Through the millennia the philosopher teachers have been telling us to “seek truth,” “grown in wisdom” or “find the way.” Our purpose is to find our way to peace and harmony. We were shown the way through statements like the Golden Rule. The Golden Rule comes in two parts; love self and neighbor. Each individual must take responsibility for their own actions, first. Once we have taken responsibility for our own lives then we should expect our neighbors to do the same. That is Golden Rule. We cannot love our neighbor until we have loved self! Everyone of us is supposed to go through this exercise. I am suggesting that with the simple little rule we can all enter the game of life as individuals and succeed. At that point it isn’t a “zero sum” game!
But what if someone defects—ok, so what—we forgive them and move on. However, what if they have come to believe that lifestyle is more beneficial to their perceived goals and decide to steal or lie all the time. Normally their friends and associates pull away because they do not wish to descend into the same obsessive pit. When their friends begin to pull away these individuals will either correct their attitude and behavior or become even more desperate, acting out more frequently and becoming more isolated. They have broken the two part standard, self has won out and there is no balance.
If this happens on a large scale and is not corrected, it leads eventually to the collapse of the social system and chaos ensues. Until the individuals find the simple set of rules again, and return to proper behavior disharmony reigns. We see eras of this darkness throughout history. The problem is we let ourselves get in the way. Our egos convince us that we can do it better than the simple set of rules. Life doesn’t have to be this way! We are smart enough to prevent this from happening. But only if we are smart enough to see what is happening.
There is plenty of evidence to prove that we are capable of achieving peace and harmony in large societies. However it requires the correct mental attitude about that existence at an individual level. This mental attitude is derived through our collective education, including parents, schools, church and work or play. You may see harmony and cooperation as your highest goal. Or, you may have learned that your selfish gain at any cost is the way to go. The first brings harmony to self and close associates. The second reality causes disharmony and division for everyone. Conforming to certain harmonizing standards creates great cohesion which leads to prosperity for the group as a whole.
In a quote from The Origins of Virtue, the author Matt Ridley states.
“The cohesiveness of groups that conformity achieves is a valuable weapon in a world where groups must act together to compete with other groups.”***
Everyone accepts a standard of some sort. The standard that I’ve accepted is the Golden Rule. It is the overriding rule that I live by. That means that I live my life to the highest possible level of achievement without harming others. My first step. And then, I wish the same access to achievement for my neighbors. My second step.
The Law of Reciprocity says they in turn should strive for their highest achievement and wish the same for me. Every time another person joins into this Golden Rule universe it increases the harmony emanating from each of them. With my acceptance to the Golden Rule principle I look for simple, neutral and universal rules to be governed by. The rights to life, liberty and property. Equal rights under the law and equal opportunities to pursue my personal happiness. And if that is good for me, that is good for you as well.
As part of the five supporting principles Wisdom plays an important role in this discussion. Part of the principle of Wisdom provides that we follow societal rules after careful consideration and understanding. Wisdom supports the concept that there should be fewer laws that remain consistent over long periods to consider and adapt. The more laws we attempt to create the more difficult it is to understand them. They drive us away from individual growth and responsibility. Which, obviously leads to less liberty that one has over their free will. With a little research we will find the problem with underdeveloped countries frequently boils down to corrupt bureaucratic social systems. Everyone cheating and stealing their way through the daily power struggle with little societal integrity. They have lost the touch with the two-part strategy self and neighbor.
Some expect government to provide the perfect solution to life’s various issues. But the government is a collective of imperfect humans. The larger the government (collection of imperfect humans) grows the worse the bureaucracy becomes. Once we have lost the personal incentive to protect rights of others there becomes great corruption for all. We lose that individual transaction attitude (self and neighbor). The government should have few and clear objectives such as the limited powers enumerated in our constitution. Therefore, we should not be looking to a political elite to be ruling over us. At some point we will become slaves of the state. “Social contracts between equals, generalized reciprocity between individuals and between groups—these are at the heart of most vital of all human achievements: the creation of society.”***
I have come to understand that it is this dual objective (self and neighbor) that fires harmony at all levels. We have evolved mentally beyond having to survive within the heard to protect ourselves. We could use our intelligence to adopt social conditions that allow our individual passions to rise to the top and produce highly productive, successful, harmonious organizations on global scale.
*** The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation by Matt Ridley, published by Penguin Group ©Matt Ridley, 1969, ISBN 978-0-14-026445-6