Celebrating the Love of Friends in a Loving World

Celebrating the Love of Friends in a Loving World
Red Roses for You, My Sweet Friends ... Total Love.

My Sweet Friends

My sweet friends,

We grow closer to each other;

When we interact together and share ideas;

The common faith that we share,

Binds our hearts in one accord.

For sweet friendships last a life time,

When built on mutual respect, humility and understanding;

Throughout each different season,

We find we are one in life.

Sweet friends are there through times of grief;

And times when hope is gone;

Always there with encouragement;

So we can carry on.

I thank the Lord for you,

My true and faithful friends;

To fondly speak with you, whether we agree or not,

On this, our beloved blog;

For sweet friends will stay, no matter what;

Giving support.

Together, our hearts and minds truly unite;

With the amazing love of sweet friends.

In the spirit of true friendship,

Best wishes, my sweet friends;

May the Lord bless you abundantly.

I remain, yours truly,

B.B. Bakampa.

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Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Golden Rule and I


By Bakampa Brian Baryaguma

[Dip. Law (First Class)–LDC; PG Cert. Oil & Gas–Mak; LLB (Hons)–Mak; GC Candidate–GCA]


September 2014

1.                  Introduction

Our world is more interdependent today than any other time in history. Indeed, ‘Ours is a world of shared risks and common opportunities, grounded in the realities of mutual dependence and growing interconnection.’[1] The level of human co-existence now is unprecedented. Gautama Buddha’s view that everything depends on everything else, certainly finds more credence today than ever before.

Since time immemorial, human beings have gradually developed principles, which guide and regulate their co-existence with each other. These principles stipulate desirable mannerisms and practices that are necessary not only for the wellbeing and furtherance of humanity, but also for satisfying the need to be in tune or harmony with the super natural. The sum total of these principles comprises the unwritten moral code or value system, existing in any given society. They are duties or responsibilities a person owes to others.[2]

In a world characterized by competing individual and group interests, values serve as safety valves against excessive tendencies. For instance, Mahatma Gandhi warned that we must guard against politics without principle; pleasure without conscience; wealth without work; knowledge without character; business without morality; science without humanity; and worship without sacrifice. Values are so numerous, varied and ever changing that it is impossible to singly identify all of them.

However, over the years, different religions and philosophies have reduced the plethora of values into one grand principle: ‘the need to satisfy other people’s needs, because that is the primary way your life can acquire significance and connect to something greater.’[3] This is known as the golden rule, which basically advocates kindness to one another. It is subscribed to by many religions and philosophies,[4] including those I identify with.

2.                  The Golden Rule and I

Let me introduce myself briefly: first, I am a Christian, practising Christian values; second, I am an African, influenced by many African beliefs, cultures and traditions; and third, I am a scholar, open to and receptive of new knowledge, which equally influences me especially, the dominant Western philosophy. Mine is therefore, a double influence of religious and philosophical teachings and persuasions. I shall therefore, discuss the relevancy of the golden rule to me, from the perspective of these impressions operating on me.

First, my Christian perspective: Jesus Christ stated the golden rule as the requirement to, ‘Love your neighbour as you love yourself.’[5] This means that as a follower of Christ, I should be able to extend the love I have for myself to all and sundry.

Among others, I am expected to, one, emulate the Good Samaritan, who bandaged and cared for the wounded stranger he met on his way;[6] two, to universalize the love I have for myself, including loving my enemies;[7] and three, to use for the good of others, the gifts I received from God.[8]

Jesus calls upon us, Christians, to treat people the way we treat ourselves, which is the best way possible, since human beings are self-serving. I am a loyal follower of my Lord and I fully comply.

Second, my African perspective: under the African ubuntu philosophy, a person is such by means of other persons, whereby the person sees him or herself in others.[9] This philosophy recognizes that I am because you are. It espouses a cosmopolitan ethos, stipulating mutual obligations owed by every community member to the other, the gist of which is to advance the common good, geared towards preserving and protecting the best interests of society as a whole.[10]

There are several aspects of the common good. For example, we live as extended families, wherein the welfare of each member is the overall responsibility of every family member. Then, society as a whole has to ensure the wellbeing of vulnerable members of the society especially, children, elderly and disabled persons. And evil practises like witchcraft, whose effect is to decimating numbers, thereby endangering the continuity and survival of the race, are prohibited.[11]

Clearly, underlying these obligations are attributes that everybody would desire and wish for him or herself. These are indicative of the golden rule and African societies have wisely imposed them as social obligations. I do my best to fulfil my part of the bargain.

Third, my scholarly perspective: Western philosophy emphasizes rationalism through good actions, as advanced by two main schools of thought: utilitarianism and Kantian philosophy.[12]

Utilitarianism propounds that everyone has a moral responsibility to do some good. It argues that good actions are those that enhance the quality of life, while bad actions are those which reduce it.

Kantian philosophy distinguishes wrong and right actions, based on human ability to govern ourselves, unlike plants and other animals. It states that right actions are those which enhance that ability, while wrong actions are those which undermine it.

I am persuaded by Western philosophy, to promote public interest by doing good things for others, which is the import of the golden rule.

3.                  Conclusion

Apparently, the golden rule is a widely acclaimed standard of human conduct and etiquette towards fellow human beings, firmly established in many religions and philosophies, including those I personally identify with.

