Many times in my life, in myself and others, I have seen how inaccurate, incomplete, often negative views can be reinforced by brooding or brainwashing — by a person going into some kind of echo chamber (in their head, on the Internet, only spending time with similar people in the real world, etc.) for a long time and repeating certain thoughts or feelings over and over until they become more and more extreme. The same was apparently true in the Buddha’s time, about 2,600 years ago: “‘He insulted me, he hit me, he beat me, he robbed me’ — anger will never cease in those who dwell on such thoughts” (Dhammapada, 3).
But real people are small and complicated. Everyone finds themselves born into a certain body, family, country, etc., which can be hard to escape. Everyone has had many unique past experiences that informed them. No one can see or learn everything. The only way to understand the complexity of life or people is to get out of your comfort zone (either mentally or physically) and have strange, new, different experiences. Brooding or brainwashing in isolation usually only makes one’s views more xenophobic, unrealistic, inaccurate, and incomplete; having difficult, new conversations and experiences usually makes one’s views more connected, realistic, accurate, and complete.
Here is a nice Ted talk, which says pretty much the same thing:
If karma is intention, how is it karmically pure to intentionally allow others to do your dirty work for you (e.g., to kill or be selfish to obtain your food or money, to kill people or steal things to defend your home or country, to kill germs or bugs in your home or office, to raise children so you don’t have to, etc.)? Aren’t you intentionally neglecting what is karmically best for the person who is serving you?
Similarly, even if someone didn’t intend to do a particular act of violence (e.g., to hit someone with their car), mustn’t there have been a intentional decision/willingness to create the circumstances that might give rise to that particular act of violence (e.g., to drive a car instead of taking another mode of transportation, to drive too fast, not to pay very close attention to the road, etc.)?
Some might argue that the act of generosity in serving another person cancels-out the impurity of the bad action, but the early Buddhist seed-and-fruit metaphor seems to say that each karmic seed bears one karmic fruit, meaning that both the bad deed and the good deed will bear separate fruits.
(As yet another Star Trek TV series is soon to be released) The most interesting thing to me about Star Trek is that it seems to try to show how liberal Americans want the future to be. Though civilians are shown occasionally, the overwhelming focus is on Star Fleet and themes like:
- a single, globalizing/universalizing, hierarchical, US/UN-type federal government that seeks to run everything in the universe with positivist science and a defensive-only military
- leaders should have arrogant, extroverted, emotional, and self-indulgent alpha personalities, and people should either replace them or follow them obediently
- socialism of most things, eliminating large corporations and money, but allowing small companies (e.g., Quark’s casino in DS9) and trading of commodities (e.g., latinum, dilithium, antiques, etc.)
- technophilia and hedonism in many forms
- politically correct inclusion of 1-2 members of many ethnicities, genders, and species, though most humans are either Caucasians, African Americans, or East Asians
- positivistic scientism and English in public (emphasizing math, engineering, chemistry, biology, etc.), and pushing most social science and humanities topics to people’s off-duty hours or private quarters
Here are several infrastructual things that South Asian countries often seem to do better than the US:
- the existence of low-cost or free state-run hospitals, in addition to more expensive private hospitals
- low prices on basic-needs products (staple foods, utilities, etc.), because of controls by the government
- state-run trains that are cheap and go to every major city
- the use of international standards (metric, ISO, international voltages and plugs support, etc.)
- greater variety of products imported from foreign countries
- using the most cost-efficient technology that will do the job by default, not requiring people to pay for luxuries
- not adding large corporate or government bureaucracy, litigation, and surveillance to every little thing
- a preference for traditional cultures that do things in natural, local, eco-friendly ways (e.g., eating fresh food, using biofuels, minimizing electricity use, using natural building materials, planting lots of trees or living in a forest, etc.)
- a preference for smaller, more energy efficient and easy-to-fix vehicles (bikes, scooters, motorcycles, tuk tuks, etc.)
- commonsense safety or sanitation precautions (e.g., having switches on power outlets, not building electrical wires into walls, using natural gas in canisters and stoves that are stored outside, running rain gutters under sidewalks and making sidewalks out of stone or metal panels that can be lifted, etc.)
Karma (or God’s judgment) probably doesn’t stop at the door to the office or courtroom. Nature doesn’t respect humans’ separation of business vs. personal.
In my experience, every large group, nation, etc. contains the full range of people, from terrible to wonderful. “They” are not all bad, and “we” are not all good. Please stop seeing the world in terms of simplistic categories, and start seeing the incredible complexity of life.
What is so “adult” or “mature” about intoxication and violence (in all their many forms)? Why doesn’t growing up involve stopping behaving like an animal?