I worked up the courage to have a confrontation. Those who read this blog may think that I like confrontation or even seek it out ... but I don't. I have become acclimatized to confrontational advocacy where necessary. If it's about a cause, or about what I consider to be a justice or access issue, I will write letters, I will go nose to nose with someone. However, when it's about me, even when I feel like I'm seeking justice or access for myself, it's a much different issue. I suspect many people find themselves similarly conflicted about advocacy - for someone else, good; for self, not so good. But in a certain situation recently, I managed to convince myself that I needed to clearly speak out about my feelings and about how I perceived I was being treated. This interpersonal stuff is really difficult isn't it?
During the discussion that resulted from my initiating the confrontation, I encountered an interesting use of "the golden rule." You know it, everyone knows it: you need to treat others the way you would like to be treated. I would have had to say, up until this discussion I accepted the logic of that sentiment without question. It made sense to me. But the person I was in dispute with said, of what had transpired, "I believe in the golden rule, I treat everyone the way I would want to be treated. It's hard sometimes but you have to follow through. When I'm down in the dumps I need and want someone to give me a good kick in the ass. I don't want sentiment and I don't want sympathy. So what I did, I did for your own good. It's what I would have wanted."
The 'Golden Rule' became a way to supplant my rights with her wants.
It became clear to me. People are always doing to other people what they want done to them - and are then constantly upset that gratitude doesn't flow. This is done on the smallest scale possible - between two people; and on the largest scale possible between nations. Everyone is doing to everyone what they think is in the other's best interest because it's "what I would want if I, horror of horrors, were you."
As a person with a disability I am often given what others would want if they were me - and it's decidedly NOT what I want and NOT what I would do for anyone else. I think the whole movement towards societal embrace of the murder of people with disabilities by care providers comes from that sentiment. I have heard a thousand times over, "I'd rather be dead than in a wheelchair." Oh. OK. Then could I have a taster on hand before I eat dinner at your place?
Perhaps, and I shake at the fact that I'm about to edit the golden rule, we need to do it differently: you need to treat others the way that they would have you treat them. Shouldn't someone be able to decide on how they'd like to be treated. In my dealings with others, does it matter how I'd like to be treated? Perhaps it might be better if I learn to ask another before moving forward. If I am to support rights, shouldn't I also support voice and choice?
I once got a gift for Christmas. It was a complicated electronic thing that I'd never asked for, didn't want and would never use. It was given to me by someone who really wanted that complicated electronic thing - they said that they knew I'd love it because it was what they really wanted. I didn't ever use it - but it was around for years and was used only when the gift giver dropped by. I said, "thank you" of course, because it was a gift. It just wasn't a gift to ME.
Maybe we all, as people and as nations, would do better if we began at a different starting point. Instead of listening to the inner voice to help us know how to help, to assist, to intervene we need to recognise that WE DON'T KNOW simply because we are only we and I am only I. The start point may be at listening to the voice of others and treating other people as they wish to be treated.
In my heart, gold has lost value.
The golden rule needs to be viewed like the golden calf, an object falsely worshipped.
Begin by asking.
It would have saved hurt feelings and a confrontation between my friend and I. That's a small thing. But imagine it on a larger, much, much larger scale. Imagine it done between peoples, and between nations, and between faiths. Maybe we'd be closer to living an a world that understands what it is to be human and what it is to have rights if we'd just ...
... begin by asking.