"The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men." attributed to Plato

"Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing." attributed to Edmund Burke

Let's between us make the world a better place.

Thursday, 8 April 2010

The Golden Rule

Tom was a young chimney sweep in Victorian England. These lads had a rough life, having to climb up inside chimneys to clear the soot, and no doubt had miserable health as a result. But in those days child labour of this kind was common. The story goes that Tom was chased out of a house by the upper class Ellie, fell into a river, drowned and changed into a Water Baby. There in the water he is introduced to fairies who are responsible for his spiritual and moral guidance. The story continues in The Revd. Charles Kingsley's book, The Water Babies: .....

So far so good. As a young child I recall we had the book, and I loved reading it. What I remember of it now is the role of Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby. What she taught Tom is self explanatory and I have lived with that value, or tried to, throughout my life. But I am no saint. How many of us are?

I thought of this when I heard a newscaster the other day reporting on and discussing terrible events in a faraway place. The news seems to carry such items all too often. But because this is all happening so far away and has no political significance for us, why should we care, she said?! I'm sure I must have heard that wrong, I do hope so, but it did take me back to Tom the Water Baby. Because should we not all care? In my mind I linked Mrs Doasyouwouldbedoneby with the Golden Rule which is a part of all the World's great religions: "All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them," Jesus Christ taught us. Christianity is still the faith to which 33% of the world’s population and 78% of North Americans turn for their healing and spiritual nourishment. Indeed the ministry of Jesus Christ reflects the very essence of the Wounded Healer, with his compassion borne out of his own redemptive suffering for mankind.
The Islamic version is as follows: "No one of you is a believer until he loves for his brother what he loves for himself." Judaism says: "What is hurtful to yourself, do not to your fellow men." I could go through all the faiths - they all basically say the same. Do as you would be done by.
And of course atheists invariably argue that religion is not necessary to ordain moral and ethical values.

So on that basis we should all care, every last one of us, for the lives of all people on the planet. They are all our brothers and sisters. They all deserve compassionate treatment and justice. And we should all be doing all we can to support initiatives that address such issues. I know we are mostly pretty good and generous when it comes to money for disaster relief - but how many of us go further than that? I wonder.

earthquakes?New Orleans 9th Ward Levee break 043We saw the distress that extreme weather can inflict in the 2005 devastation of New Orleans by Hurricane Katrina. Even those who cannot quite believe or accept the evidence for the part humankind may be playing in climate change cannot deny the extent of human suffering now seen on a global scale. This then becomes more than a debate on climate change. Katrina AftermathIt becomes a matter of human compassion and justice. These injustices brew a potentially dangerous potion of civil unrest and worse. There is a social and moral imperative for us all to share everything, to watch out for each other, to work for global healing. I believe we can no longer ignore our global responsibilities.

But there is another side to this book. Goodness me, in my childish innocence I had absolutely no idea that there were undertones to this story. Perhaps my version was the expurgated one. Children were so innocent then. Anyway I googled and came to the Wikipedia site. It tells me that this was a didactic moral fable, that it portrayed the prejudices of that time, making offensive references to Jews, blacks, catholics, particularly the Irish, and Americans. Not to mention a social comment on child labour. Phew!! The Wiki site is fascinating if you wish to pursue this line of information.

I leave you with the thought I began with. Do to others as you would wish others to do to you.The world would be a much better place if we all followed that simple advice, wouldn't it?

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