Skip to content

The Golden Rule

by on March 27, 2021

The Golden Rule

by Marco M. Pardi

The Golden Rule is of no use to you whatever unless you realize it’s your move.” Frank Crane, educator, as quoted in After, by Bruce Greyson MD.

All comments are welcome and will receive a reply. All previous posts are also open for comment.

Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” This is fundamental to every major religion from the ancient Egyptian texts to the Taoist T’ai-shang Kan-ying P’ien. Theists see it as a directive from God, non-theists as a self evident principle to live by. But when I first heard it I felt there were problems. Okay, since I have always observed closely and thought about what I had been presented, having questions was simply in character. That’s also why I work best when I work alone.

I also feel these problems are largely self evident. For example, “others”. Exactly who are we talking about? There are people out there who would initiate harm against you; for me, turning the other cheek just gives me more time to design my response. There are people out there who would kill you for the change in your pocket, even after you hand it to them. “Want a hug with that?”

Interestingly, hidden prejudices emerge when encountering others. African-Americans often cite the “tendency” of White males to touch their wallets and White females to clutch their purses closer as they close the distance between them on sidewalks or in stores. Recent interviews of career military disclosed that African-American males meet among themselves to learn “proper” decorum when around White peers or superior officers. They fear appearing intimidating.

Some interesting consequences emerge when these prejudices backfire. A federal agency uses handguns fitted with lasers instead of bullets for its clandestine officers to work through a very rapidly changing sequence of life sized images on a screen. The officers have seconds to view, assess, and respond to the images flashed before them. Here’s one I particularly like:

A reliable source indicates you have been blown and action is being taken against you now. As you walk down the street to meet with your exfiltration team, FLASH, three people appear coming around a corner toward you. One is a rather winsome young woman, her right arm around a young boy by her side and left arm hanging loose. She is looking slightly to one side. About three feet to one side and somewhat close behind is a young man who seems to be intently staring directly at you, his right hand behind his butt.

Assuming you’ve identified the hostile, you draw your weapon to fire. At whom?

If you chose the young man, you are dead. You missed the Makarov pistol clearly in the young woman’s left hand. Where’s the element of prejudice? The presumption that a young woman, particularly a comely one and one holding onto a young boy, would not be a skilled assassin. The young man was unarmed, and simply in a hurry to pass the woman depending on which side you and she would pass each other. Another possible element could be the presumption that all shooters are right handed.

Here’s one you are more likely to encounter. Years ago I had an informal gathering at my home of several of my older college students and their significant others. My living room was quite large but a few sat on the floor in a large circle. I sat on the raised fireplace threshold, with one male student sitting nearby with his wife in front of him. The male comported himself as a traditional “country boy”; his wife seemed more cosmopolitan. During the discussion his wife began to venture a comment. As she did so I saw the male surreptitiously cock a knuckle fist and drive it into her back. The pain was quite evident on her face.

To act or not to act? My immediate inclination was to strenuously object. But as no one else saw it happen I considered speaking to him privately. It did not take long for me to conclude that either course of action would result in a severe beating for his wife when they got home. Instead, when the opportunity arose I gave her what I hoped was a knowing look.

Close to a year later she came by my home, informed me she was just completing a divorce, and requested a recommendation letter for graduate school. I provided the letter. But I have no idea what else I may have provided.

In an earlier post I mentioned an experience I had in college. After a pouring rainstorm a disabled student, managing orthopedic crutches and books under his arm, slipped and fell. His books spread out on the grass. I ran over to help. He angrily waved me off, telling me he didn’t need help. I understood my action only after I had taken it. Thinking about it I realized I probably would have reacted the same way.

Nowadays, with word meanings and associated feelings changing so rapidly, it’s getting harder to know what to do in social interactions. Years ago – many years ago – I actually saw some women cast appreciative glances over me. I was not insulted, I did not feel violated. I had thought I was keeping myself in pretty good shape internally and maybe it was showing externally. I fully admit to having visually appreciated some women as well. I’ve even complimented female co-workers on a change in hairstyle or some new clothing. Years ago. I felt I had been treated nicely and I simply passed that feeling on. Years ago.

But now, with the Me Too movement sweeping the country, my inclination when a woman comes into sight is to quickly determine an exit route. Look at her? HOLY LAWSUIT, Batman!!! A multitude of Women’s Organizations would parade me through the streets in sackcloth with ashes on my head. UNCLEAN! UNCLEAN! When a woman comes into my presence my shoelaces get my undivided attention.

