Living By the Universal Guidelines
- Do no harm to others.
- Help others who need and will accept help to the level that you are able to help.
The sages through history have espoused some version of “treat others as you yourself would want to be treated”. That is perhaps the higher form of both the Universal Guidelines. You should stop to think before you do anything and ask yourself – “what do I want the outcome to be as a result of this action?” When you do this, you must look far enough out in time in examining the outcomes to see just how they will relate to the two Universal Guidelines.
This seems so basic and straight forward that it is difficult to write about. Yet, I suspect that there is no one alive who can live absolutely consistently in accord with the two Universal Guidelines. We have world strife and wars. We have enslavement. We have huge poverty while we have huge concentration of wealth. We have theft. We have murder. We have one person striking out in anger at another. People leave garbage where-ever they please. On and on it goes. All of these are anti-social and create divisions, discord and unhappiness.
My thesis is quite simple. If enough of us will try to live as close to the standards of the two Universal Guidelines as we can, the trend will grow and eventually prevail in a group of people, a location, a region, a country, a group of countries and eventually the world! I liken it to “phasing” in quantum physics. At a certain critical point it will take on a life of its own and line up together so that we are all in concert with each other and the two Universal Guidelines.
Understand, I am not speaking about a bland, vanilla world of sameness. Not at all! There will be plenty of room for difference. Ideas should still be challenged. We will still organize in societies with governments. Everyone at every level will just always work in consideration of the two Universal Guidelines.
How would that apply here in my own little part of the world?
We start at the most basic level, as a species that must procreate. We produce young and raise them so that they will contribute to our group in some way and, in turn, produce more young. Simple enough. Just apply the ecological rule of survival of the fittest (or survival of the survivors). Does this mean to say that everyone must produce youngsters? Not any more. We have a critical mass that pretty much ensures that there will be humans around for some time. It does mean though that young are important and need to be “on purpose” and raised well to understand that they are a part of a larger society that depends on them for growth and better living (and at a certain level – survival).
“On purpose!” It is here that it becomes clear that the miraculous “spark” that I see as a difference between us and other species comes in to play. We seem to feel or at least look for a larger purpose for our existence. We spend huge efforts and engage in wars at times to defend and spread our own versions of the “truth”. We do some pretty horrific things in the name of helping others to see that our way is the only correct way and we “are just doing these horrific things for your own good”. It would seem that we are the only species that has an awareness of life and death. We look for meaning after life because of this awareness.
Sages throughout history have developed different ideas of how we originally came to exist and what our purpose is and what happens when we die. There are certainly common threads amongst the ones that I am aware of and I am sure a more detailed knowledge would reveal that these common threads are throughout. The two Universal Guidelines are in all that I am aware of in any event and I will concentrate on that for now.
On top of the ecological imperative for the species to survive, there is the “spark” that can understand and live in full accord with the two Universal Guidelines. That forms the basis of our social system. We must not hurt others (in any way!) and we must help where we are needed and can. There is no room to interpret either Guideline to justify domination or conversion or any sort of fierce and violent conflict between ideas.
If you take something that does not belong to you, you are hurting the previous owner who has earned the item that has been stolen. The rest of the community is injured because a trust has broken down. Now we come to the delicate matter of what to do about it if it does happen? Our immediate reaction is to illicit some form of revenge. I wonder where that comes from. We justify it by dressing it up as a way to discourage others from doing the same thing and to encourage the violator from doing it again. So what could we do in view of the two Universal Guidelines?
We should not hurt the offender of course. But we need to promote social living standards of the community. Does the individual want help to readjust to the norms of our society? If yes, we help. Maybe we require restitution and public apology. That makes us whole again and it also alerts the public in general that this person has made a mistake and wants to change. We all then become partners in helping to ensure that it does not recur. If the individual does not want help, we still need to ensure that our society continues to develop in trust and safety. We may have to go so far as to shun the person. Put the person in a situation where he is no longer able to rely on the society to help him/her to grow and thrive. Subsistence may be the best to be expected until they want to reintegrate to our society. This would be open ended.
What about murder? That is an escalation of the idea of theft to a much larger level of course. We can follow basically the same approach as with theft but the shunning becomes more rigid. Again, reintegration to our society is the objective but it will require clear indicators from the individual before he/she is permitted back into our society. Trust has to be rebuilt and that can only come from the offender.
What about terrorism? That is very real these days and needs to be considered unfortunately. Terrorism is actually the most basic attack and therefore rejection of society that can possibly occur. It strikes me that this is the ultimate offence. (I will discuss state actions at a later time). Since this is the ultimate offence against society, it raises the idea of what can be the ultimate response to control and correct the behaviour?
I frankly favour the idea of ultimate shunning. Remove offenders and those who incite this sort of anti-social behaviour to a remote location and permit them to build their own society. We would set up communications with them but would not support them in any way. They would need to find their own ways to survive. Obviously, we would need to ensure that there was a basic ecology that could support life in the locale that they are removed to. In the fullness of time, as they can demonstrate that they are prepared to live in accord with the two Universal Guidelines, we would establish relations and eventually find ways to reintegrate them. We are likely talking generations here.
How do these concepts work? It appears that we must do some sort of harm in retaliation to offences. That is true in the strictest sense I suppose. However, we are at base, a species that must survive in accordance with the basic ecological imperative to simply survive. The least fit need to be weeded out. Our “spark” requires us to not be quite as brutal as simply weeding out offenders on their first or second offence. Our requirement to do no harm demands that we find ways to correct and re-integrate offenders back into society. Those that want help should get it to the level they are sincere and are ready and able to accept it. The severity of the impact on society determines the level of shunning that would be appropriate to protect us and to encourage re-integration.
I have to comment a bit on the phenomenon of advertising, movies and video games in our society these days. There seems to be a race to the lowest point in our society. You might think that I would be tempted to move to simply censoring everything for “correctness” or at least a level of “harmlessness”. I do not advocate that and do not think it would work. As individuals, we must learn to live in full accord with the two Universal Guidelines as I have been advocating all along here. It is our choice as to how we respond to stimuli. If we are in accord, we will simply “shun” the offending messages because they “do harm”. As I said earlier, if enough of us live this way, a critical mass will develop and it will be just a natural evolution to see the end of the downward spiral and the birth of helpful and growth oriented activities to resurface.
A parent’s obligation would be to ensure that their child is not exposed to choices that they are not yet able to rationally handle with the knowledge they have of the two Universal Guidelines. Yes, parents must act as censors while they are raising their children. The more that their children show understanding of the Guidelines, the more freedom in choices they earn. Obviously, there will be challenges and arguments that are simply the norm in growing up and asserting one’s own independence. The parent must stay true to the guidelines and not give in to the temptation to be a bully and just impose their will because they are bigger or have control the purse strings. Persuasion is essential. BUT! There must be certain inviolable rules of the household that are not up for negotiation and they must remain steady as a rock upon which the home is based. That helps the growing kids understand that they can rebel and that sort of thing but only to the edge of the inviolable rules. Those rules exist for all and will only be useful to the extent that the parent is a living and good example of them.