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Group Karma and Barack Obama

November 12, 2008

in Karma and Reincarnation

Yes, I’m talking about a black president being elected, the economic downturn and even the war in Iraq.

Karma is usually explained from an individual perspective. It’s mainly about personal responsibility. Karma is both a message of: make sure you act right! and a call for justice in general. From the passive perspective karma is also about the circumstances one is in.

Group karma takes both points a step further. Let’s start with me. I’m Caucasian (to use the pc phrase). I live in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. I am a woman. I am single. I am well educated and in many ways talented. I’m reasonably good looking. I’m a webdesigner. I’m a webpublisher and I guess I’m a writer.

About half of those things were given to me by fate, or karma or what ever. The other half are things I worked for or chose at some point. Each of those things is also a label. Each of those things makes me a member of a group. The things I was born into make me privileged. Except for the part of being female. Recent news has it that women are still over represented among the poorest in the world.

Those labels are not just part of my identity as a Caucasian woman for instance – but they are also part of how I am perceived. That is group karma. I am perceived to have things in common with other white women from Western Europe. I found that out the hard way when teaching kids in the Rotterdam inner city. There were a lot of kids from immigrant background in that school and it was around that time that Theo van Gogh was murdered. For those who haven’t followed the story: Theo van Gogh was a controversial film maker who dared tackle subjects others would not touch. He ticked off Muslims by making a film about abuse of women in the Quran with another controversial figure on the Dutch scene: Hirsi Ali. He paid for that with his life.

I’m not going to go into the questions of whether that movie should have been made that way. Or the question how women’s rights in Muslim countries should be fought for – it is clear that Theo van Gogh should not have been murdered. But he was and the whole school had to deal with the consequences. The group karma of Dutch Muslims at that time was that the rest of the population felt they were to blame. Even though most had not even heard of van Gogh before it happened. In response Dutch Muslim women wore head scarfs more (continuing a trend after 9-11) and Muslims generally were on the defensive about their background.

I understood all that. Being a theosophist had perhaps prepared me for this kind of difficulty. However, since I was not actually a very good teacher, the students did not appreciate or realize that. I had not yet proved myself and my background put me at a disadvantage with them. They were angry at Dutch society for putting them in a corner and I, with a very main stream accent and look, got the fallout in class one day.
I tried telling them that to me they were Dutch – didn’t they have a Dutch passport? But they told me that they didn’t feel all that welcome at the moment. I did understand, but I could hardly confirm them in their sense of not being at home in the country most of them had lived in all their life.

I may not have been a great teacher. In fact I think I was terrible in many ways. But I did face up to my Dutch group karma that day.

The link to my title is this: perception is karma too. Specifically – the USA electing a black president is good for the group karma of that nation. It shows the world that the USA is not just Caucasian. It is not just Western. The USA has people from all kinds of backgrounds, and a qualified man with a father from Kenya can be elected president. (Hollywood: isn’t it time for a movie about a woman president?).

Tomorrow I’ll go into another aspect of group karma: the economy.

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