TEXAS FAITH 52: What does the Occupy movement say about American society?

Dallas Morning News,

Dallas Morning News,

Each week we will post a question to a panel of about two dozen clergy, laity and theologians, all of whom are based in Texas or are from Texas. They will chime in with their responses to the question of the week. And you, readers, will be able to respond to their answers through the comment box.

First, we had the Tea Party movement. Now, we have the Occupy Wall Street movement. Both are citizen-driven efforts to get our leaders’ attention.

At this point, though, it is hard to grasp what precisely drives the Occupy movement. New York Times columnist David Brooks described it this way:

"If there is a core theme to the Occupy Wall Street movement, it is that the virtuous 99 percent of society is being cheated by the richest and greediest 1 percent. This is a theme that allows the people in the 99 percent to think very highly of themselves. All their problems are caused by the nefarious elite. Unfortunately, almost no problem can be productively conceived in this way."

Here, then, is the question for this week:

How do you interpret the Occupy movement? What do you think it says about American society?

NITYANANDA CHANDRA DAS, minister of ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness), Dallas 

The Occupy movement is opposed to the support of selfishness. Selfishness is a by-product of a civilization that is devoid of spiritual vision.

It is caused by maya, the illusory conception of the self. Under maya’s influence, we misconceive the body as the self and thus we accept various types of identities. Caucasian, African-American, Chinese, Republican, Hindu, Muslim, Christian, and so on are all based around the temporary body and temporary situations. This is contrasted with the fact that we are all eternal, beyond the body.

Just as polishing a cage does not satisfy the hunger of the bird, so the needs of the self cannot be fulfilled by one chasing the desires of the body.

The general tendency in modern society is to look for material solutions. However, this selfishness that is being protested is not a material issue but rather a spiritual problem. Without understanding where we are, an eternal spirit soul, we cannot venture towards our desired destination, which is peace and happiness.