Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Entitlement

I work as an Area Coordinator at a small university in Wheeling West Virginia. Which means I eat in the cafeteria every day. Usually, eating in the cafeteria of a small university means eating overcooked green beans and mushy carrots with meatloaf and pizza every night. But not here. Here at Wheeling Jesuit University the food in the cafeteria is top notch. For example:

Last night we had the following options to choose from for dinner:
1) Chicken and Bean burrito supremes
2) Grilled Tuna Steaks
3) Crab-stuffed tortellinis
4) Pizza/Hamburger/all that other stuff
5) or Blue Cheese and spinach stuffed Filet Mignon!

No kidding. Last night they were serving filet freaking mignon in the cafeteria. Imagine my chagrin then, when last night a student complained that the lemon zested grilled tuna steaks could be more tender. MORE TENDER!! I ate sheperd's pie every night for four years. My college cafeteria was a glorified salt-lick dipped in laxatives, and students are complaining because the grilled tuna steaks could be more tender! Talk about being upset because your wallet is too small for all your fifties and your diamond shoes are too tight.

This type of attitude stems from something in America that many, many of us have bought into. We believe we are entitled to the things that we have been fortunate enough to receive on a regular basis. I believe I am entitled to clean running water. I am entitled to take a shower for as long as I want. I am entitled to throw as much garbage on the corner as I want. I am entitled to plant whatever I want in my backyard regardless of whether or not it is an invasive species. I am entitled to cover my grass in fertilizer that will pollute the water table. I am entitled to eat as much meat as I want regardless of the living conditions of the animals slaughtered for my benefit. I am entitled to eat as much as I want, sleep as much as I want, play as much as I want, drink as much as I want, smoke as much as I want, and so help me when someone gets in my way I'm going to scream that they are judging me. Thank goodness holding people accountable has fallen out of fashion.

The problem with this entitlement is that it takes advantage of those with no voice. As long as someone or something is unable to speak up for itself, I don't hear it. The earth is screaming at me through melting ice caps, desertification, rising ocean levels, increased hurricane activity, increased seizmic activity etc... but it isn't speaking english, so I don't listen.

Children in Africa and India and China are screaming at me with flies on their eyes, but Sally Struthers doesn't let them talk, and I don't like her anyway, so I don't listen. Pass the tuna please.

Millions have been cut to shreds in the streets of Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, the The Sudan, Rwanda, The Congo, but do I care? Not really. I mean it bothers me, but I'm entitled to change the channel. Honestly. I get a little sad that rivers are actually dammed witht he corpses of boys and men, but it all just makes for an interesting soap box. I don't do anything.

The penal system in America is shouting through clogged prisons, and a racially biased court system. I am paying to put people to death because they couldn't afford a lawyer, while I watch murderers get paid millions to catch a football. But it isn't polite to talk about politics or race, so we ignore it. Football on the other hand is the common bond among all men, so let's not jeapordize the sport.

Thousands of babies are being cut out and thrown away every year. But they don't breath yet so they aren't even human. Let's go ahead and call those tiny little babies by their true title: parasites. To the curb. It's my right.

I can't help but think what will happen to me? Will I eventually understand that the Earth has a voice? That chickens and corn and Africa and the poor in America all deserve to be noticed? Will I begin to look at myself as a tender of the garden instead of the conqueror of a foreign land with women to rape and homes to burn? Will I begin to understand that without intentionally taking care of my home, I will soon be swimming in my own sewage? I hope so, but frankly... there isn't much hope. I won't see the consequences of increased hurricanes because I don't live by the coast. I won't see the effects of American injustice, genocide, famine, abortion, and global starvation in my backyard, so I'll change the channel. More football, pass the chili and beer.

I know that it won't do me any good to hold my head and cry because the world is falling apart. But I guess it's time I stepped up and did my part. It's time I started paying a little extra to eat free-range chicken. It's time I started turning off the shower while I lather and turn it on again to rinse. I should shut off the water in the sink while I'm shaving. I should turn off the lights, and drive slowly to conserve gas. I should carpool, and donate money to the World Food Programme. I should go on a trip to Mississippi to help rebuild after the destruction of Katrina. Maybe after I start doing something about the broken system, I won't feel guilty when I watch football on Sunday.

I just hope I do more than say something. I hope I fall into action and I pray that the rest of entitled America catches up before we set fire to the bed.

3 comments:

Masjid Dove said...

this is beautiful... and yet I can hear all MTVers telling you to "chill' and not being them down with all your 'facts and numbers".

It is inevitable what is coming in this country, the great divide gets wider, the cool breeze turns to rigid coldness and the masses either become drones for the queen, or in this case king/president bee....or they break free... and then the rest of the world will sit back and watch the satelitte beam of young americans brutalized and living under 'martial law'... the rest of the world might witness the almost dream like act of some young defiant college student staring downt he barrel of a tank on washington mall......

just maybe....we are becoming what we had forced the rest of the world to be for us

m.d.

Maria's Biggest Fan said...

As usual your insight is poignant, articulate, and bold as it should be. I'd just like to pose a question in adding to your conclusion.

The question is this: In the face of these realities what do we do with the fact that by and large our churches do very little to educate people on these matters, let alone address the implications they have on our understanding of God's action in the world, the nature of true discipleship, and the importance and power of a Spirit-empowered community?

Obviously I would never deny that we all have an individual part to play, but if we stop there (or maybe even start there) what will become of The Church, that peculiar community that God desires to work through to carry his blessing to the ends of the earth?

I'm not looking for America to catch up, why should they? - unless we buy into the either of the twin lies that America is in in any way a Christian nation or that the end purpose of our existence is a compassionate (but ultimately secular) humanism.

In answer to my question I propose the following answer: Father, in your great mercy would you fan the flame of the Spirit within your Church to passionately embrace its responsibility to be the light of the world and the salt of the earth in sacrificial service to the ends of the globe in the pattern of your Son and for the glory of your name. Amen.

Joshua said...

To quote Richard Middleton and Brian Walsh's book "Truth is Stanger than it Used to Be" from which most of these sentiments have arisen:

"A truly postmodern appreciation of otherness that would abandon all attempts at Promethean mastery must be able to hear the voices of the trees, fields, earth and heaven as they sing their praise. But it must also be able to listen to that very same creation as it groans and weeps in travail. Like its human cousins, the rest of creation knows both joy and sorrow. And it is only when we can hear the lament of the creation that we can be called by its voice to covenantal responsibility..."

"In a postmodern world in which any worldview is discarded as a modernist luxury and whose ethos is characterized by a carnivalesque cacophony in which no one's voice finally gets heard, we are employing biblical language to convey a worldview and ethos that can bring healing. We offer this biblical vision of a covenantal creation, wrought by the overwhelming generosity of God's love and eloquent in its songs of praise and groans of sorrow, in critique of the mechanistic worldview of modernity, in opposition to any anthropocentric mastery and exploitation of the world...and in fulfillment of the important postmodern sentiment of wanting to hear the voice of the marginalized other."

"This is a worldview that insists upon attending to the given. This isnot just another way to bolster up an oppressive metaphysics of presence. The given is not there for our mastery but it is offerred to us as an invitation to covenantal responsibility... A biblical view of creation engenders precisely such a gratitude. We receive the world as a gift."

I would encourage the Church to think seriously about what this long quote entails for Her.