From the Left
By Brendan LeRoy
My brother has what his doctor calls “restrictive eating,” meaning that he is not just ‘picky,’ but rather has a fear and repulsion of food so severe that he will eat an extremely narrow variety of food. He is willing to eat fast-food chicken nuggets, but refuses to eat any other food containing chicken. A few days ago my sister fought with my brother, attempting to force feed him a piece of chicken breast. At that time I brought up “The Golden Rule.” In an adjacent room my mother shouted that children no longer adhere to the Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you want done to you” but now follow the Platinum Rule: “Do unto others as they want done to them.”
My immediate reaction was negative as the simple thought that someone would consider the Golden Rule insufficient was irritating. Even more obnoxious to me was that the school district said the Golden Rule was not good enough.
The following day I began really trying to understand the significance of the Platinum Rule; after all, the only thing that changed was a pronoun. I concluded that the change was too insignificant for the elementary school student to truly observe a difference. That being said, I could tell a difference.
As far as written history goes back, every known religion has influenced its society to adopt some sort of “eye for an eye” proverb. The earliest comes from Confucius who states: “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.” Buddhism states: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would not find hurtful.” Islam states: “That which you want for yourself, seek for mankind.” A favorite of mine comes from Plato who says, “One should never do wrong in return, nor mistreat any man, no matter how one was mistreated by him.”
The origin of the Golden Rule is in the Bible and has been adopted by Western society as a simple and ambiguous proverb to remind us all, children especially, of the benefit behind general goodness. The Platinum Rule is what my brother calls ‘the way the Golden Rule was meant to be.’ Most all cultures have had a saying or another which promoted the benefit of general goodness, many of which may be interpreted quite differently. If this is the case, why is the adaptation of the Platinum Rule worthy of even discussing?
At first I really could not imagine that a child would even notice a difference between the Golden Rule and the Platinum rule. After all, the sole difference is a pronoun. Then I sat down to talk about this with my ten-year old brother, a student of the Derry school district. I asked whether he believed the Golden Rule or the Platinum rule was better and he answered Platinum Rule. His reasoning was the same as mine: the Golden Rule states the person observing the rule is supposed to act upon his own values while the Platinum Rule states that the values of the recipient are supreme.
This is the actual example my brother gave me: “suppose a child is served a taco but does not like tacos, instead he likes broccoli, you would not be very nice if you forced him to eat a taco.” My response was: ‘Well, that might be the wrong way to look at the Golden Rule because the person forcing the child to eat a taco would not like someone to force him to eat something he would not like.” I was unable to convince him yet he did leave an impression on me. He then also stated that he believes both the Platinum Rule and the Golden Rule are best used together.
I remain in belief that the Golden Rule is sufficient and no changes need to be made and preached to young students. The Golden Rule suggests that one must internally learn to care for other people without the expectation of reciprocation. The Platinum Rule suggests that one must learn to understand the unique wants of other people.
I personally have issue with this as I am conflicted about the growing and ever increasing ‘tolerance’ movement. The more we preach that we are unique and that we must be tolerant of one another, the bonds between us collapse. Everyone wants to stand out from the crowd and at the same time bonds break and community dissolves. In this day it is taboo to state that I believe there is a very crucial benefit to societal conformity. I believe that the Golden Rule’s implication of internal growth proceeds to tolerance by way of inner peace and a general understanding of the world and to ultimately understand truth from falsehood. The Platinum Rule fails to do this; its purpose is not to grow but to accept others for whatever they may find to be a personal benefit.
Despite my opposition to the Platinum Rule being taught, it makes sense that it is embraced by today’s society. There is no truth, therefore what is the point to search for it? All ideas should be respected regardless of how incorrect we may feel them to be. Tolerance is supreme and independent thought is shamed. The Platinum Rule fits what Western society has become and it is only natural that it should replace the millennia old Biblical ‘ethic of reciprocity’ definition. It is a tide which cannot be fought.
Brendan LeRoy is a junior majoring in linguistics.