Wednesday, May 11, 2016

All That Is Golden Does Not Glitter

The Golden Rule is often touted to be at the altruistic heart of modern ethics.  In my christian upbringing and even in my subsequent atheist and secular humanist transformation, this "self evident" adage surfaced repeatedly.  Which begs the question: is there a heartfelt, mindful truth to doing unto others as you would have done unto yourself?

Delicious Ethical Contemplation!
At first blush the principle seems promising, particularly given it's precious metal namesake.  Gold is the archetype valuable substance. No matter that platinum, rhino horn, heroin and anti-matter all weigh in at a higher cost per gram than gold in the modern era.

The principle inherent in the Golden Rule rides on the assumption that treating others as you would like to be treated would be overall and in the long term good for the individual, community and world.  So if I would like a delicious, vegan, multi-grain scone with a side of granny smith apples served to me for breakfast, then offering up such goodness to others ought to encourage similar happiness and satisfaction.

And therein lies the rub.  How accurately does my internal desire reflect the desire of another individual, let alone the well being of the community and the world.  Some people cannot stand the crisp texture of granny smiths, while others (though quite few in reality) have allergies to gluten in wheat flour.  And when it comes to all things vegan (a simple synonym for humanely-sourced materials) unbelievably more than 97% of the world still have a negative response to that goodness imbued descriptor.

So it seems the Golden Rule stance has its problems.  In effect, it reflects the somewhat misguided belief that each individual has an internal sense of goodness, and that implementing that awesomeness on the world would benefit all.  The primary flaw in this self-reflecting, altruistic rationale is the uncertainty in knowing the inner thoughts and feelings of others and the needs of the greater community and environment.

Thankfully, thousands of years of civilization has refined tools that transcend simple personal judgement to guide choices for personal, community and global lifestyles. In particular, diverse scientific methods and multi-faceted ethical standards are at the golden heart of ratcheting up future global well being.  Through these rational, thoughtful means, the efforts and legacy of those who have come before can contribute to a gradualistic improvement for all, if only we engage our minds with alacrity and behave correspondingly.

So perhaps we need a revised Golden Rule, perhaps forged with anti-matter, or at the very least platinum instead of gold.  A Platinum Rule ought to convey this complexity of mindfully generating well-being, while rolling off the tongue eloquently.

"Do unto the world as creates goodness for all!" is one rephrasing which captures the essence of striving for idealistic ends with realistic expectations.

One might also aver "Goodness First!"

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