Sunday, February 05, 2006

Cartoons and Karma

I haven't blogged much (or at all) about the fracas over the publication of offensive portrayals of the Prophet Mohammed in the Danish press, partly because I'm put off by how this story seems to have consumed right-wing bloggers' outrage quotient to the point where half of the articles on Memeorandum are about it, and to the exclusion of other, arguably more important stories, like U.S. female soldiers dying of dehydration because they are afraid of being raped by male U.S. soldiers in outdoor latrines.

Just now, though, I read Maha's analysis of both the Muslim violence over the cartoons and the right-wing blogosphere's reaction to it; and as usual Barbara has a refreshingly different and original take on these events.

The Right Blogosphere has become even more unhinged over the Mohammed cartoon riots as they did over the French riots. Just check out the links on Memeorandum.

Apparently the Danish cartoons came about because a Danish author was having trouble finding an illustrator for a book about Islam. Arthur MacMillan wrote for The Scotsman that publication of the cartoons was "intended to generate a debate about freedom of speech." Well, it's done that. Andrew Sullivan said that "The cartoons were not designed to 'incite religious or ethnic hatreds.' They were designed to protest such incitement -- and we have the corpses of Theo van Gogh and Pim Fortuyn as useful proof."

Whatever the original inspiration, most of the cartoons did not focus on the acts of particular Muslims but instead depicted Mohammed and Muslims in general as homicidal whackjobs. So some bad acts incited more bad acts, which incited violence among Muslims, which incited some Europeans to republish the cartoons to show they weren't gonna let Muslims tell them what to do, and the violence got worse, and now the nice doggie's readers are stocking up on ammo. I don't know if anyone's been killed yet, but if no one dies before this firestorm dies down it's going to be a miracle.

It occurred to me that this episode is a textbook example of karma. I was taught by the Zennies that the Sanskrit word karma means action, in particular actions created willfully by both deeds and words. In other words, it's all about cause and effect. Karma has its own law of physics; once set in motion, it tends to stay in motion. So, for example, Bill may have a hard day at work and come home and yell at Mary, who then loses her temper and takes it out on Junior, who kicks the dog. That bad temper being passed from one person to another is karma.

This cartoon flap is karma writ large.

There's more, and you should read it.

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