Thursday, January 13, 2005

Love Thy Neighbor

The full instruction, of course, is "love thy neighbor as thy self." It's another variant on the golden rule, which I have long regarded as a great foundation for an ethical system. "Do unto others as you would have others do unto you" requires that you consider the impact of your actions on those around you; you could even extend its reach to the environment.

What the "love they neighbor" variant enables us to see, however, is that perhaps the problem is that many people do not, in fact, love themselves very much. I don't want to get all New Agey-Stuart Smalley on everyone, but it's easy to see how a belief system that teaches you that it is your nature to be sinful and bad would have the effect of making loving oneself, or anyone else, difficult. You are bad, the message goes, and you can't help but be bad--it is the nature of humans. And how do we deal with badness? We punish it. I don't see much neighbor-loving or self-loving in there, just a lot of retribution.

It's true that we fuck up--all the time. We say things we would not want someone to say to us. We aren't as kind as we'd like someone to be to us. We want people to love us in spite of our flaws, but we're not always so good at that ourselves. But bad or evil? Well, no, I don't really think we are. But many belief systems seem to start with just that premise. That whole Mel Gibson Jesus Chainsaw Massacre movie, for example, is supposed to make you feel guilty and ashamed and bad, I think, and to remind you that Jesus not only died for your sins, but you killed him. (I always liked Patti Smith's song, "Jesus Died for Somebody's Sins but Not Mine." Yes, I know I'd be going to hell if there were such a place--I've confirmed my reservation there many times over, if you listen to the Falwells of the world.) How, exactly, does any of that teach us about how we should treat each other?

Update to give credit to tBogg for Jesus Chainsaw Massacre. I can't find that post, but here's another one, where he refers to it as The Passion: Smack My Savior Up.


Blogger kStyle said...

Emma I've been reading and enjoying, but haven't had much chance to comment. But I just HAD to say that "Mel Gibson Jesus Chainsaw Massacre movie" is the funniest thing I've heard all week!

12:32 PM  
Blogger Emma Goldman said...

I totally stole that--from tbogg ( If I can trouble myself to find that post, I'll link it.

1:56 PM  

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