Everything Pedde

   S J Pedde Canada   S.J. Pedde

The Golden Rule

Dear Zachary:

The Tonight Show With Jay Leno is past your bedtime, but the show is pertinent to what I want to talk about today.  There is sometimes a segment on the show called ‘Jaywalking’ where Jay wanders around on California streets and college campuses and
asks questions of people that he meets.  You know, questions like: “Who is the current president of the United States.  What country is America’s neighbour to the south?  What is bigger, the sun or the moon?” 

What makes the segment both funny and tragic is that so many people are so clueless.  I was almost going to say ‘stupid’ but that wouldn’t necessarily be true, at least not always.

Yes, there are stupid people.  I wish it wasn’t so, but it is another one of those things that we have no control over and have to accept.  Stupidity is not a choice.  It simply means ‘slow to learn.’  Slow learners are usually born that way and can’t help being what they are.  So let’s not dwell on them, because they aren’t the problem. Let’s talk about ignorant people instead.  ‘Ignorant’ is such a misused word that I feel I have to point out that all it means is ‘lacking education or knowledge.’  That, unlike stupidity, is not an affliction.  Rather, it is a condition that something can be done to rectify.

What difference does it really make whether someone can answer the questions that Leno poses?  Will it affect their ability to make a living, raise their children or generally to be productive members of society?  Maybe not.  Maybe so.  On a superficial level, many of the billions of facts, theories and ideas that make up the universal body of knowledge, are only moderately useful.  No-one could possibly know everything.  But I’m not suggesting that everyone needs to know everything.  I think I know a lot, about a lot of different things, but you have also heard me say, many times, that the only thing I know for sure is how little I know.  But I try to learn.  I need to learn.  We all need to learn.

Knowledge is not only important to develop and maintain the skills that you need to earn your daily bread or to pass tests at school.  Knowledge provides context.  In order to see where the human race is going, you need to know where it has been. Before you suggest that something should be mandated or outlawed, you should know whether it has been tried before and what the outcome was.  As the adage goes: “Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it.”

Information is more readily available today than it has ever been at any time in human history.  Books are cheap.  The internet is an incredibly rich source of research material and history.  There is absolutely no excuse for anyone not to have at least some rudimentary knowledge about the human race and what makes us tick, about our local environs and beyond into space, about philosophies that have shaped the human race for better or worse and, not least, about how we can all best get along and make our world a better place.

Yes, Zachary, there is knowledge to be tapped everywhere, more than you will ever be able to assimilate.  I hope that you will read everything you can -- history, philosophy, religion, science -- everything.  Explore the world and learn about everything in it.  Do all this, but don’t ever forget the one idea that just might be the most important notion ever articulated.

“What’s that,” you ask.

I’ll tell you:  It’s something called the Golden Rule and it very simply exhorts us to “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.”

I didn’t come up with that idea, it’s been around for millennia.  It just hasn’t caught on as it should have.  Let’s do our part to have that elegantly simple idea take root and spread throughout the world.  If we all minded our own business, treated others kindly, stopped trying to steal from one group to satisfy another, celebrated our similarities rather than exaggerated our differences, then the world would be a much better place.

Wouldn’t it?

I think so.