Whatever Happened to the Golden Rule?

We are all in pain. We are all unhappy about something. We are all just looking for a little bit of tenderness in this world full of rough exteriors. Aging is an irreversible process. Every day we wake up a little bit older, and each day we have to face the crippling realization that the human condition doesn’t get any better. Life is hard, yet we choose to keep on living in this world. We choose to keep bringing our children into a world that we leave worse off than it was before. It’s no wonder that an estimated 1-in-4 Americans suffer from a diagnosable mental disorder.

With all of this suffering in the world, it’s hard to believe that we don’t let each other off the hook more often. We still judge each other reflexively, we’re still rude to strangers on the bus, we still make fun of each other. We put ourselves above other people constantly. Don’t you think it’s a little bizarre that (for some of us) seeing other people in pain brings us happiness? Shouldn’t the pain of others bring us pain? We dehumanize each other to the extent where it’s socially acceptable to make snide remarks to strangers when they do something that annoys us.

Here’s a hypothetical situation: you’re walking down the sidewalk and somebody who is paying more attention to their phone than where their going accidentally runs into you. Being slightly annoyed, you respond rather hyperbolically—“Watch where the fuck you’re going, asshole!” That person, who is already not having the best of days, thinks to himself, “That guy’s right. I’m an oblivious asshole. What is wrong with me?” Having made this realization, he decides in that moment that he should probably jump off the Golden Gate bridge— and promptly does so.

This may be a rather extreme scenario, but the point is that we walk around only thinking of ourselves and blindly scorning any individual who brings us even the slightest amount of discomfort. You may be sitting there thinking, “Well, that’s not me. I’m not that person.” Good for you, but as a bystander you’re still responsible. You may not like that idea. In fact, you probably want to just mind your own business; but therein lies the root of the issue. We all spend way too much time trying to mind our own business— but at the same time we mind the business of others whenever we see fit; and most of the time it’s for negative reasons.

We are humans. We all have our own set of beliefs that we value above the beliefs of others. That’s all fine and dandy, but what happens when our beliefs affect others? More specifically, what happens when what we believe takes basic human rights away from others? That’s the root of this rant. Whether we like it or not, we impact each other daily. Almost every decision we make impacts someone else in some way, shape, or form; and sadly, there’s no basic code of conduct for human interaction. We make judgment calls in a split second, and defend ourselves fervently when we’re challenged. We’re all guilty of it. We equate being challenged to being told what to do, and we strengthen our opinions based off of the input of others.

Let’s take another example: somebody you know posts a politically-charged article on Facebook about an ideal that you directly oppose. An all-out flame-war ensues, in which you and your “friend” berate and disagree with each other until you exhaust the stamina to do so. Neither of you walks away changed. Instead, you both walk away feeling more strongly about that thing than you did originally.

This happens all the time. If you’re a Facebook user, you probably have a chance to encounter a situation like this every single day— but what good does an interaction like this do? The answer is little to no good. Instead, negative aspects of our personality grow. We become more cynical, more defensive, less approachable. We isolate ourselves a bit more, and start to doubt that we have a chance of being understood by our fellow humans. Slowly but surely, these encounters cause us to justify the way we treat other people; and being generally shitty to strangers becomes acceptable to us.

It goes without saying that this should not be acceptable. We have to share the world with each other. We have to share a train with strangers. People sometimes run into us on the street, but life goes on. It’s absolutely unproductive and detrimental to treat each other the way that we do. We’re all humans, we all have different things we’re dealing with, we’re all misunderstood. We need more empathy and less antipathy, but we have a surplus of one and a deficit of the other. This should be a no-brainer, but it’s not. Whatever happened to the golden rule? Think about it, and get back to me.

We’d call Author Rocky McGredy a savant, but it usually has the word “idiot” attached to it. So, we’ll just call him Rocky.

man in suit with his fists on the desk image courtesy of shutterstock

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