Friday, July 20, 2007

The Golden Rule & Policy

Here's my column from today's Saipan Tribune.


We’re dealing with all kinds of practical challenges here in the Commonwealth (or as I prefer to call it, the “Mariana Islands”). We’re not alone. There are social and economic challenges the world over. As valuable as it is to seek practical solutions to practical problems, I’m a firm believer that we must first identify guiding principles that will guide our problem-solving approach. Dive into the practical solutions without first identifying the underlying principles and we’re likely to drift away from our core values. This paragraph from The Promise of World Peace sums it up nicely:

There are spiritual principles, or what some call human values, by which solutions can be found for every social problem. Any well-intentioned group can in a general sense devise practical solutions to its problems, but good intentions and practical knowledge are usually not enough. The essential merit of spiritual principle is that it not only presents a perspective which harmonizes with that which is immanent in human nature, it also induces an attitude, a dynamic, a will, an aspiration, which facilitate the discovery and implementation of practical measures. Leaders of governments and all in authority would be well served in their efforts to solve problems if they would first seek to identify the principles involved and then be guided by them.

One of the principles that I think we can agree upon is what is commonly known as “The Golden Rule.” The version I learned this in grade school stated “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” It makes sense and it resonates with most human beings. Unfortunately, it often gets lost dealing with the social and economic problems that we face.

The Golden Rule is universal and has woven its way through all the world’s cultures and religions. Take a look:

  • Christianity: So in everything, do to others, what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the law and the prophets. (Matthew 7:12)
  • Buddhism: Treat not others in ways that yourself would find hurtful. (Udana-Varga 5.18)
  • Baha’i: Lay not on any soul a load that you would not wish to be laid upon you, and desire not for anyone the things you would not desire for yourself. (Baha’u’allah, Gleanings).
  • Confucianism: One word which sums up the basis for all good conduct… loving kindness. Do not do to others what you would not want done to yourself. (Confucius Analects 15:23)
  • Hinduism: This is the sum of duty: do not do to others what would cause pain if done to you. (Mahabharata 5:1517)
  • Islam: Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others what you wish for yourself. (The Prophet Mohammad, Hadith)
  • Judaism: What is hateful to you do not do to your neighbor. This is the whole Torah; all the rest is commentary. (Hillel, Talmad, Shabbat 31a)
  • Zoroastrianism: Do not unto others what is injurious to yourself (Shayast-na-Shayast 13;29)

At its core, the Golden Rule is recognition of the principle of the oneness of humanity – a recognition that the person across the table, across the street, across the island or across the water is just like you and wants to be treated just like you when it comes to basic issues. It seems simple, but its implications are vast, and it is these implications that seem to so often get lost in dealing with various issues.

The island quickly saw and spoke up that holding a sign that reads “Go home!” is a violation of the principle of loving kindness and of the Golden Rule. But what other of our assumptions run against the Golden Rule and the principle of the oneness of humanity? How does legislation that takes into account ones birthplace or genetic composition jive with the Golden Rule? Should the color of ones skin or the color of ones passport affect ones access to opportunity and free enterprise? Is the Golden Rule violated when hiring and firing is done on the basis of the family relations or party affiliation rather than on the basis of merit?

When policy is based upon spiritual values or human values, particularly ones that are universal, the policies and positions will ring true. As we face larger challenges and more intricate issues, it would help us to think about the values upon which our practical solutions will be based. The Golden Rule is a good place to start. It will help us evaluate some of our basic assumptions about who we are and how we behave in relation to others, not just as individuals, but also as institutions.


The Saipan Blogger アンジェロ・ビラゴメズ said...

“A Jedi uses the Force for knowledge and defense, never for attack.”

Deece said...

I love the golden rule. I've been planning an autobiograpfical comic strip about it. But I can't quite get it right.