At the heart of the rule, lies the overriding principle that you and I should be our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers, because, ‘We are not just beings with needs that others have an obligation to fulfil, but also beings who need to fulfil other people’s needs. In order to live meaningfully, we depend on others to help them.’[13]

The test is already given: ‘For if there are people without their basic entitlements – and there are billions of them – we know that, collectively, we are not meeting our obligations.’[14]

The golden rule demands that we meet our obligations by doing good things for others. This is still possible in today’s deeply troubled world because it is affirmed that, ‘Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.’[15]


NOTES AND REFERENCES


1.                  International Task Force on Global Public Goods, Meeting Global Challenges: International Cooperation in the National Interest (2006), at 3.

2.                  Cemal Ussak, speaking in the Week 8 lecture on ‘Values In/For an Interdependent World,’ in the Global Civics lecture series of the Global Civics Academy, says that, ‘As humans, we have responsibilities towards humans; in fact not just towards humans, but all living beings and the whole universe, because we are human.’

3.                  Thaddeus Metz, in his Week 8 lecture on ‘Values In/For an Interdependent World,’ in the Global Civics lecture series of the Global Civics Academy.

4.                  No wonder, Steven Pinker, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (2011), has boldly declared in chapter nine thereof – Better Angels – that, ‘We live in an age of empathy.’ He says empathy is a good thing in general, though not always.

5.                  Good News Bible, Mark 12:31. See also, Matthew 22:39 and Luke 10:25-28.

In the case of Donoghue v Stevenson, [1932] AC 562, Lord Atkin, with whom the majority agreed with, commented on the neighbour principle, stating that, ‘The rule that you are to love your neighbour becomes in law, you must not injure your neighbour; and the lawyer's question, Who is my neighbour? receives a restricted reply. You must take reasonable care to avoid acts or omissions which you can reasonably foresee would be likely to injure your neighbour. Who, then, in law, is my neighbour? The answer seems to be – persons who are so closely and directly affected by my act that I ought reasonably to have them in contemplation as being so affected when I am directing my mind to the acts or omissions which are called in question.’ In short, the Man of the Law imposed a legal requirement on people going about their duties and errands, to bear in mind the welfare of other people, so as to avoid occasioning harm on them. This is the gist and essence of the golden rule.

6.                  Good News Bible, Luke 10:25-37.

7.                  In the Good News Bible, Matthew 5:43-48, Jesus teaches about love for enemies, saying that, ‘You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your friends, hate your enemies.’ But now I tell you: love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may become the sons of your Father in heaven. For he makes his sun to shine on bad and good people alike and gives rain to those who do good and to those who do evil. Why should God reward you if you love only the people who love you? Even the tax collectors do that! And if you speak only to your friends, have you done anything out of the ordinary? Even the pagans do that! You must be perfect – just as your Father in heaven is perfect! See also, Luke 6:27-28, 32-36.

8.                  Good News Bible, 1 Peter 4:10.

9.                  Professor August Schutte, in the Week 8 lecture on ‘Values In/For an Interdependent World,’ in the Global Civics lecture series of the Global Civics Academy.

10.              Kwame Anthony Appiah, Cosmopolitanism: Ethics in a World of Strangers (2006), at 157-158, has rightly stated that, ‘What's presupposed here is that cosmopolitan moral judgment requires us to feel about everyone in the world what we feel about our literal neighbors (a strength of feeling that is perhaps exaggerated by the suggestion that for them, at least, we would risk our lives).’ But while strongly advocating for kindness to strangers, Mr Kwame stresses that one need not sacrifice everything, for everybody, in a bid to do so. ‘... our obligation is not to carry the whole burden alone,’ he says, ibid., at 164. Rather, his theory is that we only have, ‘To recognize that everybody is entitled, where possible, to have their basic needs met ...’ which, for us translates into basic obligations; meaning that we should strive to meet those people’s basic needs, by giving a fair share of our basic obligations (in consistency with our being) to make the world a better place, for them to lead decent lives. See, ibid., at 162-166.

11.              Steven Pinker, supra note 4, states in chapter two thereof – The Pacification Process – that, ‘For one thing, animals are less inclined to harm their close relatives, because any gene that would nudge an animal to harm a relative would have a good chance of harming a copy of itself sitting inside that relative, and natural selection would tend to weed it out.’ (Emphasis is in the original.) This explains why Africans generally abhor and condemn practises like witchcraft, incest and homosexuality – they have no quantitative or qualitative value addition.

12.              Thaddeus Metz, supra note 3.

13.              Ibid. According to Zhu Jingdong, a Chinese Buddhist and Confucian scholar, Confucianism also teaches that every humble individual has an obligation or responsibility to the wellbeing for all under the heaven, because every human being’s joy or sorrow is closely connected to everybody else and ultimately to heaven, since man and heaven are one.

This is the hallmark of the concept of mutualism which, Steven Pinker, supra note 4, defines as a situation, ‘... where  an organism benefits another one while also benefiting itself, as with an insect pollinating a plant, a bird eating ticks off the back of a mammal, and roommates with similar tastes enjoying each other’s music.’

14.              Kwame Anthony Appiah, supra note 10, at 173.

15.              Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom (1995), at 749.