Appendix 1     The Golden Rule and the global human family

“We should act toward other nations as we wish them to act toward us.”
Millard Fillmore (1800-1874), thirteenth President of the United States

The Golden Rule, known also as the ethic of reciprocity, is arguably the most consistent, most prevalent, and most universal ethical principle in history. It is found worldwide throughout cultures, ethnic groups, religions, secular philosophies, and indigenous traditions. Many people regard it as the most concise and general principle of ethics. The impact of the Golden Rule is largely attributable to its three cardinal qualities – simplicity, universality and power.

Gold itself has symbolic value and a psychological appeal that spans the cultures of history. As a metaphor, it points to what is most pure, noble, enduring, and ideal in human experience. Gold was long considered the most valuable of metals throughout much of the world. It is therefore no surprise that the Golden Rule contains a “gold” metaphor, since, as a principle, it is prized in so many societies.

The principle of the Golden Rule has been valued by human societies for thousands of years. Why does it deserve renewed attention today? And what special significance does the Golden Rule have for this generation of young people?

The Golden Rule is often thought of as a rule for individuals: a person must consider how he or she would like to be treated, when deciding how to treat others. However, our changing world invites us to broaden this rule to include groups of people and society as a whole.

Many regions of the world are quickly becoming more multicultural, with people of many cultures, ethnic groups and religions working to find ways to live together in harmony. The Golden Rule, with its roots in a wide range of the world’s philosophies, religions and cultures, is well-suited to be a standard to which different cultures can appeal in resolving conflicts. As the world becomes more of a single, interacting, global community, the need for such a common standard is becoming more urgent. The Golden Rule can be an ethical cornerstone as the human family works together to build a peaceful, just, and sustainable global society.

Because the Golden Rule is a point of agreement among so many of the world’s cultures, races, and religions, it has tremendous capacity for promoting social justice, equality, non-violence, unity, diversity, global citizenship, multicultural and multifaith cooperation, the teaching of compassion and ethics, and more.

Today we are living in a global village. What this means is that in addition to belonging to our particular ethnic groups, cultures, religions, and nations, we are also global citizens, members of an international community. Being a global citizen brings both privileges and responsibilities. The Golden Rule is one of the best guides we have for enabling all the people of the world to live together in peace.

Compiled by Paul McKenna

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