Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Danger of "I'm owed"

Over the last few days two images have been in my mind.  One is the image of the riots and looting going on in the UK and the violence that has broken out in there and other areas of Europe.  I see a lot of young people running in and out of stores and institutions they broke into, standing around things they are burning, and attacking police officers.  Maybe pictures are not as telling as they should be, but these young people seem to be well fed and in able enough condition.  The riots are over people's displeasure at the government, the economy, and fear over what tomorrow brings.  Some use such times to pull together, share the sacrifice, and hunker down for hard times.  Others, like these thugs, use the same times to pillage.  I saw an article in the UK Telegraph calling these youth basically spoiled amoral brats who feel they are owed for merely existing.  When the "I'm owed' generation gets inconvenienced, watch out.  While I cannot feel pity for their plight, I do feel a sadness for the mentality that allows such actions to exists.

The other images that play in my head are the horrific scenes in the Horn of Africa where famine has once again set in.  Fed by years of drought, inept and corrupt governance (or lack of any at all), and other factors, famine is once again gripping a people who back in the 1980's suffered horribly as well.  The stories of people walking for months and days just to find sustenance and safety are heart breaking.  The pictures of near dead children, dehydrated infants, and anemic looking adults should soften even the hardest heart.  Of course, aid will come (and hopefully not be scooped up by corrupt war lords and other officials), but for many it will come too late.

My idea was to give those in the UK and other assorted areas where there is fighting to stay in a comfortable lifestyle a little reality check.  I though it would be something to start posting pictures of those suffering in the Horn of Africa on every flat surface large enough to hold it with a simple message: "Do you really have it that bad?"  I doubt it will work, because the self centered lack empathy.

That is the big danger of "I am owed."  When the best a person can do is become so fixated on what they want, they will be oblivious to the needs of others and the harm they are inflicting.  It displays itself in so many ways: it is in the CEO who lays off people while taking millions in bonuses, it is the thug who destroys another person's property for the sake of destroying it, it is the war lord who hoards relief meant for his people, it is the person who strips the dignity of another person, reducing them to a sex toy; it is the bully who builds his or her personality by showing just how cruel they can be to the weak, it is the demagogue who whips up the masses with divisive rhetoric just so he or she can accrue power.  It is the driving force in our society: I am owed_________.  Money, power, a car, a home, a job, popularity, fame, the newest electronic gadget, and the list goes on and on.  But why?  Because the person worked hard and saved?  Because the person in a genuinely good person?  Because the person  has good ideas that will benefit those around them?  Sometimes.  More often than not, though, the reason I am owed is just because I happen to breath in and breath out.  If we want to take a good look at what 'I am owed' has wrought, take a good look at the troubles this world has.

The Corporal works of mercy are:
  • To feed the hungry;
  • To give drink to the thirsty;
  • To clothe the naked;
  • To harbor the homeless;
  • To visit the sick;
  • To ransom the captive;
  • To bury the dead.
The spiritual works of mercy are:
  • To instruct the ignorant;
  • To counsel the doubtful;
  • To admonish sinners;
  • To bear wrongs patiently;
  • To forgive offenses willingly;
  • To comfort the afflicted;
  • To pray for the living and the dead. 
These are not exhaustive lists of how to watch out for each other, but they are some of the main ones.  AS I have said to my own parishioners, you'll notice that the phrase 'who deserve it' does not appear anywhere in the above listing.  Getting away from the 'I am owed' mentality and its inherent dangers means incorporating the needs of others as a focus in our lives.

Things are going to get rough as the economy gets tougher and more precarious.  WE can either act like thugs and riot taking what we believed we are owed or we can pull together and watch out for one another; only one of these is compatible with our faith.  All of us would do very well to leave behind "I'm owed" behind. 

No comments:

Post a Comment