So how do we know that what we would like done to us is what someone else would like done to them? How many times have well intentioned acts or comments brought negative consequences? And how many times have we been completely unaware of those consequences? Some people may say I over complicate things, but I shudder at glib wisdom.

Still, as I find myself increasingly older than most of the people I encounter, and I have more recollections of being “that age”, I think it is good to encourage people. Maybe one day I’ll earn the title “harmless old man”.

The poet Patricia Clafford said, “The work will wait while you show the child the rainbow, but the rainbow won’t wait while you do the work.” My work these days varies, but in the ultimate sense I’m my own boss. So I get to decide when it’s good to put the work aside and devote some time to the encouragement of others. Sure, there will be those who suspect that old man is being too interested in neighborhood children, or is daydreaming with women acquaintances about former days of sexual prowess. I can’t control the delusions of people around me. But I can still return the favor when someone tries to treat me as I would not have them do unto me. In the meantime, keep at it, Dear Reader. Life can sometimes go on for longer than you thought.

From → Uncategorized

15 Comments
  1. Gary permalink

    I learned “good manners” in the treatment of women from my mother. It didn’t go to the extent of standing up when a woman entered a room, which was a standard practice in an earlier generation, but it did include pushing in a chair when a woman sat down next to you and holding a door open for a woman to enter first, among others. These wisdoms stood me in good stead for many years in the male competitive game of impressing women. I often received comments about my good manners from those to whom I extended these little courtesies, and it was clear to me they were not normally offered by the males within their social circles. As Mom would have had it: “Good manners cost you nothing.”

    Until, of course, the day came when they did.

    I don’t remember the exact date, but I would put it sometime in the late 1980s, when a change in attitude in the world of women began to be noticeable, to me at least. I don’t know the source, but I have always laid it at the door of feminist advocacy.

    One day, I was walking down a busy street and there was a woman at the curb with a flat tire who had out the jack and tire iron, but clearly had no notion of what to do next. I stopped and asked her if she would like my assistance. Over many years, I had often helped both men and women with this chore. She looked reluctant, but then agreed. So 10 minutes later, the tire was changed and I put the flat and her equipment back in the trunk and closed it. She was looking at me in unfriendly manner and asked me what I wanted – meaning monetary reward I suppose. I shrugged and indicated I wasn’t looking for anything, that I just like to help people. She kind of snorted, climbed into her car, and drove off without another word. Not even a thank you.

    On another occasion, I was in mall parking lot and two women had the hood of their car raised and they were trying to determine the source of an obvious growing leak under the vehicle. As I passed by I suggested they look at the colour of the liquid which could help identify the engine component. I was about to explain what the different colours meant when one of the women cut me short with a “get lost” tone telling me they knew all this, although it was clear from their conversation that they did not.

    I worked in the downtown core of a city full of office towers. On more than one occasion, when I held open the door of the building for a woman just behind me, I was greeted by “I can get my own damn door.” I also noticed when I stepped aside at the entrance to elevators to allow a woman to enter first, I was treated to sour looks.

    I was at a business lunch with a woman executive who I was hosting at a restaurant my company owned. After discussing the drink order, I placed it saying I would have this and “the lady” would have that. Immediately, I was treated to a 5 minute tirade about my use of the word “lady”, which, apparently now had all the impact of the N-word in the female world. It was frosty lunch and no business transpired.

    I assessed my place on the planet after this litany of bewildering encounters and decided on two things. The first was that I would never offer to help women again and secondly I would ignore my mother’s lessons and treat women in social settings (e.g. opening doors, pushing in chairs, etc.) exactly as if they were men. That appeared to be what they wanted and it was less thinking on my part.

    I still do extend my courtesies to my wife. At least she appreciates them.

    Like

  2. Gary Reid permalink

    I have posted a comment.

    Like

  3. Thank you so much, Gary. I, too, share the lessons you learned from your mother. Even now, reading your comments has me appalled. I’ve not (yet) encountered the frank hostility you recount. The most memorable occasion was a female co-worker who spent our entire conversation time staring at my crotch. I wondered if my zipper was down, but dared not look. I later found out she was a crusader about men staring at women’s breasts, which I had not done. But, I guess I took one for the team.

    Like

  4. The world has changed, and not always for the better. I am just old enough to remember when courtesy was a more common occurrence than it has been for some years now. My guess (although I don’t feel this way) is that helping someone could be seen as an expression of assumed superiority on the part of the helper. Yeah, it’s as stupid as it looks.

