Karma is the concept that what you do is done to you. You do dirt, you get dirt. You do good, good comes to you. The problem is that a lot of people want to specify their karmic reward. It doesn’t work like that. The good you do today is not instantly rewarded, or placed on account like frequent flier miles. It is distributed based on forces unknown and unseen to us. Your karmic good may not come back to you in ways you recognize, but that does not change your duty to do it. It is more faith than science but it is real and it is in operation all the time.
Recently, I’ve witnessed tea party enthusiasts recoiling in horror when Jerry Brown had the temerity to do what they say they want done, slash spending. “It’s okay to kill other people’s programs, just not mine,” they exclaim. I’ve seen progressives dismiss those concerned about the massive debt as knuckle dragging throwbacks in an attempt to keep the money flowing. What I don’t see very often is truth or constructive conversation. Budgets will be cut, pain will be felt. It will be exquisitely bi-partisan.
We got into this problem by lying. To each other, to ourselves. We pushed off dealing with reality so we could keep spending. Banks created liar loans so they could take obscene profits. It wasn’t just the government that kept writing checks, it was all of us. It was mass delusion on scale usually only seen at rave festivals.
While President Obama has his own issues to answer for (expansion of the Wall Street bailout, failure to regulate the financial sector, allowing rampant speculation in commodities to go unchecked), to pin blame for the current situation on him is like a perverse game of musical chairs. This mess started with Nixon (repeal of gold standard), accelerated under Reagan (insane military spending, savings and loan crisis) and Bush Sr. (a war) and was compounded when Wall Street was set free by Bill Clinton (repeal of Glass-Steigel). Bush the Younger, true to form, was not original, or alone, in his looting of our national treasure (unfunded tax cuts, two undeclared wars, unfunded prescription drug program, the Wall Street bailout).
These men were not necessarily evil people, but participants in a system that requires them to lie and exploit to advance. Expedience over stewardship. The immediate over the future. American politics is a bad karma generator.
Many of these moves were made while diversions where set for the public. Scandals, bad actors, terrorists and the like have been trundled out to captivate our attention while our accounts are looted. The art of creating schisms as cover has been a tool of both parties all along, but the repeated use of division has raised the noise level of public discourse to the point that no one is being heard. And now that the money is disappearing, the divisions are opening up between all of us.
We’ve decided as a culture that it’s a good money making enterprise to promote conflict. It’s gotten so bad that Michelle Bachmann has rewritten history to say that the founding fathers ended slavery. Seriously. That would mean we fought the Civil War for no reason. Sarah Palin, Keith Olbermann (gone for now), Fox News, CNN, MSNBC they’re all getting paid to be in a shouting match. Facts have become obsolete. Now things just have to sound true and be presented by people who can talk over each other without pause. Media, ‘lamestream’ or otherwise, is more an impediment to truth than a reporter of it.
We’ve sown these seeds. These are the things we think are important. Discord, disagreement, intractability, stalemate. The problem is karma will out. It always does.
Here locally, in the universe I can do something about, I’ve seen some harsh judgment passed on people who’ve lost their jobs, through no fault of their own. The myth is that they’re collecting luxurious unemployment benefits they don’t deserve. Really? They had to work at some point to get unemployment benefits. It’s not welfare.
To say that people used to making more than about $30,000 per year are milking unemployment insurance is ignorant. They can’t pay their bills and they’re going under. But it’s another example of how we’re collectively creating bad karma by making people victimized by greed on Wall Street the guilty. It also ignores that the unemployment benefit indirectly benefits all of us by keeping the economy going. If they’re lying, they’ll get what’s coming. If they aren’t, they need the help. To lump them all together is a distinctly bad idea that will come back to haunt us.
It’s an extension of the argument that nobody should have to contribute to the benefit of someone else. That’s an odd concept, because that’s what society is at its root. We don’t live in an agrarian society where self reliance wasn’t just admirable, but required. We live in a highly specialized, interdependent society where it’s impossible for the majority of people to be completely self reliant.
And if we could all support ourselves and not contribute for the common good, is that the world we want to live in? Some sort of dystopian ‘Little House on the Prairie’ with survival rations and automatic weapons? Is it worth it to spiral into insane selfishness?
I know people who feel like failures because they can’t make the money they once made. Some of them have lost their homes. Others have filed bankruptcy. What I say to them is this: Focus on what you are succeeding at and if you can’t find anything to point to, go out and create it. There are an infinite number of ways to measure success, wealth is only one and probably not the most important.
I know how to love and I am loved. I know how to forgive. I have compassion. I give it, even if sometimes I don’t want to. Sometimes I get to what looks like a bad place and my situation will turn because I believe it will turn and it always does. I don’t know why, but I’m not going to jinx it by questioning it.
The amount of money I have in the bank at any given point is no indicator as my success as a human being. Not every deal I’m a part of is successful, but that does not diminish that I achieve my goals more than I miss them and that I always give my best, no matter the venue or client. I do this whether there is a paycheck involved or not. I know that karma matters.
Not everyone lives with these beliefs about themselves, but they should. Instead of focusing on status and possessions, focus on the people and the life you do have. I assure you, if you study it enough, you’ll see it’s amazing. The friends, family, the experiences and love you share with them, these are the important things in this existence. It’s hard to wall out the garbage and name calling, but your life will improve when you do it.
When Rodney King uttered the famous words, ‘Can’t we all just get along,‘ he became the subject of ridicule. He was treated for his sincere effort as a punch line to a bad joke. Well, the joke’s on us now. We have to get along. There is no choice. The nation will never be one united, homogenous mass that has the same values, goes to the same church and likes the same entertainments. It’s the bell curve. It’s natural distribution. America has always been a wide spectrum of beliefs and ways of living. We need to stop fighting this reality and recognize the value of all human beings.