The old tale, attributed to African-Americans but probably invented by a Mongolian copyriter in New York, describes the tar baby left out as a lure for angry people. A tar baby is symbolic because it looks human and because it won’t answer you, it can make you angry. When you then start hitting the thing, all it does is stick to you in increasing degrees, like a trap.
In the lore of ancient religions, a distinction was made between transcendental goals (honor, beauty, glory, balance) and karmic ones, or those things important only to people obsessed with material success and status. Most people are caught up in the karmic whirlwind, and so they agonize over the objects they own, their job status, who wore what at what party, etc. People ensnared in such karmic bullshit constitute parasites and obstructions to those with any higher goal, not in the least because a karmically-minded person “cannot see” the value in a higher goal.
If you ever feel your time is being wasted in this world, it is almost surely because some witless person in the grasp of karmic obsession has created a tar baby for you. You can beat on them, but they refuse to understand (or are too stupid) and so they portray you as the aggressor. They will in fact use this defensive strategy as an offense to get you out of the way, because they fear any goal they don’t understand, and while karmic goals are easy to quantify, any transcendental one is a mystery to such nodding empty heads.
When a society is ruled by transcendental people, it may encounter great tragedy through war because in its zeal for struggle, it has been brought to earth by its physical failings. It may go through hard times. However, it will not experience the slow decay brought on by the karmically obsessed, who take a good thing and by their personal fixation on the trivial, slowly erode it to the point where all people are parasitizing each other in their desire to fight fervently for a few meaningless tokens of comfort or self-importance.
Karma brings ego, because without a transcendental goal, we have nothing but ourselves to relapse into, with increasing neurotic fury. When civilizations are ready to die, they become karmic tar babies, where all but a few of their citizens are caught up in a whirlwind of paranoiac obsession with the trivial, and these people will destroy anyone who rises above that state because having any one person not addicted to pointless misery disturbs the karma-minds.
When you see how much people throw their time into jobs which achieve nothing important of substance, but shuffle paper around fervently, and into jockeying for social status which will be forgotten in years not decades, and actually devote large chunks of their free time into thinking about what objects they must buy (without a clear need for such objects, like a fetish), you know the end isn’t far away. We live in such a transparent plastic time and as the tar smears across us, only a few are poking up heads to point out that our karmic addictions are not real, at least not as real as the intangible but vital transcendental experience that might lift us from such a dung-browed treacle.