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Impulse to be Cruel

All 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 skills accordingly.
    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 want?
    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.


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