Sunday, 19 April 2009

The Silver Rule

If we asked a liberal, a conservative, or a socialist, what they thought about the evil of fascism and what part Hitler played in the process, we would probably have three distinct estimations and hence three different ‘Hitlers’. And yet each person would proffer their ideology as good, because there is no incentive to contradict themselves, hence a neutral observer would be presented with three distinct versions of good by default. Multiply this situation by the constellation of philosophies and cults, and you will end up with a constellation of different Hitlers, and a similar number of different versions of good; the devils will be in the detail of course.

Even though some disparate groups may agree as to what constitutes evil, natural competition and vain identity will ensure they are distinct from each other, and this can have profound consequences in the moral diversity found in the doctrines and propaganda of religious and political groups. There is, or was, only one actual Hitler and only one actual Christ, as there was one Stalin and only one Mother Teresa or Mahatma Ghandi; so the constellations of estimations of the good and bad of these icons is a corollary to the diversity of our prejudices and not of reality. The acts of good and bad associated with these icons, is prioritised differently according to each moral group in accord with their own characteristic philosophy.

Since civilisation requires the interaction of these disparate moralities, societies transpire codes of practice both as law and custom, to mediate the diversity. One of the most widely quoted tenets shared among many cultures is ‘The Golden Rule’; although it is stated in many variants, a typical variant might be:

“Treat others as you would have them treat you.”

This raises the question as to what warrants acceptable treatment; imagine the interaction between a sadist and a masochist!? The framework of the golden rule would appear to require equal good amongst equals.

The trouble with the golden rule is that it is confounded by the multiplicity of good; to be effective and fair, each must match the other as they find them, but unless they are equal, one will be short changed. In remedying these instances a society, especially an established society, will develop its laws and customs so as to trammel the citizens toward a unifying code of ‘good’ conduct, and in the process undermine the naturally diverse constellation of morality. The older a society becomes the more stifling it will tend to be towards the individual who has an independent frame of mind. Also the more aggrieved the population, the greater the demand for remedy and corresponding increase in legislation, especially if the ruling ethos shares those grievances, or is willing to manipulate them for the purpose of popularity and power.

It is a profound irony that those who promote equality and diversity via legislation have undermined both; since an increase of legislation must increase criminality and conformity between citizens. Those that conform are ever more confined with their freedom to diversify correspondingly reduced, and those that dare to diversify do so at risk of their liberty, hence they are reduced in status rather than being equal to those that conform. The whole process of shepherding morality via the violence of law is the fascist form of stabilizing society at the expense of the freedom of the individual. And just as a hole gets bigger the more you take from it, orthodoxy increases with every liberty removed from the individual.

Consider the social contract between the people and their state after the decline of the Roman Empire. With good intentions, and holding the banner of The Golden Rule, the early church morally developed the laws and customs of Europe, via the method of piety they pursued the path of ‘goodness’; the state divisively created the distinction of faithful and heretic, or saints and sinners. This contract would only be stable among equals, hence the strain imposed by natural diversity and the moral division of society would break that system if given freedom to express its self; so the system became bigoted and intolerant for its own preservation, the church was responsible for the European Dark Age, culminating in the brutality of the inquisitions.

Now consider ‘The Silver Rule’:

“Do not impose on others that which you would not have imposed on yourself.”

The difference here is that ‘goodness’ is not required, only the need to ‘avoid being bad’ to others. For example if someone were to receive an unsolicited gift, under the golden rule it would be remiss not to respond in kind, whereas there is no such reciprocating requirement by the silver rule. This also liberates the citizen from the need of equality, and hence makes them free to choose their response according to their wishes. If the other party is disappointed but otherwise not harmed or cheated, then no litigation is expected to enforce satisfaction, for that would be an imposition, further they are free to respond in kind if they so choose rather than moral obligation.

Of course people would still be at liberty to form contracts amongst themselves and be bound by such, since both have entered into agreement of mutual imposition, but the silver rule forbids the unilateral or asymmetric imposition.

How different European history would have been if the church chose the relatively moral indifference of the silver rule rather than the morally pious golden rule?

From good intentions the system evolved into fascism, from aiming to be good, they defined bad people from normal people, for all that is not good must be bad. And in the final and inevitable perversion of morality, good people were persuaded to impose bad things on different people to preserve the system of goodness. And that which creates our natural diversity also lends itself to our competitive nature, so that the piety inherent in the golden rule becomes a tool for advancement from within the orthodoxy, hence ever more extreme and testing legislation from the great and the good, imposed upon the lowly and bad.

The golden rule which made goodness the fiducial point of citizenship has inadvertently encouraged bigotry and intolerance, since any action that is not good must be considered bad and subsequently illegal; correspondingly, conformity becomes a virtue and diversity becomes undesirable. The golden rule is the seed of fascism, with bigotry and intolerance being the shaded soil and fertilizer from which it grows.

A system guided by the moral ‘golden rule’ requires equality, else it must trammel cohesion in a Procrustean manner to survive; alternatively a system guided by the amoral ‘silver rule’ only requires a bare sufficiency of legislation to ensure self preservation, and hence allow the true framework for natural diversity and freedom.


Anonymous said...

Enjoyed this read, JimmyG. The golden rule appears to be what socialists purport to aspire to while the silver rule appears more libertarian.

- Jemand

JimmyGiro said...

Cheers Jemand.