I walked to the equipment shed a couple days ago and found that the Occupy movement had hit our farm.
They weren’t as persistent as protesters in other parts of the country. By the time I’d come back from occupying my tractor seat and evicting some more Pin Cherry trees from the pastures with my chainsaw, they’d moved on. Even though it was nice and dry inside the shed, they knew I wasn’t going to feed them there and so they went on their way to forage for food (you can learn a lot from animals). However, one of them did leave me a symbol of their protest – a fresh egg in the corner of my tractor bay. Sometimes protests can be so yummy.
This got me thinking. If the chickens represented the OWS folks, that would make them the 99% (good guys/gals) and me the 1% (evil greedy egg-eater). But I’m not sure I want to be counted in the 1%. Maybe I am anyhow.
If we’re talking economic status, I definitely don’t qualify as the top 1% in the US, but I’m also not in the 15% who are below the national poverty line. In fact, I’m probably in the top half of citizens financially because last April I was one of the only 53% who paid income taxes.
I’m also in the 37% who voted in 2010, the 6% of my generation who are military veterans (and the less than 1% who are combat vets), the 7% who hunt, the 30% who change their own oil, the 95% who don’t go much deeper under the hood than spark plugs, and the 12% who consider faith a vitally important part of our lives.
Some of these groups have more significance than others, and a lot of this is a matter of perspective. Getting back to the financials, 5% of our population in the US is in “extreme poverty” (half the poverty line), so the rest of us are in the top 95%. If we look at it globally, it’s an even different perspective. A family of four in the US making $22,350 (2010 poverty rate) is in the lower 15% of the US… but they’re in the top 10% worldwide according to the Global Richlist. If you currently bring home the US median income (over $50K), you’re a “one percenter.” In fact, the mere fact that you’re reading this right now puts you in the exclusive 30% of the population with Internet access.
BTW, if you’ve never spent significant time in the “two-thirds” world, you really don’t know what poverty is.
Still, I don’t feel comfortable with this at all. Part of it is because when I look at these percentages, what I see is that it is “us” versus “them.” No matter what X and Y are and what distinguishes between the two of them, the X% vs Y% debates today are taking on the form of ad hominem attacks – accusing “who” instead of discussing “what.”
“There is no room in this country for hyphenated Americanism.” – President Theodore Roosevelt
President Roosevelt was talking about the scurge of those working to assert the specific interests of “German-Americans,” “French-Americans,” “Irish-Americans,” etc into the workings of the United States. What he insisted was that instead, we needed to work together as a union towards the interests of the nation as a whole. To extend that idea, I believe we need to stop thinking about who is right, who deserves privileges to be bestowed or stripped, and who has or has not, and instead focus on what is right, why it is right, and how we can do right.
So, as I think about the “Occupy” phenomenon beyond my own equipment shed, only one percentage really makes sense to me. I’m in the 100% of us who should be taking an interest in where this nation is headed.
[Edit: The following was in my morning readings the day after I wrote this post]
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
- 1 Timothy 6:6-10
May I learn to be content.