Warning: I am a bit of a hippy, so this answer could be deemed controversially wishy washy.
I don’t like violence or suffering and am not sure I even understand the notion of justice, or at least how punishment is supposed to fit into it. I also don’t think that people should have ‘enemies’ per se. It sounds ever so slightly cartoonish. To have a nemesis is to live a life ridden by narrative purpose more than reality. To harbour bitterness against an individual is probably just cruelty.
So I’m going to go with ’empathy’ but potentially in a much crueller way than I’m happy with.
I would say, it is just about okay to wish that someone should actually feel and understand the consequences of their actions completely.
I can’t remember where it was, whether someone said it to me or I read it, but I once heard/read someone’s interpretation of karma as something like ‘when you die, you experience all the feelings you have ever caused in anyone else ever’.
I picture it as this explosive moment. Like seeing your life pass before your eyes, only it’s not your eyes, it’s everybody elses eyes.
And they are eyes with hearts.
I think that notion scares me more than any number of devils with pointy sticks and fiery decor. And I like to think I’ve done more than harm than good to the people around me.
It would certainly give someone the greatest opportunity for learning and healing and being better in the future. If there was some kind of weapon for making people feel how other people feel in reaction to them selves, I suspect the world would change rather quickly.
But if we’re making wishes, we can wish for that, and it might not be such a bad thing to do. For a start, it might make us acknowledge the way that people interacting with each other effects everyone.
I feel like I’ve pretty much had to teach myself to be more empathetic and considerate. Pretty much everyone I know can probably see I still have work to do, but I’m trying. It takes effort to change behaviour, but nothing would motivate better than actually changing perspective.
And that’s one of the problems with having enemies and wishing them ill. For a start, you can’t see their worldview, and may have made some wrong assumptions (you may even be just plain wrong about what they’ve done). At least this way, you’d have their consequence linked to their actual behaviour, and it’s actual effects.
It’d be a system of justice that made sense, and it would probably be an effective ‘deterrent’ in that it would make people be nicer to people by default.
I think karma is just about increasing good in the world so there is more good, whether you get to feel it or not.
The best thing to do is plant trees under which you have no plan of sitting.
Or you could just kill them.
Illustration by Lucy.