An Eye for an Eye – Retribution – Injustice Made – Love Thy Enemy. Palestinian Intifata.
I am not in the least interested in any ritualized religions, but I do keep an eclectic bank of quotes and on the topic of ‘duress’, I found a sound byte attributed to Jesus in Matthew 5:38-42, NIV. “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth,’ he said. “But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you.”
Uh, what? Love your enemy? Turn the other cheek and open the flood gates to all and sundry? Go religious? Let the bad guys take over without a fight? OMG! You gotta be cra-zy!
Over two thousand years ago already, Jesus was issuing us with the warning that, because like attracts like, responding in kind to anyone or anything ‘evil’ [which for all intents and purposes includes anything we find unpleasant frightening] will keep otherwise good folks from enjoying the deep sleep of the Just.
What I think is really crazy is that even persons who see themselves as religious don’t get it either.
These ‘good’ people don’t get that as long as they talk about the other, any other, with harsh words, with anger and hatred in their voice, they are magnetizing more of the same – separately and collectively.
Even more attractive to those who mouth canonical wisdom each time they visit their temple, church, mosque of synagogue is the much misunderstood eye for an eye that, these days, passes for restorative … justice a.k.a. man-made retribution.
“You gouge out my eye. I gouge out your eye and then the other, if I can” – is the model we all understand and many more of us would add action to words, if we weren’t law-abiding citizens – afraid of the lawful consequences.
Personally, I prefer to think that ‘an eye for an eye’ is not about a barbaric tit for tat, but about karmic retribution – retribution tabulated by whichever entity one feels is in charge of the universe, the name and shape of this entity being totally immaterial.
‘An eye for an eye’ suggests that karma is unerring.
Karma encapsulates all our deeds and all our thoughts and all our words for they, too, carry their own energy. Like attracts like. Though this karmic payback is often paid back in kind, it can boomerang back to the sender in a different guise but no matter, in essence, it will still be the same old an eye for eye and a tooth for a tooth. A knife attracts a bullet. A bomb somewhere attracts an explosion elsewhere. A punch attracts a counter punch. A hurtful word attracts another hurtful word. A slur attracts a bigger slur.
Approximately 150,000 people died in Hiroshima and some 75,000 died in Nagasaki – mostly all civilians.
From 1969 to 1973 the US secretly bombed Cambodia just to cut off Viet-Cong supply lines along the Ho Chi Minh Trail from Laos, gutting deep into the populated areas of central Cambodia. The number of bombs dropped on this non-combatant country was equal to that dropped on Japan during all of WWII. More than 500,000 Cambodians died. A famine ensued as a result of the bombed-out agricultural industry of this otherwise very fertile country. More deaths – children included, of course. With the country on its knees, the scene was then set for the invasion of the Khmer Rouge and most of us know what happened then.
The United States of America was not an alien entity from out of space. The bombs were made by American people. The pilots dropping the bombs were American people. The orders were given by the American President. Congress was made up of American people. The members of the Republican Party standing by their President were American. Then the madness stopped. Peace. Handshakes. Rebuild. Easy. Injustice was perpetrated but was there any amending, any repairing from the collective American heart?
Putting aside for a moment human logic and political ‘common sense’, karmically speaking, why would a country, any country, a huge collection of people, think that they can walk away from such horror and not expect a ‘justice adjustment’ one day or another?
When one understands the concept of karma correctly, Judgement Day is every day. The tabulation is ongoing. And which country, large or small, does not have a number of skeletons packed up to the rafters?
The problem for us humans in the most advanced of all civilizations, is that we fail to perceive the invisible link we keep creating between cause and effect. Is it amnesia, ignorance or blind self-absorption?
Be that as it might, this tendency does serve us well in the sense that it renders us unable to feel any sense of accountability for much of what eventually befalls us. And this seems to be the preferred status quo.
Another illustration of the concept of ‘an eye for an eye’ in a modern political context is to consider the current festering barb in Israel’s side. Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic fundamentalist group that has become the current focus for aggressive resistance was, back in the ‘90’s, a welcome foil for Yitzhak Rabin’s government against Yasser Araft’s PLO. Short-sightedly, the Israeli government had no qualms subtly promoting the group, thus pitting brothers against brothers. Currently, the Hamas and its followers are planning a 3rd intifada [shake up] against Israel. The last 2nd intifada that spanned from 2000 to 2008 took 6000 Palestinian lives plus that of 64 foreigners plus that of1100 Israelis while wounding another 6000.
When we prefer to go on believing in the randomness of life’s events – and death – it must be because it suits us to do so.
And where am I going with this?
While I waited for the light to turn green, earlier this afternoon, the image of a little Muslim boy shooting imaginary bullets at passers-by pasted itself over that of a little blond boy simply doing boy-things on a sidewalk. And already then, I knew, knew, knew, that the only thing we can, separately and collectively, do is to – at the very least – remain healthily, positively, caringly neutral when it comes to anyone’s attempts at enrolling us in their cycle of fear, envy, anger, resentment, hatred – and action.
No, we cannot roll back the snowball we have pushed down the mountain. It will go on triggering avalanches that will trigger more explosions all the long way down till it reaches the bottom. There will be many, many more casualties along the way because the mountain from which we have launched our large snowball is a very, very high mountain. But provided that, separately and collectively, we don’t go preparing any more snow balls – provided we don’t even go to the top of that mountain anymore, slowly, slowly the avalanches will stop and so will the explosions.
For my part, next time I find myself walking through the groups of new migrants chatting noisily in foreign languages in my suburb, instead of hurrying along, I will sit on a park bench and I will casually observe the coming and going of these exotic people. I will reflect on the reality that many of them will have survived a life I would never wish for myself, not for anyone I love, not even for the neighbors I have never met. I will casually observe these newcomers as they go about their business with the words, in the tone and in the manner that are culturally familiar to them. I will practise thinking about them neutrally. They just are. They just are like everyone else in all the other streets of my suburb in the city where I live somewhere in Australia. They are a part of my world. I will practice feeling empathy because empathy comes from the heart and silently, imperceptibly, slowly but surely like attracts like.
Actually, why wait till I have to go to that part of town to start practicing this calm acceptance of What- Is?
I can begin right now in the comfort of my own den.