I can only hope that posts like this will filter out to the audience who needs a strong reminder about the Golden Rule. I know that I am preaching to the choir as my regular readers ponder today’s post. Most people share my concern about today’s increasing incidents caused by man’s inhumanity to man.
Sometimes, I’m tempted to think that great numbers of people have forgotten one of life’s earliest, most simple maxims, the necessity to treat other people in the same manner we, ourselves, prefer to be treated.
The ethic of reciprocity is the most basic requirement to enable and continue human society and civilization. Without this simple mode of thought and behavior, we would act, as a whole, everybody for themselves or chaos. The breakdown of society could happen with the breaking of the fragile thread of sincere concern and regard for one another.
There are multiple reasons for the decreasing integrity of our civilization today. Among them is the practice of dehumanizing “the other”. Politically and religiously oriented writers and commentators sometimes refer to their adversaries in “subhuman” terms. These propaganda tactics are probably the worst.
In other instances, today’s impersonal lifestyle is also a major factor in the degradation of empathy and compassion. Increasingly, we live in the isolated apartments and houses, uninvolved in our neighbors’ lives. We drive to and fro, insulated in the “pods” of cars and trucks on the streets and highways. When someone cuts us off in traffic, we might flip the finger and utter demeaning phrases. Maybe the driver is an inconsiderate person, but do we think that she might be late for work or on her way to a family emergency?
Our ever-escalating international violence might be thought of as a symptom of our deficit of Golden Rule thinking and behavior. Whether it is an isolated terrorist killing people in a crowd or a military strike causing “collateral damage”, it boils down to the dehumanization of others.
When I apply the ethic of reciprocity to this problem, I know that I don’t want to be thought of as some random, faceless person, that is expendable. Why should my counterpart in Syria or Indonesia not feel the same way? (My use of “that” instead of “who” is intentional.)
The ethic of reciprocity starts at home. If my partner is having a terrible day, do I badger and shame him or do I give him a hug and kind words of encouragement? The same goes for strangers in the real world. Do I offer respect and appropriate displays of kindness? I hope so. Oftentimes, when people are at their least loveable state, that is when they are most in need of receiving compassion.
I read and hear stories about some of our leaders and fellow citizens resorting to inhumane, selfish language and violence. These are the folks I wish I could reach with this humble blog post. I imagine a presidential candidate or other social leader will stumble upon this post and give it some thought.
Maybe somebody who thinks that I am “the other” will chance upon my words and take them to heart.
Your upbringing may have taught you “Wish for your brother, what you wish for yourself”; “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”; “That which is unfavorable to us, do not do that to others”; “Just as I am so are they, just as they are so am I”; or simply “the Ethic of Reciprocity”. Now is the time for all of us to remember this basic moral lesson.