to be Cruel
of us have heard of the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as
you would have them to do unto you." It is a short, pithy statement,
overflowing with practical wisdom. We all want to be treated with
respect and courtesy. If each of us extended respect and courtesy
toward others, our own needs would naturally be met. It is a simple
social blueprint promising tremendous rewards.
But life is never simple. We live in a society
with lots of people, some who follow rules that are not so golden.
Sad to say, there are people who instinctively
trample on other people's lives. Like anyone else, they want to
be respected and treated nicely, but try to secure these goals by
invoking fear. They want power, because they need power. Without
it, their principles leave them vulnerable. If they don't generate
fear, they are at a loss. "I don't have to fear others as long
as they fear me."
The Golden Rule promotes the well-being
of others in its beneficence. It generates friendship and trust.
The Iron Rule, that of fear, power and cruelty, propagates a selfishness
that excludes others. It spawns paranoia by disconnecting people,
thus encouraging even more selfish behavior. Paranoia creates its
own self-fulfilling prophecy.
It expresses a perverted twist to the Golden Rule, far more sinister:
"What goes around, comes around." In the constant struggle
for power, everyone eventually loses. Cruelty breeds more cruelty.
You see examples of this in the business
world. Where the Golden Rule is applied, humanity is honored and
people cooperate to get the job done. Work dynamics are easier to
maintain, and safer too.
Where the opposite is applied, people live in fear, stabbing each
other in the back, their creativity and dedication stifled, creating
an environment doomed to fail. It becomes a source of misery to
those who are caught in it.
Why would anyone reject something as obvious
and beneficial as the Golden Rule?
For whatever reason, they surrender to their
own personal instinct to be cruel. They believe cruelty is a prime
factor in human relationships, a source of power. They hone their
This, of course, throws a monkey wrench
into the Golden Rule philosophy of others. Those who treat others
as they want to be treated, suddenly have to deal with someone else's
cruelty. The reciprocity of the Golden Rule is shattered. Why be
respectful and courteous to someone who is purposely cruel in return?
You can hope that the cruel person will
learn something through your example. If only it were that simple!
The truth is, cruel people take advantage of those of who are more
scrupulous. It helps them come out on top, even though, in the final
episodes of life, they end up lonely, defeated and ill-remembered.
Some of us admire their energy and efficiency,
getting the job done no matter how many corpses litter the field.
This admiration loses sight of the greater picture. The cruel person
cannot accomplish anything without harming good people. The world
they encourage has no room for compassion. Is that what we really
It is therefore important that the rest
of us continue to embrace the Golden Rule, even in the face of cruelty.
How else can we keep hope alive? Without hope for a better world,
our lives are relegated to darkness.
Likewise, we should not admire cruel people,
no matter how successful they become. They have made themselves
enemies to the Golden Rule, and thereby contribute to the misery
of others. They make it harder for the rest of us to make the world
a better place to live in.