Thoughts on Karma
An individual's Karma persists through the cycles of rebirth, but only within that person's lifetime. The Karma of a group, however, will last for generations.
I was thinking about UK politics (as one does; sitting in one's study drinking mocha latte before the heat of the summer day turns stifling and oppressive), and how the English are bristling at a possible PM with melanin. They are going through a bit of a crisis at the moment: Brexit. It appears to be self-inflicted, but it could be a reaction to the crisis that they never really crawled out of: austerity (also, a crisis of their own doing). That, in turn, was a reflex to the 2008 global underwriting collapse and the subsequent world-wide recession! It's been a rough century for the remains of the Commonwealth!
Indeed, after all that, the right-wing crusade by Putin to undermine western liberalism has been helped, in part, by the evolution of English culture and society. After being net exporters of imperial "wypipo" they are now importing People of Color who are every ounce (imperial sterling, of course) as Brit as the natives. Of course, they have always welcomed the posh, even if they have no respect for the riche nouveau. But, people are people, so when opportunity calls, there will be an answer. And, since providing opportunities in both the economic and educational senses of the word, starts at home, London has long been the center of British culture.
What does this have to do with Karma? Well, if Karma is the reciprocal reaction equal and, in some sense, the opposite of the original action as it "returns" upon the original "sender," then all that whirlwind is but the reaping of the storm that was sown by imperial gunships throughout the world that peaked more than a century in the past. I know that has been written about many times before now, and by much better writers with both more training as well as experience in the subject (and, personally, I am profoundly aware that I should be writing my Bill Batson post-Shazam fanfiction instead), but this thinking led me to an epiphany, of sorts.
I mean, what I'm about to write has been written before (again with the caveats mentioned above), but I just wanted to express the idea of karmic reincarnation as a metaphor, grounded in our psychological lives.
I died and was re-born when I left childhood and entered adolescence. I had the same identity, the memory of all (hopefully, most; actually, very little) of what I had done and what had happened to me, but I was no longer the same. Again, I died and was re-born when I left adolescence and entered adulthood. Over and over: yadda, yadda, yadda. Literally, there are legal separations that end when you die, of course. Contracts. Student loan payments. Those all stop when you die. And, I can think of how some punishments for minors are purged when they become adults. At least, from my personal experience, that appears to be the case. From what I've heard, I mean.
So, even if I can't suffer the direct consequences of the actions I took as a minor, for example (although, sometimes I can and will), I can definitely suffer the indirect consequences as well as what we call Karma. I think this applies throughout one's life, when death and rebirth--in the social sense--can occur at multiple times, or, even at any time! Thinking of Karma as the consequences of one's actions that outlast even one's lifetime is a way to look at the ethical perspectives over a long term. But there's more than just a difference between the perspectives, there is an important concept of subjectivity in Karma that can't be ignored.
When I die, I can no longer benefit or suffer any consequences, as I am no longer subject to any. (And as an extended aside, maybe I should be writing the fanfiction after all, as I just thought of a villain who wanted to remove all mass and all matter from the universe so that there would be no gravity ergo no time ergo squared he would live forever; of course, he's a he, as that's how an evil guy would solve the problem of thermodynamics: freeze it all! Chef kiss!)... Karma as a concept requires that reciprocal direction: return to sender. It's not merely the indirect consequences, and it's also not the direct consequences of an action, belatedly applied. If I was a bully to someone during my childhood, and they didn't like me then as well as now that we're supposedly adults, it's a direct consequence, and not Karma, and it definitely should really be something we can get beyond by now, right, Chad?
Seriously, Karma would be if Chad became a bully as a result of my childhood bullying, who passed it along to the person who became my boss and made my adult life miserable by bullying me (please note, Alanis Morisette notwithstanding, this would not be, in itself, ironic, unless I learned a lesson from that bullying, unlike Chad). But even if I escape the direct consequences of bullying Chad, the Karma of those actions will be present, in my lives post-childhood. I may try to deny my Karma, and even think I've escaped it, but it is with me, but only as long as there is a "me" in any real sense.
Cultures, like the British, may endure, but they can't be changeless. They have endured long enough, as the saying goes, to take revenge upon their children in their dotage. I mean, right from the start, they gave birth to children to take care of them when they aged. But they put the children to work first, never expecting them to succeed (they were only children, after all). I don't know, however, if a culture really does live on after death, the way that I feel that you and I have and will though the phases of life. Culture could die and be re-born in every single act of affirming or adhering or consuming it, but who defines it? My childhood was defined biologically, my adolescence defined hormonally, and the many lives of my adulthood were defined economically independent of any other status. If culture is consensus, then it could affirm its identity and its Karma by being accepting of, even grounding its present in, what it has done in the past.
Of course, that is what I think is the moral choice, given my own aspirations to Clarity and Groundedness. If the culture of UK has any aspirations at all right now, they need to see what they've become, clearly, by seeing what they've done. They (and they're not alone) have incorrectly defined freedom as being free from obstruction and free to pursue excellence, but what about freedom from oppression? In our privilege, we may have missed that.