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Nobody DESERVES To Suffer

Yesterday I donated $25 to Rolling Jubilee, which is the latest interesting project by the Occupy Movement. The project, operates as a compassionate debt relief system, which in its own words: 

"buys debt for pennies on the dollar, but instead of collecting it, abolishes it. Together we can liberate debtors at random through a campaign of mutual support, good will...Join us as we imagine and create a new world based on the common good, not Wall Street profits."

It has been hailed by Business Insider and alternative economist Charles Eisenstein as a brilliant plan. At the very least, it's an interesting experiment in financial skillfulness and compassion.

Rolling Jubilee does not seem to discriminate in its application process for whose debt it forgives. Some people think this randomness is a strength of the program, some see it as an ethical weakness. Personally, I feel most strongly about the alleviation of the crushing weight of student debt in the United States, especially if people are working for the benefit of others in their careers. We need to empower the next generation, not enslave them. Only a greedy society turns its youth into indentured servants.

This new program started a very interesting Facebook conversation about whether or not everyone's debt DESERVES to be forgiven. This conversation amounts to a discussion of karma, a question of how cause and effect really operate. One argument said that we all make choices in life, and we should each be mature enough to read the fine print and deal with the consequences of our consumer decisions. Within this argument seems to be the notion that the law of karma dictates that we "deserve" our suffering. We got ourselves into these messes, we need to get ourselves out of them.

It is true that we need to learn the rules of cause and effect, and that liberation does come from taking personal responsibility for how life affects us. We've all made some silly choices, and many of those involve financial mistakes. But nowhere in the teachings on karma is there any sense of shame, blame, or guilt. This is a total misreading. We have to take personal responsibility, but nobody DESERVES to suffer. EVER.

Further, the Bodhisattva intention of empathy and compassion makes our practice exceedingly simple. If we can act in such a way as to help, as to alleviate their struggle and turmoil, we just do it. We don't think about it. If you can help, you help. As Clint Eastwood famously said in the Unforgiven, "It ain't about 'deservin.'"

(Follow Ethan Nichtern on Facebook or Twitter, Check out his books, or upcoming online courses he is teaching at IDP)

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I agree with you. The concept of karma does not say that we should not help out the people around us, even help them to change their karma. I tend to think of karma as patterns, and it seems to me that individually it's a lot harder to resist the gravity that pulls us around in our patterns, but as we help others we are actually helping ourselves as well - our collective ballast becomes the deciding factor in shifting the pattern.


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