Many of us look at the countless never-ending wars darkening our world at present, wondering, is there ever a chance for world peace? Could there ever be some reason for people to lay down their arms? Some would say the only way would be some vast unifying catastrophe. But the likelihood of such an event is fairly slim. But is there ever a chance?
Perhaps we are left relying solely on people’s personal beliefs and ethics, what guides their behaviour. There are various principles over the millennia that have been used to help steer us through life. One of the most notable ones is the Golden Rule. Could it be the lodestar able to guide us toward peace?
Why Do We Fight One Another?
When we look around our world, seeing the countless disputes, it’s simply more of the same. We’ve been doing that sort of thing for thousands of years in some form or another. We’ve fought one another for numerous reasons, each eventually leading to a dispute. For one, there’s a wish to seek economic gain whether that involves fighting over something of value. It could be livestock, land, fuel or minerals. If you’ve got it and I want it. Invariably, there’ll be problems.
Territorial gain is another reason. One nation’s got land another believes should be theirs. Nations may also seek to have a buffer zone, more land or simply expansion as a display of power. Other reasons may include religion or nationalism, each pushing people to fight.
It’s clear to see how wars are a complex beast. Take for instance the current war in the Middle East where one can identify several reasons—religion, territorial gain, as well as economic gain. So, it’s rarely just one reason nations take up arms.
What of World Peace?
So, we have every reason to war with one another. And as a result, it’d seem that something like world peace is a tall order. Peace is defined in various manners, but overall, it’s a reflection of “quiet, calm, rapport, concord, truce; lack of hostility.”
Amongst people in families, circles of friends or a community, difficulties may erupt. But, in time, they often simmer down. At a larger scale, conflicts may occur within nations. However, while they often lead to distress, maybe even brutality, in time, they can abate. Witness the changes that have occurred in Ireland now that the religious difficulties have largely been put to rest.
All well and good. But what of world peace?
The Golden Rule
One of the principles many of us learned when we were younger was the Golden Rule. This was always intended as a rule to encourage and perhaps discourage certain actions with one another. So, for instance, we’re about to say something nasty about another person. Yet, we recall how it wouldn’t be so nice to experience such a thing ourselves. Hence, we realise it’s an unkind thing to do. So, maybe not, we realise.
Image of “Golden Rule Sign” that hung above the door of the employees’ entrance to the Acme Sucker Rod Factory in Toledo, Ohio, 1913 (Source: Wikipedia).
As we all know, the Golden Rule is a principle of great strength, able to guide people of all ages. It can do so regardless of even a diverse range of backgrounds and other qualities that sometimes separate us—sex, religion, nationality, and so on.
The Golden Rule is considered by some to be a central tenet of life, with some even regarding it as a universal principle. In fact, myriad religions utter some form of the Golden Rule in their efforts to guide their believers. The one with which many are most familiar emerges from the Christian interpretation—Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It’s a principle that unquestionably offers a pathway to peace.
And if all of us pursued a life where the Golden Rule were a guiding principle, would there be any reason for our interactions to erupt into conflict. Would not an adherence to the Golden Rule dampen and extinguish these clashes?
Yes, it would be a wonderful idea. But maybe it’s not so simple.
Is the Golden Rule Always Appropriate?
One of the many challenges of the Golden Rule may be the fact that not everyone would agree about the action in question. For instance, someone may make a romantic gesture towards someone. The individual making the gesture would say this is fine, as they would welcome the same being done to them. Yet, the individual in receipt may not share their sentiments and actually be taken aback. So, in this case, doing unto others is not the best approach?
However, in this instance, we need to simply ask ourselves if we need to alter how we apply the Golden Rule. Perhaps it’s just a matter of rewording the question—Would I want to have romantic sentiments overtly imposed on me? Our answer may very well be no, in fact we wouldn’t. Thus the Golden Rule would stand true.
Another complication may occur if someone is convicted of a crime and sentenced to a period of time behind bars. When imposing the Golden Rule, we might say, we would not want to spend time in prison and thus, we cannot do this unto another.
Yet again, what if we simply alter the question? If I would be willing to pay for a crime I committed, then actually, I would accept this being done to another. Again, the Golden Rule will hold true and still applies.
We just have to take care regarding the question we ask ourselves. For instance, in the one, it wasn’t a matter of wanting to be behind bars or not wanting to be behind bars. The real underlying issue was about accepting punishment for something we’ve done.
Golden Rule and World Peace?
Now, we can question whether all of this could apply in terms of world peace. Well, in my opinion, world peace is certainly possible. But at the same time, it’s still highly unlikely. Certainly, at the scale of nations, there would seem to be too many conflicting interests and agendas guiding people.
Sometimes, application of the Golden Rule requires a bit of tinkering to truly understand the issue at hand. What exactly am I okay to have done unto me that I feel someone else should also have no problem experiencing. In any respect, one can easily see how this is far more possible to work out face to face than amongst nations. The application of the Golden Rule isn’t always straightforward.
But then, maybe we‘re thinking of finding a solution at entirely the wrong scale. If there ever will be world peace, maybe it’d best begin with you and me. Which is to say that perhaps the idea of world peace requires we change our perspective. Instead of thinking at the scale of nations, we must turn our attention on ourselves first.
Perhaps, as is often the case, the challenge is to ensure that you and I find peace in our families, circles of friends and communities. It is much simpler to work out the finer nuances of the Golden Rule when dealing with fewer people and also when we’re able to do so face to face.
Ultimately, we seem to have little control over what nations are doing. But we do have control over ourselves. We can start with ourselves and maybe it’s possible that peace will be able to touch the nations at large. We may be surprised how great an impact you and I do have on the world. Everything beautiful and magnificent always begins and prospers in the small and quiet corners of the world.
Goodman, Paul 2023 “The 8 Main Reasons for War” Owlcation https://owlcation.com/social-sciences/The-Main-Reasons-For-War
New World Encyclopedia 2023 “Golden Rule” https://www.newworldencyclopedia.org/entry/Golden_Rule
Shatz, Itamar 2023 “The Golden Rule: Treat Others the Way You Want to Be Treated” Effectiviology https://effectiviology.com/golden-rule/