First let’s say it: life isn’t fair. That’s a fact.
There are the Haves and the Have-Nots; some people seem a lot luckier or blessed than others. But here’s another fact: karma is absolutely and perfectly fair. You reap what you sow. What goes around, comes around. Etc.
Lately, there seems to be a great deal of talk about entitlement and privilege. These concepts have even taken on some pejorative meanings in certain discourses. However, what is often left out of the discussion about who is entitled or who has (unfair) privilege is the entire idea of karma.
There have been protests that certain groups of people having intrinsic privilege in our society. For example, the term white privilege is used to protest unfair advantage that one race has over some others. But on the other hand, there are social programs such as Affirmative Action that can be interpreted as privilege for African-Americans over other races. The term privilege is defined in the (Cambridge English) dictionary as “a special advantage or authority possessed by a particular person or group;” or “a peculiar benefit, advantage, or favor, a prerogative” (Merriam-Webster) granted to this group, perhaps based on skin color, socio-economic class, hereditary status, and so forth. As a definition, it simply describes what a person or group enjoys as against what others don’t. So, while it’s always agreeable to have privilege, anyone who protests one group’s privileges is immediately categorizing themselves as un- or under-privileged (in other words, as victimized). Thus, the group of this type of have-nots protests because it lacks whatever the privilege is.
Meantime, entitlement is another hot-button concept.
Some groups are entitled in terms of legal status, even including government programs. This would be under the header of legal entitlement. For instance, Social Security benefits fall into this category. But other groups feel entitled psychologically. Wikipedia suggests three varieties of this type of psychological entitlement, including “unrealistic, exaggerated, or rigidly held”, the latter being “especially prominent among narcissists.” This negative sense of entitlement is often mentioned in regards to the younger generations who were raised to feel that they should have certain rights, possessions, or ease simply by existing!
And so, we find ourselves as a society experiencing an upsurge of people protesting that they don’t have all the privileges that they are entitled to (in their mind). The protesters feel outraged about this state of affairs but have no clear plan as to how society and government should meet the conditions to which they feel entitled or envious of those who are so advantaged.
Okay, so now let’s talk about karma.
Let’s get back to Square One that life isn’t fair. Why isn’t life fair? Why are some people born with less privileges, or feel more victimized, than others? In a benevolent universe shouldn’t everyone have the same rights, privileges, entitlements, and good fortune? Well, karma doesn’t work that way. Your prior actions in life determine how much good fortune and benefit you deserve in this life as well as how much challenge you need to encounter in order to learn gratitude, humility, and compassion (these are the treasured components of wisdom). Not everyone was a darling or a saint in their past!
To realize that you chose the conditions of your birth – what race, what society, what gender, which parents, what faith, and what number of blessings or difficulties you would encounter – is to achieve understanding, learn acceptance, and continue your struggle from that point onwards rather than to wallow in the unfairness of your victimhood.
This is not to say that society can’t continue to strive to give its member the benefits of greater privilege and entitlement as far as is realistically possible. This might, for example, take the form of activism for social programs. However, once members of a society exhibit rage against their fate, insistence that others give them what they lack, and self-defeating behavior that moves them further away from their goals, then you have what in metaphysics is called ignorance, ignorance being the total lack of ownership of your particular karma and all its predicaments. It’s only when you acknowledge that the law of karma is perfect, and that if you lack privilege or what you feel entitled to, it was your doing in the first place, it’s then that you can see the fairness of life. Until then, you will not evolve, and will stay stuck in your anger and attached to your suffering.
Judi Thomases is a contributing blogger for JenningsWire online magazine.
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