“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”
– The Golden Rule
The ethic of reciprocity is something that at times bothers me. The concept of karma is a great one as well, but it can also be looked at in a selfish way. Expecting something in return is obvious, not everyone is equipped with a giving nature. Is this really a good thing? Should we do the right thing expecting something back?
I believe this concept to be somewhere in the middle of my “goodness” compass. One extreme is people that are good because they fear something, hell, the law, etc. The other extreme is complete selflessness living like a monk or just living for missions or volunteer work.
Taking the risk of sounding like a cultural snob once again, I grew up with this phrase being a little different. “Haz el bien sin mirar a quién.” which translates to “Do good without looking at whom.” is a phrase I grew up hearing a lot. It is something I really try to do, but often fail at. I do end up expecting something in return from my deeds and find ungrateful people annoying. I should not, I should do thing because they are the right thing to do.
Honor and the concept of duty is something that I have always admired in the Japanese, even though I am aware of some of the atrocities committed in its name. Today most people don’t care about things like honor and care more about being the center of attention. Daniel Yankelovich wrote a great article back in 1996 on how American individualism is evolving and pointed out that after the 1960s when it comes to “social duty less value placed on what one owes to others as a matter of moral obligation”.
Tom Wolfe has given the English language many new phrases, but one of the most significant to me is the “me generation.” I think being only worried about selfish pursuits corrupts the make up of what a community really is. This harsh economic times are going to test our capability to be selfless and help others, do things for the greater good even in a small scale. I believe that is what going to make us triumph and come out of these mess way better off as a community and as a country.