Sunday, November 23, 2008


So I may be jumping ahead, in talking about this article but I wanted to tie this in with our discussion about Karma. When we were discussing the philosophical problems with Karma, I was surprised to note that Karma and its ties to the caste system, and the suffering derived from castes that is ignored because of the concept of Karma was never brought up. To me this seems to be the most damaging argument--that Karma in a way desensitizes people to others suffering. Perhaps this is a branch of the determinism problem, but I think Rushdie's editorial touches on the problem of desensitization in an interesting way. Any thoughts?


richie w said...

you bring up a very interesting point, one more of which i had failed to think about when thinking about karma. i agree very much that karma, as well as rebirth, has a desensitizing effect. there seems to be a "nothing really matters" attitude built in when it comes to thinking about the nature of the present life. surely things do matter as this is the purpose of karma, but this attitude can seemingly be projected onto others, aside from the self. of course karma affects the self, but when we think of others' suffering we can instantly brush it off with the thought that, "because they suffered so much in this life they will suffer less in the next." but taking rushdie's thinking into mind, this desensitization is less the fault of karma as it is, plainly as rushdie puts it, the fault of religion. from a fundamentalist point of view, the suffering of others can be merely ascribed to each individuals deserving of punishment. god is simply punishing the wicked for their sins. from this standpoint it does not matter if they actually did "deserve" it or not, surely they must have done something, at some point, to anger god. take hurricane katrina for example. not only did jerry falwell grace us with his opinion why god would allow such a disaster, but we also heard from al qaeda. things of this nature go back to the flood and noah. sure, god looked around and saw that many things were not turning out the way he hoped (oh the theological drama this presents!), but did the WHOLE planet necessarily deserve to be wiped out, and that some drunk and his family would be the beneficiaries of god's admonition? so, while i agree with you very much that karma has the tendency to harbor insensitivity towards others, i would expand that further to religion as a whole. of course, i don't mean to generalize religion as being so corrupt, but, well, thousands of years of history sort of speak for themselves. perhaps that sounds out of bounds, but rushdie has very good reasons to be angry, and it's his earnest words that are so compelling.

pamela1103 said...

I agree that Karma does seem to desensitize people to others suffering. It is difficult for me to understand how people can be killed and the Indian culture is so accustomed to it, that it isn't that big of a deal. It is difficult to see how some could be punished so severly by Karma and others believe that it is acceptable. The idea of the caste system in itself reminds be of the idea of Nietzche where there are elites and nonelites. It seems that the idea of Karma almost appeases the peasants so that they will accept their place in life, and allow the elites to continue to rule them. Through this I think that the people have begun to accept the awful killing of their friends and family because they are convinced they have done something in a past life to deserve it. To me it seems crazy to think these killings are ever justified enough for people to become accustomed to them.

ejmcneeley said...

I agree with you Richie...the desensitizing affect karma seems to have can be applied to religion as a whole. You hear of people attributing disasters of both kinds (natural and manmade) on someone or a group of people's actions. I have personally heard it said and implied that HIV/Aids is punishment from God (against homosexuality and other sexual sins). One could see the reasoning behind it until you hold a dying child in your arms that was born with HIV through no fault of their own. The judgement/punishment theory seems to fall apart there. The vast majority of people worldwide that have HIV/Aids are women and child who get it through unfaithful husbands and fathers. I take this issue personal because I have held those children and seen this in action while living in Africa. And I heard and saw the punishment/judgement declaration made by Bible believing American Christians. It allowed them the freedom to ignore the issue and remove themselves from the conversation. Giving condoms out at the Christian hosptial was not allowed. Sex education was frowned upon as well. Why help someone being judged? We look to try and explain every event or happening and it seems when no answer can be found, God is the default answer. Why did the tsunami kill so many people? Well, God caused/allowed it to happen, so don't worry about it. "It's a mystery" does not explain these events. So yes, I think that karma along with many religious tradtions desensitize us to suffering.

Blake said...

I agree, religion does seem to have that desensitizing effect. However, to me this seems to me to be one of the points of religion. Religion is supposed to help one deal/give one something to believe in so then, when things happen to you or to others, there is a reason behind the madness.

It seems to me that most people in this world are not equipped to deal with/look at the suffering that goes on in the world for what it actually is--circumstantial madness. Suffering is a fact of life and we use religion to explain why something so bad could exist.

However, we also use religion to explain all the God that exists (all the stuff that is not suffering). Religion itself detaches us from the situation when we use an outside force to explain suffering or joy.