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jdporter (36)

Journal of jdporter (36)

Friday July 12, 2002
05:29 AM

the golden rule ain't so...

[ #6302 ]

It just occurred to me that the Golden Rule is pretty lame.

I mean, it may be great for kids, when you're trying to socialize them. But for adults, its usefulness is pretty limited.

The problem is the premise: it works if we all want the same thing. But we don't. We all want different things. So if you want to be nice to someone, don't treat them the way you would want to be treated; treat them the way they want to be treated.

This came to me as I was pondering a recent thread on an email list, in which two people expressed entirely opposite viewpoints on the issue of "courtesy copies". One person finds them annoying, and so he always trims out all addresses from To/Cc except for the email list; the other person thinks they're useful, so he leaves the other addresses in. They're both following the Golden Rule, and in the process, hurting each other. The Golden Rule has backfired.

Of course, in a situation like this, things aren't so black-and-white, since there are the other members of the list to consider. Both individuals are serving the interests of some fraction (roughly half?) of the community, so it's not like either one should necessarily be enjoined to reverse his behavior.

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  • "Do unto others as you would have done unto you" doesn't necessarily refer to actions, although it can. It's more often about meta-actions.

    In the case you cited, the Golden Rule doesn't mean "you have to include cc: lines because that's what the other person wants". It does mean "listen to the other person's concerns and ideas about the subject, just as you would want them to listen to yours."



  • You're right, it all comes down to the premise. The problem is, the golden rule is from the Bible. Christians are supposed to all want the same thing, God's will. Unfortunately, this doesn't apply to our culture -- we all want what's best for ourselves.