Karmic Economics, Politics & Activism

Privilege and power

When I write about Karmic Economics, I am always confronted with the fact that I write from a place of great privilege. People say, “well that is all fine for YOU, who have social safety nets – but not everyone has the opportunities you have.”

Of course, this is true. I speak from my own reality, as it is really the only direct perspective that I have. I have never gone hungry or slept on the street.

That being recognized, I need to move forward from the place I am in. With privilege comes responsibility, and I feel like part of my responsibility is to share the opportunities I have and the lessons I am learning as I go. To feel guilty or let myself be silenced by my privilege serves no one.

Privilege and power are mirror aspects of the karmic pretzel. We may not have power over others but we do have power over our perceptions. We can’t alter the karma that brought us to our present situation, but because we have free will, we can set the scene in the present which will determine the reality of the next moment – which is of course, wholly determined by how we choose to perceive it. In this capacity we are all equal, regardless of our birth, circumstances, or wealth.

I didn’t choose to be born as a human being, of colonial descent, in this patch of geography called Canada. The odds agains this birth were astronomical, but look, here I am!

My karmic “good fortune” has landed me with more than my fair share of this world’s bounty, and so in my writings I feel the need to speak particularly to others who share my privilege. This is the most efficient way to recirculate learning – to share it with those who are closest at hand! I like to imagine that someone far away in a vastly different social-economic reality is reading my ramblings and resonating with them, but the truth is, that is unlikely. Anyone reading this blog probably has access to a computer, and that makes you so much closer to my experience than to that of a nomadic African herdsman. If you are the only person who ever reads this, I speak to you – because you are the one who is able to make this connection with me.

We hold the levers that can effect change for so many. If we, the privileged middle-class of Canada, spend our lives wallowing in consumer capitalism, investing in mines and hoarding our pennies, the amount of suffering we cause for ourselves and for everyone else is exponential.

That being said, privilege is not confined to western white folks. A blind beggar on the streets of Calcutta is privileged compared to the blind beggar beside him who has no arms. He might even feel some responsibility toward that armless beggar, and choose to give him a rupee from his cup. I remember travelling in “impoverished” lands, me, a backpacking foreigner – and being offered genuine hospitality and sustenance by people who have so much less than me. Willful generosity is not limited to people with steady incomes – and in fact, is often so much more obvious among people who have little to share. It is condescending to assume that people who lack our own karmic blessings do not have the ability to give, or the choice to act ethically. Every human has a choice in what they do, always. We can all “afford” to act in service, and service includes taking good care of ourselves in order that we may serve.

And as far as my own practice goes (which is what I speak from, always), i must continue have faith that my material needs will be met. For me to act out of fear rather than faith, given my ridiculous privilege (karma), would be a travesty. If I don’t act out of faith – then what is the point of this whole crazy experiment?!

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