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The Golden Rule

Do unto others as you would have others do unto you. How many ways can we say the same thing backwards?

If you want other people to hate you, then hate other people.

If you want other people to attack you, then attack other people.

If you want other people to steal, then steal from other people.

If you want other people to murder, then murder other people.

If you want your civilization destroyed, then destroy another civilization.

The most elementary observation of human social behavior reveals a pattern called reciprocal response, otherwise known as tit for tat. This observation was first independently described around two-thousand, six-hundred years ago in India by the Buddha, in China by Confucius, and in Greece by Socrates, although I imagine that the observation did not go unnoticed by people in prehistoric times.

One characteristic of the reciprocal response in the history of societies and of civilizations is the cumulative effect of reinforcement on either positive behavior or negative behavior. As the negative behavior of one society escalates with respect to a neighboring society, so the negative behavior of the neighbor escalates in response; we saw this clearly during the Cold War and we are seeing again today in the Middle East. As the positive behavior of one society escalates with respect to a neighboring society, so the positive behavior of the neighbor escalates in response; we saw this beginning to happen during the industrialization of America and the growth of world trade between the political tyranny of Lincoln and the political tyranny of Wilson, a fleeting window of opportunity that may come to be viewed as America’s Golden Age – if there are any human beings left to view it.

The Golden Rule operates in human society whether we like it or not. It is not a moral principle and it is not a law of nature, but it is the way humans interact. I have lived in communities all over North America and everywhere the overwhelming majority of people are friendly, helpful, industrious, and private, just like me. Now I communicate with individuals all over the planet and I get the same response. But if we are all such nice people, why do we all worry about nuclear winter and the end of mankind?

Because not all people are friendly, helpful, industrious, and private, and those few people are the ones who rule the rest of us through political government. They are the defectors from the Golden Rule, criminals, and they believe, in psychopathic hubris, that they can beat the Rule. The warlords whom Confucius advised to treat the people justly ignored him and thus vindicated his warning — or else you will perish. The warlords today are well advised to heed the Rule, because even they will perish in consequence of denying it. I wonder if they really care about that?

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