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Who We Are

1920 to 1946

Coca Cola Promotional Golden Rule Rulers

1920 W.E.B. du Bois's Darkwater protests America's treatment of blacks: "How could America condemn in Germany that which she commits within her own borders? A true and worthy ideal frees and uplifts a people; a false ideal imprisons and lowers. Say to men, earnestly and repeatedly: 'Honesty is best, knowledge is power; do unto others as you would be done by.' Say this and act it and the nation must move toward it. But say to a people: 'The one virtue is to be white,' and the people rush to the conclusion, 'Kill the n*****!'"

1921 President Warren Harding's inauguration speech says: "I would rejoice to acclaim the era of the golden rule and crown it with the autocracy of service." But scandals plague his administration.

1922 Hazrat Khan's "Ten Sufi Thoughts" says "Although different religions, in teaching man to act harmoniously and peacefully, have different laws, they all meet in one truth: do unto others as you would they should do unto you."

1923 Charles Vickrey creates Golden Rule Sunday, celebrated in the U.S. on the first Sunday of December. Families eat a modest dinner and give the money saved to hunger relief. This later becomes International Golden Rule Sunday.

1923 Arthur Nash's Golden Rule in Business explains how applying the golden rule in his clothing business, besides being right, leads to contented employees who work hard and to contented customers who return.

1923 Annette Fiske's "Psychology" applies the golden rule to nursing: "Some people say every nurse should herself have had a serious illness in order that she may get the patient's point of view. There are few people, however, who do not know the meaning of pain and who do not have sufficient imagination, if they care to exert it, to realize what it means to lie in bed helpless. What is needed is that they should stop to consider these facts, that they should give thought to their patients' feelings as well as to their symptoms and the means to relieve them."

1925 The Coca Cola Company distributes gold-colored golden-rule rulers to school children in the U.S. and Canada.

1929 Leonidas Philippidis writes a German dissertation on the golden rule in world religions: Die "Goldene Regel" religionswissenschaftlich Untersucht.

1930 Sigmund Freud's Civilization and Its Discontents gives a psychological approach unfriendly to the golden rule: "What decides the purpose of life is the pleasure principle. It aims at absence of pain and experiencing of pleasure. There is no golden rule which applies to everyone. 'Love your neighbor as yourself' is an excellent example of the unpsychological proceedings of the cultural super-ego. The commandment is impossible to fulfill." (See my ch. 7.)

1930s Henry Ford, suggesting the role of the golden rule in business, says: "If there is any one secret of success, it lies in the ability to get the other person's point of view and see things from that person's angle as well as from your own."

1932 Leonard Nelson's System of Ethics suggests (paraphrase): Treat others as if a natural law would turn your way of acting on you.

1934 Joyce Hertzler's "On golden rules" discusses the golden rule from a sociological perspective: the golden rule exists in almost all societies and is a simple and effective means of social control that works from within instead of imposing external rules.

1935 Edwin Embree's "Rebirth of religion in Russia" states: "The central teachings of Jesus were brotherly love without regard to race or caste, the golden rule of doing to others what we would have them do to us, peace, humility, communal sharing of goods and services, the abrogation of worldly treasure. These are directly opposed to just those things which the Christian nations have built their power upon: capitalism, armaments, individualism, disregard of a neighbor of a different race, material wealth."

1936 Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People, a self-help book that sold 15 million copies, is based on the golden rule: "Philosophers have been speculating on the rules of human relationships for thousands of years, and there has evolved only one important precept. Zoroaster taught it to his followers in Persia twenty-five hundred years ago. Confucius preached it in China. Lao-tse, the founder of Taoism, taught it to his disciples. Buddha preached it on the bank of the Ganges. The sacred books of Hinduism taught it a thousand years before that. Jesus summed it up in one thought - probably the most important rule in the world: 'Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.' You want a feeling that you are important in your little world. You don't want to listen to cheap, insincere flattery, but you do crave sincere appreciation. All of us want that. So let's obey the golden rule, and give unto others what we would have others give unto us."

1936 George Herbert Mead's "The problem of society" asks: "If you are going to have a society in which everyone is going to recognize the interests of everybody else - for example, in which the golden rule is to be the rule of conduct - how can that goal be reached?"

1939 - 45 Nazi genocide kills six million Jews, in one of the greatest moral atrocities ever. What has led to the deterioration of golden-rule thinking?

1940 Michael Rooney founds the Golden Rule Insurance Company. If you search the Web for "golden rule," you'll find golden-rule restaurants, travel agencies, contractors, and tattoo parlors. And you'll find many groups with the golden rule in their motto or mission.

1941 Paul Weiss's "The golden rule" argues that the golden rule works only if we know what we want, what we want is what we ought to desire, and what is good for us is also good for others. He thinks these conditions are usually satisfied.

1942 Ralph Perry suggests (paraphrase): Treat others in a way that an impartial observer would see as best satisfying all claims.

1943 C.S. Lewis's Mere Christianity (p. 82) says: "The golden rule sums up of what everyone had always known to be right. Really great moral teachers never introduce new moralities: it is quacks and cranks who do that."

1944 A young Martin Luther King wins a high-school speech contest about civil rights. He says "We cannot be truly Christian people so long as we flaunt the central teachings of Jesus: brotherly love and the golden rule."

1946 Jean-Paul Sartre's Existentialism and Human Emotions suggests (paraphrase): Treat others as if everyone were going to follow your example (and so treat you the same way).

1946 Jean Piaget's Moral Judgment of the Child explains how interacting children move to a higher morality. Young children think revenge is fair: if someone hits you, it's right to hit back. Older children, seeing that this leads to endless revenge, value forgiveness over revenge.


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