We are the 100 Percent: What Occupy Wall Street means for an Enlightened Society

A post by Benjamin Riggs on the liberation that Occupy Wall Streets presents for an enlightened society.

Benjamin Riggs
25 October 2011

A post by Benjamin Riggs on the liberation that Occupy Wall Streets presents for an enlightened society.

“Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding. We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man.” — Martin Luther King, Jr.

As a 29-year-old man with liberal leanings, I understand the tendency to take to the streets full of righteous anger. But I think it is so important to remember that we are at a crossroads: we have reached a place in our history as a species where the working class (99%) can no longer stand on the sideline and apathetically watch as the rich (1%) continue to deepen their pockets at the expense of the environment and everyone else.

The time has come to stop pretending that some do not have more than their fair share, while others struggle just to get by. However, our aim must not become to defeat or humiliate the rich. We must always seek their friendship and understanding. We must never forget that the end we seek is a society that is at peace with itself—an enlightened society.

Whether it is rich or poor, the 1% or the 99%, us and them are mere words that only describe relative, superficial distinctions within a single family. I am the 99% and the 1% — because the 99% and the 1% are nothing more than distinctions created by economists and politicians. I am the 100%. And so are you. So it’s time for us to move beyond the limitations of economic and political activism and reconnect with “the power of being in which we all participate.” There we will find the secret to revolution.

Which is? That it takes places within. That is where true freedom is to be found. Work with your own mind and you will discover Truth. Proclaim Truth and change the world. Try to change the political environment without working with your mind first, and you will impregnate the political system with your insanity. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the current condition of politics!

We are called to be representatives of Justice—not social justice, or economic justice, but Justice. The task is difficult, but difficult circumstances demand nothing more than patience and perseverance. We have to be willing to selflessly or lovingly proclaim Truth, and afforded others the necessary space and time to reconcile their own conscience with the uncompromising facts. The opposition is not the other person. Within the spacious atmosphere of Love the other person is revealed to be our brother or sister. The real obstacle is ignorance.

The only obstacle we face is ignorance—not their ignorance, but our ignorance. Ignorance here is like an internal blind-spot that enables superficial classifications like black and white, rich and poor, the 99% and the 1% to divide us as a people. Such distinctions are like lines on a map. When we turn inward and experience the humanity, from which we all emerge, it is like looking at earth from outer-space—there are no borders that divide us.

Since ignorance, not the other person, is the opposition there is no need to aggressively attack anyone, verbally or physically. The goal of an effective protest is to unravel the confusion that created and sustains the oppressive system. This is accomplished by revealing the contradictory nature of the stance taken by the legislating body, which, in a democracy, is an extension of the electorate.  As the celebrated Catholic Theologian G.K. Chesterton wrote, “Contradiction is just truth standing on its head in order to get attention.”

The time has come to mute the incendiary rhetoric of news pundits. This cannot be accomplished with posters, petitions, or chants. It is a silent task. In silence, Truth proclaims the basic dignity of Humanity. This dignity is our inheritance as human beings. It is this thread of integrity that binds the human family in a way that is unimaginable. Everyone—the 99% and the 1%—without exception can tap into this quintessential intelligence, because it is who we as human beings actually are: the 100%.

Upon this ground true revolution can take place, because on this level we cease to be conservatives or liberals. There is only humanity and the unavoidable responsibility to acknowledge and respect this basic dignity in everyone. This is the enlightened potential of humanity that lays dormant in our society.

I am not saying that all of the Occupy Protesters should go home. But I am saying that they should sit down, where they are, together, and watch their own mind, because this where the situation they are protesting was created. In order to create a true revolution—a revolution inspired, not by the truth of the 99% or the 1%, but by Truth itself—we have to be the 100%. We have to come forth as complete people, comfortable not only with our own humanness, but the humanity of everyone around us, lest the protest end in violence or futility.

Benjamin Riggs

Benjamin Riggs is the spirituality editor of, and a writer for, elephantjournal.com, and is the director of The Refuge Meditation Group in Shrevesport, LA. Visit his blog here.