The dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy says that to discriminate is “to select by excluding”. So, talking about discrimination is equivalent to talking about exclusion.

By Roberto Kohanoff and Isabel Lazzaroni

Another definition given by the Royal Academy of what it means to discriminate is: “to give unequal treatment to a person or group for racial, religious, political, gender, etc. reasons”. So, to speak of discrimination is also to speak of the treatment given or received.

And this is where the Golden Rule comes into play, which says: Treat others the way you want to be treated….

This is where I have to ask myself: do I want to be treated unequally? Do I want to be excluded?

Because if I don’t want such treatment, or such bad treatment to be more precise, when I exclude others, when I discriminate against them, I am in contradiction. Because what I am doing does not coincide with what I think and what I feel, which is that I would not like to receive such mistreatment.

The Golden Rule is principle number 10 of the Principles of Valid Action of Siloist humanism. In the book The Inner Look it is stated as follows: “When you treat others as you want to be treated, you liberate yourself”.

This is the only principle that Silo takes up again in The Path – the last part of the book Silo’s Message – where he says: “Learn to treat others the way you want to be treated”.

It should be made clear that the Golden Rule is not an exclusive principle of humanism. It is a “moral principle, widely spread among various peoples, revealing the humanist attitude”, according to the Humanist Dictionary.

By way of example, it is worth recalling other ways of stating this principle:

Rabbi Hillel, a Jewish teacher and scholar who lived in Jerusalem in the 1st century B.C., said: “what you do not want for yourself, do not do to your neighbour”.

The wise Greek philosopher Plato said: “May it be given to me to do to others what I would have them do to me”.

Confucius, the Chinese thinker who lived five centuries before Christ, formulated this principle as follows: “do not do to others what you would not like them to do to you”.

Jainism, a religion of India that originated in the 6th century BC, has the following maxim: “Man should strive to treat all creatures as he would like to be treated”.

In Christianity it is said: “All things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them”.

And among the Sikhs, members of a religion that is a syncretism between Hinduism and Islam, which appeared in the 15th century AD, it is said: “Treat others as you would have them treat you”.

So, as we can see, the Golden Rule has existed since ancient times.

And it is a principle that fully coincides with the vision that we Siloist humanists have of the human being. Because when we speak against any kind of discrimination, when we speak about respect for diversity, when we speak about the right to choose the conditions of life to which we aspire for ourselves and for others, this moral, this principle of behaviour is resonating.

Now, there are two terms in this principle. On the one hand there is the treatment one requires from others. And on the other, the treatment one is willing to give to others.

To understand this better, I refer you to the Manual of Formative themes and practices for messengers of Silo.

A. The treatment one requires of others

The common aspiration is to be treated in a non-violent manner and to ask for help in improving one’s own existence. This is true even among the most violent and exploitative of those who demand the cooperation of others in the maintenance of an unjust social order. The treatment required is independent of the treatment one is willing to give to others.

B. The treatment one is willing to give to others

One tends to treat others in a utilitarian way as one treats various objects, plants and animals. We are not talking about the extreme of cruel treatment because, after all, one does not destroy the objects one wishes to use. In any case, one tends to take care of them as long as their preservation is gratifying or yields some present or future utility. However, there are some “others” that are somewhat disturbing: they are the so-called “loved ones”, whose suffering and joy we are deeply moved by. We recognise something of ourselves in them and tend to treat them in the way we would like to be treated. There is thus a gap between loved ones and those in whom one does not recognise oneself.

C. Exceptions

With regard to “loved ones”, one tends to treat them as helpful and cooperative. This is also the case with strangers in whom one recognises something of oneself, because the situation in which the other finds oneself reminds one of one’s own situation, or because one calculates a future situation in which the other could become a factor of help for one. In all these cases, it is a question of one-off situations that do not apply to all “loved ones” and do not extend to all strangers.

