The Golden Rule / Not applicable to a Social Hierarchy

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The Golden Rule is the ancient basis for all morality, but why do we not find it put into social practice, except for the occasional exception in human history? The reason is simple and structural: The Golden Rule can never be the foundation for conduct in a social hierarchy, because the Golden Rule requires recognition of human equality. The pyramid structure of a hierarchical system requires division of human value into unequal classes. To claim that morality can exist in the context of the social hierarchy is by default untrue.  

The Ancient Egyptian concept of Maat appears in the story of The Eloquent Peasant, which dates to the Middle Kingdom (c. 2040–1650 BCE): “Now this is the command: Do to the doer to cause that he do thus to you.” An example from a Late Period (c. 664 BCE – 323 BCE) papyrus: “That which you hate to be done to you, do not do to another.”

The Golden Rule can also be seen as expressed by Homer in the Odyssey: “I will be as careful for you as I should be for myself in the same need” (Book 5 Verses 184-191).  
Treat not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” Udana-Varga, 5:18 (Bhuddism)
“Wish not for others what ye wish not for yourselves” Kitab-I-Aqdas (Baha’i)
“In five ways should a clansman minister to his friends and familiars, by treating them as he treats himself.”Sigalovada Sutta v.31 (Buddhist)
“Do not do to others what you would not like yourself. Then there will be no resentment against you, either in the family or in the state.” Analects 12:2 (Confucian)
“One word which sums up the basis for all good conduct…loving kindness. Do not do unto others what you would not want done to yourself.” Analects of Confucius 15:23
“We should behave to friends as we would wish friends to behave to us.” Aristotle (Ancient Greek philosopher)
“Do not do to others that which would anger you if others did it to you.”Socrates (Ancient Greek philosopher)
“One should not behave towards others in a way which is disagreeable to oneself. This is the essence of morality. All other activities are due to selfish desire.” Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva 113.8 (Hinduism)
“Not one of you truly believes until you wish for others that which you wish for yourself.” The Prophet Mohammed Hadith (Islam)
“A Man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated.”Agamas Sutrakritanga 1.11.33 (Jainism)
“All things are our relatives; what we do to everything, we do to ourselves. All is really one.” Black Elk (Native American)
“The heart of the person before you is a mirror. See there your own form.” (Shinto)
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4 thoughts on “The Golden Rule / Not applicable to a Social Hierarchy

  1. Quotes from all around the world from an earlier time relating to the same concept shows that it is something that all people desire. We have known about this concept for so long. Why is it so unobtainable?
    The core of the issue then may lie in the fact that people have low self esteem, low self worth or self hatred. If we treated ourselves better we then can reflect that onto others. Why are humans so insecure in their ability to feel/share love or warmth to others/themselves?
    Love is the yin/yang of hatred, is it not? The world seems so eloquent to reflect hatred why is it so hard to show the softer side of love?
    I am ever so hopeful that we can one day have discussions, arguments or debates without the need to do physical harm or wish harm to another but to respectfully agree to disagree. A difference of opinion is important or the having the option of that is freedom. Until this can occur then we have not achieved our goal. It is a goal, is it not? The ultimate one?
    Thanks for provoking thoughts to wake my day.

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    • It’s my contention that the Social Hierarchy prevents people from living the Golden Rule. To live the Golden Rule, one must see other people as equals. The social hierarchy is exactly the opposite: other people are competition, enemies, lesser or greater beings – anything but equal. This causes people lower on the class pyramid to feel bad about themselves; the worse they feel about being inadequate and less valuable, the more impossible it is to see other people as equals. What society misses is that you can’t just say, “everyone counts,” and then go on treating people badly while those at the top abuse everyone else. We’re stuck in a matter/antimatter situation: the Golden Rule, which most people would likely say is a good thing, is a threat to the brutally unequal status quo. I think the modern version is, “Do evil unto others before they know what you’re up to and can do anything about it.”

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        • I doubt the pyramid is going anywhere. The people at the top have the money, weapons and legal control, physical intimidation and sheer power to withstand anything but a well-placed asteroid! Despite that, as an Asperger, I do see people as individual humans, and keep in mind that seeing equality does not mean we shouldn’t object to harmful behavior when we see it, and support people who are victimized. I won’t stop writing about Asperger difficulties and know that many ‘typical’ people are hurt confused as well, and can benefit from some facts and critiques of the social world.

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