Sunday, August 10, 2008


In a brief discussion with a friend the other day that managed to range from politics to religion to philosophy to literature to sociology and then back to religion again (in about 20 minutes), he suggested a new secular ethics be conceived, a way to finally, once and for all, get god out of the discussion. It's fine, he said, to believe whatever you want, but we need universal rules.

If only it were that simple.

But I agree with him. If we could get god out of the ethical discussion forever, we would certainly be better off, and we might actually make strides toward a more tolerant and idyllic society.

And clearly the Golden Rule isn't going to cut it, because if it did, then that would be it. We're complicated animals, we are, and we need more than just "Be nice to each other." So I've started thinking about it, and while I'm hardly qualified to come up with the rules for a just society, neither were Bill S. Preston Esq. and "Ted" Theodore Logan, and they came up with "Be excellent to each other."

So I've decided to at least nibble at this a bit, well aware of the fact that I may have bitten off more than I can chew. And I've started with a certain premise, which is very much like Bill & Ted's axiom, and a dictate of Dan Savage, more generally applied. It's called the campground rule, and it's this:

In all your interactions with others, you must try to leave them in a better state than you found them.

It's more than the golden rule, which is actually quite passive in application. It's an active mandate to improve the situations of other people, with kindness, gratitude, understanding and charity. It should also be more generally applied, not only to other animals (particularly those we eat), but the environment in general, which is where Savage got it in the first place.

We've done a piss poor job taking care of the place, and if Jesus really is coming back, he'll likely be pretty angry about the mess we've made. We've done a piss-poor job of taking care of each other, too, and both are a result of greed. What's worst is that we've institutionalized greed in virtually every society we've ever built, and when even when it was supposed to be about something else, it eventually became about greed. If we started thinkning about how we could improve the situation overall, rather than for ourselves, it'd be a start.

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