What’s love got to do with it?:Rediscovering the Golden and Silver Rules for the Middle East.
Kevin P Clements
NCPACS, University of Otago
Just as we thought the world was getting more enlightened and the number of violent conflicts diminishing, the worst angels of our nature seem to have reasserted themselves. The Arab Spring has turned into an Arab winter. Hope has been replaced by deep despair and the four horsemen of the apocalypse-conquest, war, famine and death-have returned to wreak vengeance on the innocent.
Those of us far removed from the centres of violence are mute bystanders to the new slaughter in the Middle East. We are impotent in the face of vicious cycles of revenge.
From the outside we empathise and weep as we try and make sense of all those who are suffering .
This violence, however, reminds us of the intentional and unintentional suffering that each one of us does to others on a daily basis.
Our individual wilfulness, greed, ignorance, and desire blind us to the harm we do as we assert and satisfy our own selfish needs and wants.
By situating ego and self at the centre of our being others are diminished. They become passive or active objects orbiting our selfish sun and serving our own selfish interests. We can only tolerate such selfish pathology, however, by unintentionally or intentionally denying our interdependence and dependence on others for all that gives our lives their shape and meaning.
The fact is we are nothing without others who can share our hopes, fears, joys and burdens. We are nothing unless we can generate our harmlessness to others by serving their interests and needs rather than our own. It is not rocket science. We will not be able to exercise creative imagination in relation to the big problems of the Middle East or the small problems of home family and neighbourhood unless we live and act by the golden and silver rules.
Love and compassion have everything to do with whether or not our actions will result in nonviolent rather than violent actions. It’s about time that we started thinking of the politics of love rather than the love of politics. The art of compassion rather than science of self interest. This means that we need to reactivate and pay much more active attention to the golden and silver rules that have guided ethics for centuries. The Golden rule features in most of the world religions in one form or another . It is an injunction to treat others as one would like to be treated . “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is how it is framed in Christian theology. But it also appears in Buddhism in Confucianism and in Islam. In the Hadith “A Bedouin came to the prophet, grabbed the stirrup of his camel and said: O the messenger of God! Teach me something to go to heaven with it. Prophet said: “As you would have people do to you, do to them; and what you dislike to be done to you, don’t do to them. Now let the stirrup go! [This maxim is enough for you; go and act in accordance with it!]”
The silver rule which accompanies the golden rule is more pre- cautionary. One should not treat others in ways that one would not like to be treated. Both the Golden and the Silver rules are at heart religious or ethical justifications of reciprocity. Most of our human relationships are of this kind. Societies exist because most people most of the time strive to build mutuality in relationship. There is an implicit, if not explicit, recognition that if one values a relationship through time it will be reciprocal, two way and equal . There is a deep rooted instinct for fairness and justice in all relationships which is why friendships, communities and societies manage to survive through time without the intervention of the state. Violence destroys reciprocity, equality, mutuality and love. Particularly the love of one’s social self and love of the other. This is what has happened in the Middle East. The Golden and Silver Rules have been forgotten. These rules have been replaced by vicious rules and relationships based on a desire for control, domination and subjugation. Until these desires have been quelled neither side will be able to imagine alternatives to violence. The apocalyptic horsemen will ride unimpeded, generating nothing but death, destruction, famine, and an even deeper instinct for revenge
So Love has everything to do with it. Until the political leaders of all sides in the Middle East can discover/rediscover the better angels of their nature, the prospects for peace, stability, justice and long term reciprocal relationships are very slim indeed.Until political leaders can see the wisdom of love and give it as much importance as the love of wisdom they will never be able to develop empathetic imagination sufficiently compelling to break the cycles of violence.