    My father was a double amputee; a veteran of the Korean conflict. I am one of four (now three) siblings who were taught that gender has nothing to do with ability. If a task needed done, and one was able to do it, being the non-traditional gender for the performance of said task was no excuse. If you can do it, then do it. On the other hand, we learned to ask before jumping in whether someone wanted (not needed) help. I can’t honestly say this would work in every situation, but it has proved valuable in my interactions with others.

    Final statement: those I have helped the most have learned to resent that help, and me. Sometimes it’s best to just let someone succeed, or fail, on their own.

    Like

    • Thank you, Rose. I remember the “Tough Love” idea, and did put it into practice on occasion but never felt good about it. You are right; better to ask before jumping in to help.

      Yes, I remember telling my mother to let me learn from my own mistakes. I didn’t always learn everything I should have, but did learn to ask for help when it was needed. I’ve seen resentment in some people. Kind of hard to figure out.

      Like

      • Now, if we treated others the way they wanted to be treated (based on how they treat us), this might be another discussion altogether.

        Like

  5. Dana permalink

    Marco this post is so interesting and a terrific topic for conversation.

    I recall your sharing the story in class about the disabled student.  It always stuck in my mind because traditionally I’ve rushed to other’s aid before without asking.  Today I instead might ask, “Would you care for any help?” before just assuming.  I’m not sure about others, but many years ago if I ever fell my first thought used to be, “Did anyone see this?”  I try to remember that perhaps some people might be initially embarrassed by a fall, which is kind of sad, really. But mean people do laugh at that sort of thing, whereas I cringe and worry when anyone falls down.

    I really don’t care what anyone thinks if I fall, but I used to worry a lot about what people thought of me.  The last time I fell in public a lot of people saw me, and a giant pumpkin I was carrying went rolling down the drive.  It was so comically absurd I couldn’t stop laughing.  No one asked to help me as I quickly got up and chased the pumpkin in front of a line of parents in the school carpool area.  I laughed until I had tears running down my face.  I felt mostly relieved I didn’t have to deal with anyone helping me in that moment.  

    I’ve adopted the attitude that people should hold doors open for people.  This idea that women are too helpless to open a door, pull out their own chair, or open a car door typically annoys me.  That makes me feel like I’m being treated like a helpless child more than anything. Over the years I noticed out in public my son would hold doors open for anyone walking up to it if he was passing through first, so that always made me proud of him.  He was already there so would hold it open for anyone else nearby simply as a matter of convenience for them.  I know someone today who constantly opens my car door first and it drives me up the wall because I’m extremely independent.  

    I also experience, “Let me carry/lift/put that away for you; you’re so small.”  I sense they mean well but this always frustrates me.  I’ve had men just grab heavier items from me, especially while working in a hardware store where female employees are practically invisible and deemed helpless by a lot of male customers.  I’ve moved entire three bedroom third floor apartments by myself with the exception of the heaviest furniture only, and I detest being underestimated.  My response is always the same:  I was a personal trainer for five years and weighed just over 100 lbs.  I spent my day picking up and lugging around 45 lb plates.  I have this.” 

    As for compliments that’s a really tough area today.  I do feel sympathy for men in this respect because damned if you do, damned if you don’t.  As a man I wouldn’t know what to do in that case because every woman is different.  Truthfully, depending on my mood (especially at a hardware store) compliments have either flattered or annoyed me, but the ones that annoyed me always bordered on sexual.  But I do like to give compliments when I’m inspired and they’re always sincere, such as, “Those shoes are fabulous!”  

    One of the best compliments I’ve ever been given has been one I’ve heard a number of times over the years depending where I am in Atlanta.  I’ve been at gas stations and other places where black men have said, “Please marry me!”  A lot of times it’s much older men, and for some reason I feel that’s a flattering thing to hear.  It never offends me.  Black men tend to compliment my short hair (and quite enthusiastically), another compliment I never mind.  In the past I’ve dealt with numerous disparaging comments from white men over the length, “Why is your hair so short?!”  I think black men just value strong women and view female beauty differently; it is most likely their culture and always feels less threatening to me.  

    The most lecherous compliments always seem to come from the creepiest of rednecks… sorry rednecks but you really make me uneasy (not that they’re reading this anyway). 

