Collective actions and attitudes ~ 17th Karmapa

We not only share the world; many of us also share similar attitudes and behaviors. When enough people think and act in similar ways, the effect of those actions is amplified. We can refer to this dynamic as cumulative action or collective action. In Buddhist terms we call this collective karma, which in this case simply refers to the fact that many people engaging in the same intentional action has a cumulative effect that impacts us all.

We do not generally spend much time thinking about the wider impact of our collective actions and attitudes. When we can see the immediate results of our personal actions, we take more care. But the connection between collective actions or shared attitudes and their longer-term or indirect impact is more obscure, and for this reason we fail to concern ourselves with these wider consequences.

The world has always been interdependent. But in the twenty-first century, communications technologies help make that fact more readily visible to us. Globalization promotes — and global society seems to embracing wholeheartedly — a consumer culture that is spread instantly through communications technologies. This lends an added force to shared attitudes and actions. Our individual lifestyle choices are greatly amplified as consumer trends and values are expressed online and carried rapidly to all corners of the globe. More and more people seek to embrace the global consumer culture they see articulated online, believing such a lifestyle will bring them personal happiness and social success.

We urgently need to recognize that we are not making choices for ourselves alone. When we choose for ourselves, we are also choosing for many others. Therefore we need to take much greater care what we decide and how we behave. Many individuals acting out of personal wants and desires have far-reaching collective effects on the world as a whole.

17th Karmapa

from the book Interconnected: Embracing Life in Our Global Society

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