Our societies are built upon the oppression of the poor and marginalised and yet, unless we remove ourselves entirely from the web of cords, laws, taxes, products, and biological needs inherent in twenty-first century life, we are forced to participate in the oppression of others, and the destruction of our habitats. We see, we know that the world is on the brink, yet we cannot escape. Facing such a reality, Jeremiah offers us a way forward: we lament, we express our rage, we retain hope by continuing to call for change, and through it all we never allow ourselves to be numbed or silenced by the enormity of it all.
We Christians who are citizens must be physically present on the border with México, that we might bear witness to the realities of what we experience alongside those who are most acutely affected by the policies of the current Administration.
A 2005 New York Times poll discovered that 80 percent of US citizens believe that it is indeed possible to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps (quoted on p. 70). In her new book Solidarity Ethics, Rebecca Todd Peters argues that it is this belief in self-sufficiency that, in part, underwrites the structural issues of oppression and inequality of our neoliberal globalized world. Global structural evils stand on the values and worldview of the privileged. And the benefits of privilege are so deeply woven into the fabric of our quotidian realities that it requires a concrete change in perspective—a conversion, in fact—to recognize the problems this privilege also creates for others.
In the midst of the Arab uprisings, the now famous magazine Charlie Hebdo published one of their traditional satirical covers. They titled the issue “Killings in Egypt” and drew the figure of a Muslim religious activist who was riddled with bullets. The subtitle was more than eloquent: “The Koran is a piece of shit,” the agonizing Muslim was made to say, because “it does not stop bullets.”
Living as a first-world citizen in a globalizing world presents a great moral challenge. Many people are aware that the wealthiest 20 percent of the world’s population consume 76.6 percent of the world’s resources, while the world’s poorest 20 percent are left with 1.5 percent. However, fewer people are aware that while basic education for everyone in the world would cost six billion dollars, US Americans spend eight billion dollars annually on cosmetics; that while water and sanitation for everyone in the world would cost nine billion dollars, Europeans annually spend eleven billion dollars on ice cream