    Here is one of the best compliments I ever experienced.  I was completely flattered.  Several months ago I helped a 97 year old man around the hardware store.  He was vibrant, sharp, and proud of his age, telling me right away.  He first needed a pair of reading glasses (4.0) before he could shop.  He also needed a new garage door opener kit.  We had several locations around the store for reading glasses, but he needed help finding the right size because he couldn’t read the labels.  We had so much fun shopping around looking for a pair.  He had a hilarious sense of humor – sarcastic, dry wit.  So as we were finishing up, at the end he suddenly looked me in the eye quite intensely, and said, “YOU’RE CUTE!”  I broke out into a fit of giggles, and quickly responded, “So are you!”  It was one of the most fun exchanges I ever had in that store.  

    Then he asked me if I’d like to come over and help him install the garage door opener…………  but I laughed about that, too.  Could have been a totally innocent query, or maybe it wasn’t.  I didn’t care.  Sometimes it’s better just to relax, have a little fun, and not take life so seriously.  

    Like

    • Thank you, Dana. I agree about holding doors open. I do it for anyone no matter who or what they are. But opening car doors and sliding chairs for women strikes me as chauvinism. I once fastened a seat belt for a woman, only to discover she had a bondage fetish and I was witness to a very interesting reaction.

      Like

  6. Dana permalink

    Marco, that Federal Agency simulation sounds like a lot of fun. I would love to try something like that. I’d like to think I would do well, since I process a lot of information incredibly fast. It’s an ASD gift for which I’m grateful.

    But without trying, no way to tell I suppose.

    Like

  7. jkent33 permalink

    I refuse to kowtow to the Me Two movement. I am a flirt and will never stop. I suppose if a lady made an issue I would not pursue the issue, but to date none have protested. I try to always have a smile ready when I depart upon the world each time. I visited the great Golden Bay Bridge on Sept 12, 2001. Upon returning there was an article in the New Yorker about the bridge. It was about the many suicides that occur. Some are successful in their attempts while other survive. Its not Devine intervention. Its physics that prevent it from occurring. But, there was a study about the survivors. When the bridge was built the rails were already pretty high but later after several deaths they were raised even higher. All to no avail. Many cameras reveal that jumpers all visited many times before they decided to leap. They asked the survivors what made them jump that day. Many revealed the same story. On their walk to the railing if one person smiled at them they aborted their mission. Upon learning that, I decided to smile at any body who made eye contact with me on my journey each time I leave my home. I was once stopped by this rather portly gentleman in Publix who asked why everyone I met smiled at me and no one ever smiled at him. I revealed my story and he asked me if I would teach him the same thing. He revealed he had just experienced a very acrimonious divorce and felt he was dying from loneliness. I could only say smile with your eyes and life was heal your broken heart. He said he was Jewish and since he was rich he could pay me if I could change my mind. Since money hasn’t made you happy by now, what make you think it would change my mind? I strolled away without saying another word.

    One of my biggest fears is showing attention to children whose parents or them may think I could be a molester. That all changed several years ago when a couple of young girls knocked on my door selling chocolates to raise funds for their schools. When they showed me their book of sales they were all empty. I inquired why me being the first because I knew where they lived and they by passed many homes to reach mine. They all said because you smile at everyone and everyone knows you up and down the street. Naturally, I made a rather large investment and when they delivered I told the same story to each one. Since I’m unable to eat chocolates (which is a lie) perhaps they could find children who were deserving and share with them!

    So you see, I smile all of the time but perhaps depending if a rather comely lady appears within range; my smile does broaden in size revealing a twinkle or two.

    Thanks for another interesting blog!

    Like

    • I hope you take care of yourself, Jerry. With more people like you around we might just get through this okay. Marco

      Like

  8. Hi Marco, I hope you are well. You are right in that the world has changed so much, it’s no wonder people are confused with what is acceptable, even with the best intentions. I though really believe in trusting yourself, even if some of the actions or words could be construed differently because at the end of the day, you can’t go around trying to fit into a new mould of society expectations that I feel are sometimes media driven to the extreme. I have found that people will have more respect for someone who is authentic even if it doesn’t always fit into the current “cultural view”. Hope that makes sense 🙂

    Like

    • Hi, Julie. Thank you so much for writing. You do make sense, and in a reassuring way. I’m reminded of the old saying that you can’t make everyone happy. That shouldn’t stop us from being ourselves. That would make no one happy.

      p.s. I keep up with your adventures on FB, but I really avoid posting anything on that medium.

      Like

      • Julie permalink

        Thanks Marco, that saying really does hit the mark, have a great week 😊

        Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: