Friday, July 17, 2009
Maybe I've been watching too much "My Name Is Earl"
In the back of my mind, I think I might believe in karma. I do believe in a general "what goes around comes around" philosophy, which is why the Christian golden rule of "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" is a good rule of thumb: By doing good you create an environment of good that works for you and for everyone else, but by doing bad, you create conditions that, even in the absence of a supernatural push, can bite you in the ass.
The Greeks figured this out millennia ago, and in the process condemned high school seniors thousands of years in the future to boring videos of productions of Oedipus Rex that would go way over their heads.
But I sometimes suspect that karma exists, and he/she/it/they is/are especially pissed off by pride, hubris, and arrogance. Back in the 1990s I used to know a particularly virulent Korea-basher, who literally could not get through the day unless he had spent the morning finding some Korea news in the paper to bitch about (and frankly, it wasn't that hard for him). When a train derailment occurred in a southern city, due to workers digging under the tracks and weakening the foundation on which the rails rested, he spent half an hour talking Mizar-like about how fu¢ked up the Koreans were, how this would always be a third-world country, and — this is where karma perked up his/her/its/their ears — "this kind of thing would never happen in the US."
A few months later (and you can see where this is going), four dozen people were killed in Alabama when a tugboat piloted by a captain who was lost and too embarrassed to radio that fact in, smashed into a river bridge, which caused it to collapse when the next Amtrak train passed over. Many of the victims drowned in this terrible tragedy. Both tragedies sickened me, especially since they were utterly preventable. But in the back of my mind, it almost felt as if this person had nudged karma in that direction. Karma, if it exists, can be a bitch.
In 1994, a devastating 6.7-magnitude earthquake hit the Los Angeles region, with an epicenter at Northridge. It was the most costly earthquake in US history: Freeway sections collapsed and an apartment building's second and third floors pancaked onto the floor below. Dozens were killed. Southern California worked overtime to fix the damage and get back to normal, and it was during those days or weeks afterward that officials in Japan talked up the superiority of Japanese earthquake preparation and technology.
Again, you can see where I'm going with this. Exactly one year later, on the same date (January 17), a 6.9-magnitude earthquake hit the Kobe region of Honshu, Japan's main island, killing thousands of people and destroying some 100,000 buildings.
In 1997, I heard over and over and over again how messed up Korea was to have gotten into the financial crisis it found itself. True, that, but I was reminded of the hubris that came along with that — "this is not how we do it in the West/US" — last year when the American finance system was in meltdown for much the same kind of thing.
And I started thinking of that today when I saw news of this tragedy involving six people in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta, including four foreigners, killed in a bomb blast. It was presented by cmm, who noted that twenty hours earlier, resident ranter wjk had described Indonesia as a place "where can you get bombed to pieces simply because you were of a foreign race in a local night club," in response to aaronm saying somewhere else how much better Indonesia was than Korea. aaronm held his ground, saying that Indonesia was given a passing grade in terms of risk and it was still better than Korea on other fronts.
I'm not sure how karma might play in that, but I'm always leery of saying how great something is among me and mine or where we are, lest we alert karma. Maybe it's the Korean in me (I'll be one of those parents talking about how ugly and stupid their offspring are). Maybe aaronm alerted karma, who may not like the use of fugly porn stars as avatars, and maybe wjk is himself about to evoke his/her/its/their wrath. And maybe I myself should just STFU.
In fact, I'm not trying to make light of any of these tragedies, including the recent bombing in Jakarta. Loss of life is tragic, especially when it is preventable or the result of violence. It angers me that Islamists are trying to destroy the tourist economy in order to effect economic ruin so that desperate people will flock to their austere and strict version of Islam.
I just wish karma would pay attention to them (or maybe he/she/it/they do/does).
In conclusion, I'm not sure if karma exists, but sometimes I have strong suspicions that this is how God/nature/the powers that be operate, from time to time. Either that or wjk is al Qaeda.
And if that's true, karma is a bitch. A vengeful, hairy-upper lipped bitch with a moon face, who prolly needs to mow the lawn to boot. She hates you. (And she might be starting to notice those Hyundai Genesis 2009 Car of the Year ads.)