Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Melting Down The Golden Rule: Blog Action Day - Human Rights

I'm taking part in Blog Action Day. Join me and register your blog at blogactionday.orgI 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.


Kristine said...

I've actually heard it referred to as the platinum rule--treat others as they want to be treated. And I like it so much better! It just makes good sense. It requires getting outside of my own head, listening, validating, and responding. Isn't that what we all want, much more than we want someone deciding what's good for us?

I also found the "love language" philosophy pretty interesting. They talk about the five main ways of expressing love, and that everybody has their dominant love language. We naturally tend to both express and recognize love in our own "language," and may completely miss other people's expressions of love, because it's not in the language that has much personal meaning to us. By recognizing another person's love language, you're more likely to notice and value their expressions of love, and you realize how to better meet their needs. I feel like it all relates back to the platinum rule, though, and simply recognizing that people are all different!

Dave Hingsburger said...

Oh my gosh, I'd never heard of the platinum rule! Thanks for letting me know about it. In the end, I'm glad I came to it on my own rather than having read about it - it's sunk a little deeper into my mind.

Glee said...

Exactly Dave. What a light bulb experience. Like.

Penelope said...

I think you're right about it being something people are more likely to remember if they come to it on their own. I kinda of think of the "Platinum rule" as almost the next step of "The Golden Rule". I want to be retreated with respect to my needs and wants. Therefore, I should treat other people with respect to their needs and wants. Which really is just a longer way of saying "Treat others the way they wish to be treated". I think many adults actually subconsciously go through that progression in many situations. I'd guess most adults fall back on the more simple version when they don't know and either can't or don't want to ask how the other person would like to be treated.

I'm not a big fan of any of the names anyway because I think we focus too much on what something's called rather than the action itself. While it can be useful to have a name when teaching kids "The Golden Rule", I've mostly seen adults use the actual term (when not teaching it to kids) as a way to brag, manipulate, chide, or as an excuse. You don't need the terms to live by them. (I've been reading a fantasy series where the main religion is based on a criticism of "naming" and it's had me thinking quite a bit about names/titles vs. actions.)

Flemisa said...

I have tried to live by The Golden Rule with the addition of the words "with particular understanding and respect for the other person". Just because they like to read doesn't mean they want the knitting book I like. I want respect and try to give it to others but the respect for a child differs from the respect for a teenager, for example.
The important thing is to consider others without compromising your own standards and morals.

Deb said...

How hard is it to ask, What do you want? do... to have...

Reminds me of when I was seven and went Christmas shopping with my $2.00, all by myself.

I asked my mother, "How do I choose the gifts?"

She said, "Just follow the Golden Rule."

Well, I knew that from Sunday School, which is why my mother got doll clothes that fit my favorite baby doll that year. She was very disappointed in me. That's how I learned the "Golden Rule" has its limits. LOL

Princeton Posse said...

Thanks Dave, I had to think about this for a bit. I have followed the "Golden Rule" but have also added, "If this was my mom/sister/brother/etc. what would I do?". These have helped guide my actions. I see merit in your suggestion that I treat others as they would be treated. It makes it a bit more challenging when people don't know what they want, just what they don't want.

Purpletta said...

Dave, I wholeheartedly agree with asking. We should do more of that in our everyday interactions... Well, at least I should...
My two cents is...
"Do unto others as you would have others do unto you."
"Treat others as you would like others to treat you."
The "if you were in their shoes..." and so on is just far too complicated for our human condition, sometimes, I am afraid. I need to treat you the way I would want you to treat me. Right here, right now. Not if I were a man instead of a woman, a Canadian instead of an American, or any other constructs of difference I may create. I respect you and you respect me. We are the same. We are equal. We deserve each other's equal respect.
Thank you for all the sharing, all the teaching you do every day.. You truly set an example of living the Golden Rule (and the platinum one as well!)

Belinda said...

So good, and the golden rule still stands, because really, who wouldn't want to be asked?