Vol. CLIII, Issue 10
Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

Whitman news since 1896

Whitman Wire

How Cruel Is The Golden Rule?

Everyone’s heard it. I’d even feel safe to say everyone’s heard it more than once. The notorious Golden Rule: Treat others how you wish to be treated. It was probably hung high in your elementary classrooms – held even higher over your head when you smacked your brother in the face over the last Cheeto. The Golden Rule has withstood the test of time. However, as with many old adages, there must be some instances in which the Golden Rule simply is not applicable. I became curious to learn more about the unspoken clauses of the Golden Rule – when is it acceptable to ignore what we’ve been taught all our lives? 

The world of philosophy has actually been analyzing the Golden Rule for years. In R.N. Carmona’s article on The Philosophy Corner, Carmona writes, “Consider one huge domain of human action, namely defensive war. Soldiers do kill their enemies while earnestly desiring that their enemies not kill them.” Of course, the morality of war then comes into question, but the point still stands; the Golden Rule simply is not universal. 

In fact, in certain instances, the Golden Rule can be harmful and perpetuate a nasty cycle of behavior. In times when someone treats you poorly, in a way in which you would never treat anyone, the premise of the Golden Rule becomes muddy. Do you still treat a person who cheated on you, for example, with respect, because you want that same respect back? Are you to apologize to the cheater because you feel you are also deserving of an apology? The idea of reciprocity in moral instances is not sustainable because social interaction varies too greatly for there to be one outstanding “rule.”

With the conversation of universality in mind, I decided to expand upon the beloved Golden Rule in order to make it more realistic and applicable. Presenting, the Golden Rule’s Clauses: 

Treat Others How You Wish To Be Treated: Unless they subscribe to any “-ists” or “-phobes”

Racists, homophobes, ableists, xenophobes, the list goes on. In the presence of ignorance, the Golden Rule becomes nothing more than a gold coin full of subpar chocolate. While I wish to be treated with respect, I also refuse to treat the people listed above with the same dignity I would give myself. In fact, if someone did treat the sample list of people with the highest respect, I would in turn lose respect for everyone involved. Hateful ignorance does not deserve sympathy. Coddling the problematic folk of society only allows them more room to grow; treat them like the invasive species they are, Golden Rule be damned. 

Treat Others How You Wish To Be Treated: Unless you don’t wish to be “treated” at all 

I am often guilty of not being the most outwardly friendly at times when I know I have no desire to build a relationship with someone. I’m not villainous, I do the awkward smile, or the “pretend I don’t see you” walk. But sometimes, that is the extent of an interaction, and that is fine. We’ve become so inclined and conditioned to overjoyed kindness that anything other than extroverted displays of friendliness makes you seem cold or unapproachable. 

The truth is, not everyone in life will want to be your friend, and that is okay. They may have a million reasons, or none at all. Regardless, the Golden Rule fails to account for the loners in the world. Believe it or not, some of us enjoy eating our meals alone, walking to class alone, living everyday life alone. While it’s always a good thing to treat others with respect, sometimes the nicest thing you can do for someone else is leave them alone. 

Treat Others How You Wish To Be Treated: Unless you just … don’t want to?

There are probably a thousand more instances in which the Golden Rule simply doesn’t apply, but to categorize them all specifically would be redundant. The honest conclusion to the clauses of the Golden Rule is that you’re a grown-up with the freewill to decide how you wish to treat others, and you can accept the consequences of those actions. To shove another adage into this, you reap what you sow. If you wish to live your life as an unlikable monster, you have the freedom to do so. (America, am I right?) 

I like to believe that most people have the good sense to treat most with respect and dignity, kindness when it calls for it and to let people live their lives how they please. There is no universal rule that will bring world peace if we all just follow it. Any history class will tell you that. 

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