The so-called “Golden Rule” is never to do to others what one would not like others to do to oneself. Or variation thereof. It implicitly assume people don’t like to suffer, or to inflict pain and extermination. It also assumes that right and wrong are like night and day (that is literally the root of the religion known as Manichaeism) Thus the Golden Rule is inapplicable: history, Christianism, Islamism are full of people, or even a god loving pain, punishment, suffering, even as applied to oneself, not just others.
Buddhism is different that way. It naively assumes that people want to avoid suffering at all cost. But if we did this, it’s not clear we could exist. Actually the best way would be to absorb a deadly dose of barbiturates, and be done, Marilyn Monroe style.
Thus, fundamentally, Buddhism is so irrelevant, as to be inhuman (whereas Christianism and Islamism are all too human!) Pain and suffering are intrinsically human. Pain and suffering are regulators of the human species. It is not a question of the animal condition. Pain and suffering do not necessarily regulate all species. They do not regulate marmots. When marmots come out of hibernation, the head marmot considers her folk, and how many have died over winter. She wants a group of between 15 and 21 individuals. Say three have died: she asks her consort to make her three little ones. Then she turns on a pheromone to turn him off.
The dominant female cannot bear more than two to four babies. If she is unable to replenish the colony, all by herself, she makes it so that her consort impregnates another female. Thus marmots are made for the Golden Rule: they regulate their population in a very gentle, specific way. Humans do not regulate their population through fancy birth control, but through mayhem, pain, suffering, deprivation, famine.
Reciprocal perversity, not just reciprocal altruism, is then intrinsic to the human species: this . Higher wisdom consists not in denying reality, but in circumnavigating it, for the best. We have so much technology, nowadays, the fanciest moral principles can be brought to bear.
Take an example. The cases of Mr. Assange (an Australian citizen) and Mr. Snowden (an US citizen). Assange and Snowden are the two most prominent whistle-blowers in the world (lanceurs d’alerte, alarm launchers, literally, in French).
Julian Assange revealed that US military forces, using an attack helicopter, had killed journalists, and then fired again and again, on would-be rescuers. One would think that US authorities, were they compatible with the Golden Rule as traditionally interpreted, and the Jesus god Obama talks about all the time, would have tanked Assange for this revelation. After all, a democracy should have armed forces beyond any suspicion. (The military forces of the UK, the US and France went through the Second World War without extremely blatant, shocking war crimes committed, although the Americans were ruthless, the French somewhat vengeful, and both the French and British suffered striking war crimes from Nazi forces in May-June 1940).
Instead of lauding Assange, the Washington government has gone all out to capture Assange, and had an ex-CIA agent accusing him of unclear activities. The same violent treatment was extended to Edward Snowden, who had the presence of mind to escape to Russia (making Putin a force for the good!) Snowden’s crime was to reveal that the so-called “social networks” and “search engines” of the USA were actually spy networks searching for miscreants. That, in turn, brought many questions, including how much of world public opinion is fabricated deliberately by the US “Deep State”.
Philosophically, it means the Obama administration had it all wrong. At least all wrong, if, and only if, democracy is what it wants to preserve. In democracy, or justice, and democracy is about justice for all, as all, information is the prime ingredient. A really democratic state will never, ever pursue information providers. Whistle-blowers are among the saints of democracy.
Assange and Snowden made precious gifts to US democracy. In answer, Obama offered We The People a poisoned dish: serving rabid nationalism the frantic fever of blind vengeance, forgetting that revealing crimes against democracy should be rewarded, not punished.
None of this is an accident, it’s a system, white as the driven snow, same as a polar bear on a rampage, and for the same reason. Ask the average democratic voters: they will telly you Hillary Clinton is more “Golden Rule” than her friend and rival, Donald Trump. As Bill Moyers put it, in his essay, “Anatomy of the Deep State“:
“Despite this apparent impotence, President Obama can liquidate American citizens without due processes, detain prisoners indefinitely without charge, conduct dragnet surveillance on the American people without judicial warrant and engage in unprecedented — at least since the McCarthy era — witch hunts against federal employees (the so-called “Insider Threat Program”). Within the United States, this power is characterized by massive displays of intimidating force by militarized federal, state and local law enforcement. Abroad, President Obama can start wars at will and engage in virtually any other activity whatsoever without so much as a by-your-leave from Congress, such as arranging the forced landing of a plane carrying a sovereign head of state over foreign territory.”
Take another example: tolerance. Many feel, rightly, that the Golden Rule should include tolerance. Tolerance is necessary to be nice to others. Tolerance goes beyond just being nice to others. It’s about being nice to oneself, be it only by becoming smarter.
Tolerance is, fundamentally, a neurobiological problem. Any brain is a set of neuroglial networks. Any seriously new idea, or new emotion, is a threat against one, or several elements of that set. To welcome the threat requires a deliberate effort. One needs to train oneself to such mental gymnastics, deconstructing, fusioning and rebuilding. Mind. Tolerance is necessary for adopting superior ideas, and feelings, discarding inferior ones.
How does one train for tolerance? One should not be proud of being a citizen of some predigested, mass mental system. Instead one should be ashamed. Instead of following the herd, bleating altogether, one should shout from rooftops: “I am a citizen of the mind“.
The Golden Rule is thus, in part, necessarily, just from the inclusion of tolerance, about building a better mind. And tolerance is not easy to foster (as shown by the local interdiction of “burkini” on some beaches in France. See #tolerance). Tolerance for intolerance is not tolerance, but, potentially, its exact opposite:collaborating with mental fascism. We can see that the traditional Golden Rule is not easy to apply.
The real Golden Rule of humanity is that deeper thinking always works best, in the long run. For all that is the most worth it.