The dictionary of the Real Academia Española defines the term discriminate as “to select by excluding”. Talking about discrimination is equivalent to talking about exclusion.
By Roberto Kohanoff and Isabel Lazzaroni
Another definition given by the Real Academia of the term discriminate is “to treat a person or a community differently because of their race, religion, politics, gender…” To speak of discrimination is also to speak of treatment given or received.
This is where the Golden Rule comes into play: Treat others as you would like to be treated…
And this is where I ask myself the question: do I want to be treated differently? Do I want to be excluded?
Because if I don’t want to be treated that way, and to be more precise, I don’t want to be mistreated when I exclude the other, when I discriminate against them, then I’m contradicting myself. What I do does not correspond to what I think and feel. I don’t want to be mistreated.
The Golden Rule is principle number 10 of Siloist Humanism’s Valid Action Principles. In the book The inner gaze this principle is stated as follows: “When you treat others as you want them to treat you, it sets you free”.
This principle is the only thing Silo takes up when he writes The Way, the last part of the book Silo’s Message, in which he says: “Learn to treat others as you would like to be treated”.
It seems worth emphasizing that the Golden Rule is not a principle exclusive to humanism. It is a “moral principle, widely spread in the populations, which reveals the humanist attitude”, as the Humanist Dictionary puts it.
There are other ways of stating this principle, for example:
Rabbi Hillel, a Jewish teacher and scholar who lived in Jerusalem in the first century BC. said: “What I would not have done to you, do not do to your neighbor”.
The wise Greek philosopher Plato said: “Let it be given to me to do to others what I would have them do to me”.
Confucius, the Chinese thinker who lived in the 5th century BC. formulated this principle: “Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you”
El Jainism, a religion in India which originated in the fifth century BC, uses the following maxim: “Man should strive to treat all creatures as he would like to be treated.
In Christianity we say, “All the things you want men to do to you, do the same to them”.
Among the Sikhs, members of a religion that is between Hinduism and Islam born in the 15th century of our era, it was said: “Treat others as you would have them treat you”.
So we see that the Golden Rule has existed since ancient times.
And it is a principle that fully corresponds to the humanist siloists’ vision of man. When we speak against any form of discrimination, when we speak of respect for diversity, when we speak of the right to choose the living conditions that we strive for for ourselves and for others, then this morality, this principle of conduct, resonates within us . .
Having said that, there are two statements in this principle. On the one hand: the treatment that a person requires from others. On the other hand: the treatment that a person is willing to reserve for others.
To better understand this, I refer to Manual of Formative Themes and Practices for Silo Messengers.
A. The treatment a person demands from others
The common ambition is to receive treatment without violence and to be able to ask for help in order to improve one’s own life. This applies even to the most violent and exploitative, who require the cooperation of others to maintain an unjust social order. The treatment required is independent of the treatment one is prepared to reserve for others.
B. The treatment a person is willing to give others
By habit we treat others as we need them, as we do with objects, with plants or animals. We are not talking about extremely cruel treatment here, because the used items are not destroyed in the end. However, we tend to care for them when their preservation is rewarding or has present or future utility. However, some “others” are somewhat disturbing: they are the so-called “lovers” whose suffering and joy touch us deeply. We recognize something of ourselves in them and are inclined to treat them as we would like to be treated. There is therefore a gap between the loved ones and the beings in which we do not recognize ourselves.
We tend to consider “lovers” and reserve our help and cooperation for them. This is also the case with strangers, in whom we recognize something of ourselves because the situation the other is in reminds us of our own situation, or because we foresee a future situation in which the other could help us. In all these cases, we are dealing with isolated situations which do not apply to all “boyfriends” nor to all strangers.
D. Simple words are not always what they are
We want to receive help, but why should we give it to others? Words like “solidarity” or “justice” are not enough; we use them on the basis of lies, we say them without conviction. These are “tactical” words that are often used to encourage the cooperation of others, but without offering that cooperation to others. We can go even further, to other tactical words like “love”, “kindness”, etc. Why should one love someone who is not loved? It is contradictory to say, “I like the one I don’t like”, and it is redundant to say, “I like the one I like”. On the other hand, the feelings these words seem to represent are constantly changing, and I can find that I like this same beloved more or less. Finally, the emotions associated with this love are diverse and complex; this is evident in sentences such as: “I like X, but I can’t stand him not doing what I want”.
E. Another look at the application of the golden rule
If we say, “Love your neighbor as yourself for the love of God,” at least two difficulties arise. 1. It is assumed that one can love God and admit that this “love” is human, so the sentence is not correct; or else we love God with a love that is not human, in which case the phrase is also not sufficient. 2. One does not love one’s neighbor except indirectly, through love of God. Double problem: from a word that does not represent the relationship with God well, we must translate it into human feelings.
From another point of view, people say things like: “We fight for class solidarity”, “we fight for solidarity with man”, “we fight against injustice to free Being human”. Here we continue with the groundlessness: why should we fight for solidarity or to liberate others? If solidarity is a necessity, it is not a choice, then it does not matter whether I bring my solidarity or not, since it is not my choice. Otherwise, if it is a choice, why would I make this choice?
Others say more extraordinary things, such as: “in the love of one’s neighbor one flourishes”, or even: “the love of one’s neighbor sublimates the death instincts”. What to say when the word “fulfillment” is not clear and the goal is not presented? When the words “instinct” and “sublimation” are metaphors for a mechanistic psychology that is now clearly inadequate?
And some, more brutal, preach: “You cannot act outside the established justice, so we all protect each other”. In this case, no moral position beyond this “justice” can be required.
Finally, there are those who speak of a zoological natural morality, and still others who define man as a “rational animal” and claim that morality arises from the functioning of this animal’s reason.
For all the above cases, the golden rule does not fit well. We cannot agree with them, even if they tell us that in other words we are talking about the same thing. Obviously, we are not talking about the same thing.
How must all the peoples who have made the Golden Rule the moral principle par excellence feel at different times in history? This simple formula from which a complete morality can be derived springs from a simple and sincere human depth. Through it we reveal ourselves to others. The Golden Rule does not dictate behavior, it offers an ideal and a model to follow while allowing us to move forward in knowledge of our own lives. Nor can the Golden Rule become another instrument of hypocritical moralizing, useful for measuring the behavior of others. When a “moral” table serves to control rather than help, to oppress rather than liberate, it must be broken. Beyond any moral table, beyond the values of “good” and “evil,” is man and his destiny, always unfinished and always growing.
In short, that’s what the manual says.
So let’s get back to this principle of treating others as you want to be treated.
It simply means that if you don’t want your property stolen from you, you logically don’t want to steal from others. If you don’t think it’s necessary to be hit, you don’t hit others. If you don’t want people to make fun of you, spread rumors, or lie to you, you don’t want to make fun of others, you don’t want to start rumors, and you don’t want to lie.
It’s like a rule of behavioral symmetry: I don’t want a criminal to kill me, so I understand that I don’t have the right to kill anyone either. It’s not that hard, right? Understanding it requires very little mental effort. Even a politician can understand that.
Well, that’s the point. It is easy to understand, but it is the practical application that we have difficulty with. Because it’s about being able to put yourself in the other person’s place. Do not respond to violence with violence.
Nobody taught us how to do it. Not at home either. Not even at school. Not to mention the workplace, where competition and mutual bashing are often the rules of the game.
This is what we will work with in this workshop. We are going to do an experiment in how to treat others as I would like to be treated. And hope that this experience will give us the desire to put the golden rule into practice every day.
Translation from Spanish: Frédérique Drouet