Never gloat, they say, never crow. It may come back to haunt you. But I'm going to gloat, going to crow. Though before I do, how are we on karma?
A place near here was red-zoned after the earthquakes of 2011. The owner fought the council but lost and was evicted. He was not happy. Before he left he covered the place with graffiti that expressed his feelings with clarity and vigour. On the wall of his shed is the following apophthegm, addressed to the city council and spray-painted in block capitals in Day-Glo yellow: KARMA IS A VICIOUS UNFORGIVING BITCH.
It's a bit harsh on karma. According to Buddhist teaching we are forever being reincarnated and karma determines what we're reincarnated as. If we've been good we go up the scale of being and if we've been bad we go down it. Karma, then, is a cosmic Department of Justice. It is neither vicious nor unforgiving. It is merely the universal spirit of fairness that is said to permeate everything.
In the west the idea of reincarnation has dwindled in popularity. Few now believe that within you, me, my late lamented dog and the ant that I just stood on there is an essence that nips out when we die and takes shelter in another life form, like some spiritual hermit crab.
The notion of cosmic justice, however, remains as popular as ever. We are always asserting that someone "had it coming to them". We speak of just deserts and the biter bit. What goes around, we say, comes around.
The implication is that the cosmos is Santa. It knows if we've been naughty or nice and doles out gifts accordingly. We even elevate it into a religion. There is a god who oversees all things and rewards the virtuous and smites the wicked. But that's wishing more than thinking.
For if our eyes are open we can't help noticing that the virtuous aren't always rewarded or the wicked smitten. Stalin killed millions of his compatriots but died unpunished. Ditto Mao and many another dictator.
Since civilisation began the rich have got away with pillaging and killing and the poor have failed to get away with petty theft. And good people are forever suffering bad things. It's hard to square that with universal fairness.
The theologians' best effort has been heaven and hell. Things might not be fair down here, they say, but after death it's different. The remarkable thing about this little lie is that billions have swallowed it.
In sum then there is no evidence for universal karma. The cosmos is neither fair nor unfair. It is merely indifferent. We're on our own.
That said, there are occasions when someone awful suffers in a way that is both deserved and ironic. And that's what's just happened to Trump.
Of course Trump may come back. Though he looks right now like electoral roadkill it is still possible that America will pick him again in November. And if they do, well, they deserve him.
And they deserve President Don Jr and President Ivanka to follow, along with an exciting new secret police force and political prisoners and a gang of rich white oligarchs and all the merry rest of it. (Though on reflection they're going to get the rich white oligarchs, regardless. Indeed, they've got them already.) But for the moment Trump's in torment and I rejoice.
You will recall that he campaigned on a few simplistic slogans. He'd build a wall to keep Mexicans out, and Mexico would pay for it. He'd make American great again, so great that Americans would get sick of winning.
Well look at it now. The nation's in recession. There are riots in the streets and millions unemployed. The only thing Americans are sick of is coronavirus, because of Trump's failure to act against it. And the only wall that's been built is round the White House. Behind it Trump is cowering, terrified of his compatriots.
I don't wish ill on the States but I do wish ill on Trump, and on all the sleazes, lowlifes and parasites who've latched on to him for reasons of power and money and religion and race. Pence, Pompeo, McConnell, Barr and the rest are vile people. But none so vile as Trump. And Trump is now a prisoner of his own vileness. There's nothing he can do. He can't come out and talk to the protesters because they've seen right through him. And anyway he's too scared.
He's a miserable, lonely, frightened little man and he's earned every one of those four adjectives. It feels like karma and it's a joy to gloat.