Whats Love got to do with it? Rediscovering the Golden and Silver Rules for the Middle East

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 Hope has been replaced by deep despair and the   four horsemen of the apocalypse-conquest, war, famine and death-have returned to wreak vengeance on the innocent.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.





About kevinclements2012

Short CV Professor Kevin P Clements. I am the Foundation Chair of Peace and Conflict Studies and Director of the New Zealand Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Otago, Dunedin New Zealand and Secretary General of the Toda Institute for Global Peace and Policy. Prior to taking up these positions I was the Professor of Peace and Conflict Studies and Foundation Director of the Australian Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies at the University of Queensland, Brisbane Australia . I went to Queensland from International Alert where I was Secretary General from January 1999 to September 2003. International Alert is one of the world’s largest NGOs working on conflict transformation. It pioneered innovative policy and practical approaches to conflict prevention and transformation in Africa ,Eurasia and Asia . It has also made a major contribution to the mainstreaming of conflict prevention within European Foreign and Development Ministries, the EU and a variety of UN institutions. During his time there I was on the Board of the European Centre for Conflict Prevention and past President of the European Peace Building Liaison Office in Brussels. Prior to becoming Secretary General of International Alert I was the Vernon and Minnie Lynch Chair of Conflict Resolution at the Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution at George Mason University Fairfax Virginia USA 1994-2000 and Director of the Institute from 1994-1999. My career has been a combination of academic analysis and practice in the areas of peacebuilding and conflict transformation. I was, for example, formerly Director of the Quaker United Nations Office in Geneva and Head of the Peace Research Centre at the Australian National University in Canberra .Prior to this I was Senior Lecturer in Sociology and Coordinator of Peace Studies at Canterbury University, Christchurch New Zealand . My first academic position was as a lecturer in Sociology at Hong Kong University . I took up this position from a Post Doctoral Fellowship at Oxford University where I worked on development issues with Paul Streeten and others. I have been an advisor to the New Zealand, Australian , British , Swedish and Dutch governments on conflict prevention , peace, defence and security issues and advised the German Government and the OECD on States and Violence. I was, a member of the New Zealand Government’s Defence Committee of Enquiry in 1985 and I currently conducting Problem Solving Workshops in North East Asia with high level participants from Japan, China and Korea. Iwas President of the International Peace Research Association (IPRA) from 1994-1998, President of the IPRA Foundation from 1995-2000 and Secretary General of the Asia Pacific Peace Research Association. I was Secretary General of the International Peace Research Association 2008-2010. I got my B.A, B.A Hon ( First Class) and Ph.D in Sociology from Victoria University of Wellington New Zealand. and held a Post-Doctoral Fellowship at the University of Oxford from 1970-1971. I have been a regular consultant to a variety of non governmental and intergovernmental organisations on disarmament, arms control, conflict resolution, development and regional security issues and I have written or edited 7 books and over 160 chapters /articles on conflict transformation, peacebuilding, preventive diplomacy and development with a specific focus on the Asia Pacific region. Research Expertise 1. Peace Research Theory- Conflict and Conflict Resolution Theory . Preventive Diplomacy , Development and Peacebuilding 2. International and Regional Regimes-APEC, ASEAN, the ARF, ECOWAS 3. Political Sociology-International Organisations. Multilateral/bilateral negotiating processes. 4. Fragile States, Legitimacy and Political Hybridity 5. Alternative Defence and Security Policies-Peace and Security in the Asia-Pacific region. 6. The politics and ethics of international humanitarian intervention 7. Altruism and Compassion In my spare time I like to paint with acrylics or pastels, go to the theatre, listen to classical music, visit art galleries etc!
This entry was posted in Love and Mutuality, Reciprocity, The Middle East and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Whats Love got to do with it? Rediscovering the Golden and Silver Rules for the Middle East

  1. Ria Shibata says:

    Great insights, Kevin!!


  2. Carolyne Ashton says:

    Excellent piece, Kevin. Sadly, it points, for me, to the frustration one feels when being so far away from the core of these terrible conflicts. Even practicing the “Act locally” love you refer to, it still feels awful not to be able to have more impact on the violence seen from afar. Thank you for your thoughtful expression of hope.


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