D. Mere words are no basis for anything

One wants to receive help, but why should one give it to others? Words like “solidarity” or “justice” are not enough; they are said against a background of falsehood, they are said without conviction. They are “tactical” words that are often used to promote the cooperation of others, but without giving it to others. This can be taken even further, to other tactical words such as “love”, “kindness”, etc. Why would one love someone who is not a loved one? It is contradictory to say: “I love the one I do not love”, and it is redundant to say: “I love the one I love”. On the other hand, the feelings that these words seem to represent are constantly changing and I can see that I love the same loved one more or less. Finally, the layers of this love are diverse and complex; this is clear in sentences such as: “I love X, but I can’t stand it when he doesn’t do what I want”.

E. The application of the Golden Rule from other positions

If it is said: “Love your neighbour as yourself for the love of God”, at least two difficulties arise. 1. We must suppose that one can love God and admit that this “love” is human, then the word is not adequate; or else we love God with a love that is not human, in which case the word is not adequate either, and 2. Double problem: from a word that does not represent well the relationship to God, we must translate it into human feelings.

From other positions people say things like: “We fight for class solidarity”, “we fight for solidarity with the human being”, “we fight against injustice in order to liberate the human being”. Here we continue with the lack of foundation: why should I fight for solidarity or to liberate others? If solidarity is a necessity, it is not a matter of choice, in which case it matters little whether I do it or not, since it is not my choice; if it is a choice, why should I make that choice?

Others say more extraordinary things, such as: “in neighbourly love we fulfill ourselves”, or: “neighbourly love sublimates the death instincts”. What can we say about this when the word “fulfillment” is not clear if the objective is not presented, when the word “instinct” and the word “sublimation” are metaphors for a mechanistic psychology which is now clearly inadequate?

And there is no lack of the most brutal who preach: “You cannot act outside the system of established justice, which is designed to protect us all from each other”. In this case, no moral attitude that goes beyond this “Justice” can be demanded.

Finally, there are some who speak of a zoological Natural Morality, and still others who, defining the human being as a “rational animal”, claim that morality is derived from the functioning of the reason of this animal.

For all the above cases, the Golden Rule does not fit well. We cannot agree with them even if they tell us that, in other words, we are talking about the same thing. It is clear that we are not talking about the same thing.

What must all those who made the Golden Rule the moral principle par excellence have felt in different peoples and historical moments? This simple formula, from which a complete morality can be derived, springs from simple and sincere human depth. Through it, we reveal ourselves in others. The Golden Rule does not impose a behaviour, it offers an ideal and a model to follow while allowing us to advance in the knowledge of our own life. Nor can the Golden Rule become a new instrument of hypocritical moralising, useful for measuring the behaviour of others. When a “moral” yardstick serves to control rather than to help, to oppress rather than to liberate, it must be broken. Beyond all moral standards, beyond the values of “good” and “evil”, stands the human being and his destiny, always unfinished and always growing.

Well, so much for what the manual says.

Let us then return to this Principle of treating others as you want to be treated.

This, put very simply, means that if you don’t want to be robbed of your belongings, then logically you won’t rob others. If you don’t want to be beaten up, you won’t beat up others. If you don’t want to be made fun of, or gossiped about, or lied about, you won’t make fun of others or gossip or tell lies.

It’s like a rule of symmetry of behaviour: I wouldn’t want a criminal to kill me, so I realise that I don’t have the right to kill anyone either. It’s not so difficult, is it? It requires very little mental effort to understand. Even a politician can understand it.

Well, that’s the point. Understanding it is easy. Putting it into practice is what we find difficult. Because it is about being able to put ourselves in the place of the other. Not to respond to violence with violence.

And nobody has taught us how to do this. Not at home. Nor at school. Not to mention in the workplace where competition and putting each other down is often the basic rule.

That is what we are going to work on in this workshop. We are going to have an experience on how to treat others the way I want to be treated. And hopefully this experience will make us want, every day, to put the Golden Rule into practice.