Which “golden rule” do you follow?
The one from the Bible? “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets,” – Matthew 7: 12-14.
Or the one attributed to the King of Id? “Whoever has the gold makes the rules!” – Wizard of Id cartoon published May 3, 1965, by creators Brant Parker and Johnny Hart.
If you remember the cartoon, you should remember the dwarfish tyrant known as “the King” who proclaimed this gold version of the golden rule. He also would refer to his subjects as “idiots,” and when told “the peasants are revolting,” replied, “you can say that again.”
Hmmm. Anything sound familiar here?
Ironically, a forerunner of the King of Id saying came from a Swiss-French philosopher named Jean-Jacques Rousseau. In 1764 he wrote, “The rich holds the law in his purse.”
What’s ironic is that Rousseau, an on-again off-again Calvinist, actually aligned concepts of the emerging democratic form of government with the biblical golden rule. His writings would greatly influence Thomas Jefferson’s thoughts on democracy and self-governance.
As explained at Study.com, “Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s theory of the social contract was a direct influence upon Thomas Jefferson’s writing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Rousseau’s social contract posits that the government must have consent of those that it governs. Meaning, the people must willingly choose to accept the laws that govern them. They must have an active participation in creating the very government that they agree to be governed by.”
Rousseau’s notion was that there must be a general will of the people committed to the good of all in order for civil society to thrive and avoid oppression from selfish interests.
Hmmm. Committed to the good of all…not party, not ideology, not special interests.
How far have we drifted from that Jefferson-Rousseau golden rule notion? Politics today seems committed to the good of some, but seldom all.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell makes no bones about being committed only to what is good for Republicans. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi seems equally committed to Democrats. On the broad national front, it’s popular for conservatives to hate liberal Democrats and for liberals to hate right-wing Republicans. And, of course, we have our own modern day king of id in the White House.
Such behavior, naturally, has trickled down to our state politics. For example, Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves notoriously operated as the little king of the Senate, favoring some and neglecting others. And he and House Speaker Philip Gunn have wielded Republican super-majorities that paid little heed to concerns of non-Republican citizens (not that their Democratic counterparts would have behaved differently if in power).
This is not to say that there are no people attuned to the golden rule in politics today. I am fortunate to have a local supervisor who truly seeks to do what is best for all. Indeed, far more local politicians seem to be golden rule adherents than state and national politicians.
On the whole, the gold rule clearly dominates the golden rule in our culture today, regrettably proving the King of Id right. By kowtowing to this, we subjects are idiots.
» BILL CRAWFORD is a syndicated columnist from Meridian.
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