So you seem to be saying that at some point the Golden Rule meant something and now it doesn't because of our mode of production.
But I think we can both agree that whatever system we're talking about that existed before now was a lot more exploitative than this system.
Can we? You seem to be conflating how exploitative a system is with how oppressive
that system is. Feudalism was a rather oppressive system involving high levels of violence and brutality, yet it was a very inefficient method of exploitation. Modern consumer capitalism, by contrast, requires much lower levels of oppression and personal brutality (except in times of crisis), yet it is a fantastically efficient method of exploiting human labour power. This is why it has taken over the world in the past few centuries - previous modes of production and exploitation simply cannot compete. It is so efficient at exploiting people that it can even redirect a small portion of its superprofits back to the labour aristocracy of its heartland nations to buy their loyalty. This is how the West was able to keep the loyalty of its working class throughout the Cold War. But no matter how efficient it is, or how well-ordered it is, it is still based on the exploitation of one class of people by another.
So if the Golden Rule has become less important, why are we now more inclined to want to treat each other better?
Because life for most people in the developed heartland nations of the capitalist system is no longer a hard scrabble for survival. Most people therefore have the luxury of having the option of being nice to each other.
People say that rich people give to charity to make themselves look better, which is true, and because it helps them on their taxes, which is also true sometimes. At the same time, there are some rich people that give a lot more than what would be the optimal amount for benefiting themselves. Do they do it because they want people to remember them as good or just because it helps their status or do they do it because they care about other people and want the world to be a better place?
Does it matter what their motive is? If a donation saves the life of a starving child in Ethiopia, for example, is that child or its parents going to care whether the donor was filled with a god-like compassion for their suffering or was simply donating money as a tax write-off? I suspect not.
I like to approach human nature from a way that assumes that people are fundamentally good.
One of the few aspects of classical liberal ideology with which I agree is that it does not make any assumptions about the innate goodness or innate badness of human nature. It simply asserts that the individual pursuit of rational, enlightened self-interest will have optimal social and economic outcomes. This is a dubious assumption, of course, but less dubious than your assumption that people are innately good.
I want to help others because I want others to help me if I need help. That's another way of expressing the Golden Rule. Be the world you want to see. If you don't want to be a slave, don't make others slaves and fight for them if someone wants to make someone else a slave. If you want the privilege of a good world, you need to treat the world well. Lead by example. I'm not saying there's some magic thing that will make the world better.
Good things happen to bad people, and bad things happen to good people. And, as the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished. Your moralism has no rational foundation, LV.
I will admit though that I don't think that the rule has much rational basis if you're talking about the opinions of philosophers and logicians. You have to remember though that in the world of organic thought (the opinions of the masses), religion still very much plays a role in a lot of people's lives. As it does in my life. In our lives, that idea of having to rationally justify treating other people well is a nonsensical idea. It's simply what you're supposed to do. Of course the problem is that people's ideas of what treating someone well is vary based on culture, and oftentimes because of war and political instability it can be hard to enforce right and wrong. That's why it's so hopeless sometimes looking around the world, because you see how much the pursuit of self-interest has hurt the world.
Indeed. And one of the fundamental problems with modern capitalism is that its rationalism and its promotion of individualism and rational self-interest has had the effect of elevating vices into virtues. In a culture rooted in Christian morality, this has had a corrupting effect on people's sense of right and wrong.
To bring it back to this thread, that's what's so disturbing about the African slave trade. It's that it seems like people came up with a science-based loophole to their religions: black people are not "people" the same way we are "people", so it's therefore OK to chain them up in horrifying conditions where half of them died on the way to the ships and another half died on the way to their destination only to be sold into slavery for the rest of their lives, their children's lives, and so on. How one person can do this to another person on the justification of what a person's race is can only be described as pure greed. Because it made so much money.
Another problem with the capitalist system is that its rationalism can easily degenerate into pseudo-science and post-hoc rationalisation of greed and brutality. The rise of pseudo-scientific racial theory in the 19th century was a rather egregious example of this tendency, which is still at work today.
This is totally true. The pursuit of self-interest is what causes a lot of the world's problems. And we live in a secular society that assumes nothing to be bad that is not illegal. We let the rich get away with things that hurt us all because they buy influence. All of these things are true. But they have been true for a long time. Even the slavery is only just as bad as things going on in contemporary societies like the Aztecs. And when the Spanish came and annihilated their empire, they only did something that the Aztecs were still in the process of doing and had been doing for the last hundred years.
Humans have always treated each other poorly, our capacity to do so has merely grown. If the Spanish had machine guns and tear gas, you bet your ass they would have used it on the Aztecs.
Self-interest has always been a factor in human interactions throughout history and probably before. The difference is that this greed and self-interest were seen as vices rather than virtues. One of the 16th century Popes even denounced slavery as "the supreme villainy", whereas by the 18th century it had become normalised and was seen merely as a rather effective way to get rich quick. It was just too lucrative for any moralistic nonsense based on religious sensibilities to be taken seriously.
Again though, the only way to change that is to be the change you want to see. Communists should appreciate that, it's basically your motto. Praxis and dialectic, right?
Indeed. But the agent of such change is an entire class
rather than a few good men being a light unto a wicked world. True systemic change can only occur when the exploited class collectively
sees where their interests as a class
truly lie, and act collectively to change that system. After all, it is in the interests of an individual worker to suck up to management and become a toady who helps them to keep the rest of his class in line. Only class-conscious thinking and class-based collective action can truly change the world.
"Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies." - Marx (Groucho)