thousands of unemployed who want work but cannot find it - whatever, we need to be there for them.   Those of us who possess more of this world's goods need to remember the oft quoted saying:  From those who have been given much more will be expected.  May we give with gracious hearts.

1 comment:

  1. I abhor the violence, but I also abhor the silent violence of the less-than-good use of wealth as an element of unyielding power that has helped bring us here. Make no mistake - I do not condone the violence, however, I do see why people are angry.

    Just yesterday I was quoting Rerum Novarum on my Facebook page; it is worth noting in times like these. It has a wisdom about why neither extreme works, that is longing to be expressed in our time.