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I would venture that your emphasis on the "don't" is describing a characteristic of Western European societies.
Eastern European societies on the other hand have been undergoing a huge identity crisis trying to match their traditions with Western mores. I should expand on that later.
Here it suffices to say that I feel you are missing the emphasis on sacrifice introduced by Christianity. The question and the imperative, moves from the "don't" (Jewish Law), to the "do" (Hellenic and Asian thought) to "sacrifice" (Christianity) In the latter (admittedly rarely practiced approach) the Ego is vacated. All actions are addressing the urge to serve and thus be in community. The good Samaritan was a parable to explain how one acts shelflessly in a secular setting. It was then followed by the explicit request to leave all worldy matters behind thus vacating one's Ego.
Societies function with a combination of the "do" and the "don't". Conservation has long stopped being an interest of conservatives and therefore expecting from them to willingly limit their power is like waiting for Niagara Falls to dry. It is not happening in our lifetime.
Orthodoxy is not a religion.
Asian ethical traditions are really very diverse. In particular, Zen Buddhism offers an interesting taste of "selfish" altruism: your deeds to others are not that much important to you except that they bring you closer to the Enlightenment experience. With directly selfish preoccupations, or without compassion, you are not supposed to achieve "awakening". That probably tells something about deep nature of human psychology.
On Christianity, Wikipedia states the following:
Christianity adopted the ethic of reciprocity from two edicts found in Leviticus 19:18 ("Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD." NIV.) and Leviticus 19:34 ("But the stranger that dwelleth with you shall be unto you as one born among you, and thou shalt love him as thyself; for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt: I am the LORD your God"). Crucially, Leviticus 19:34 universalizes the edict of Leviticus 19:18 from "one of your people" to all of humankind.
Which is why I think Christianity -- despite all the savage devastation and malicious suffering its proponents, standardbearers and institutions have wrought on the world -- nevertheless remains one of the foundations of what is best in Western society: recognition of, compassion for, and respect for the intrinsic "value" of each individual, and the common humanity of all people transcending, even outdating, national, tribal, class, ethnic identity, etc.
Truth unfolds in time through a communal process.
i couldn't agree more, bruno-ken.
it makes it more the pity how shamefully we live up to the teachings of one we profess to revere.
most kids growing up see little to relate to in 2000-year-old tales of a magical shepherd.
and while rome purports to have locked up the franchise, it's memorable the hand that empire had in our hero's downfall.
he who dared take the religion of his desert forefathers and try to transform it into a religion of compassion and softness, to replace the warrior/refugee/victim code with something truly universal, pure acceptance, understanding and love...
it's still the greatest idea ever, and still has the same forces arraigned and allied against it... religions with no mercy, and political/business interests which have harnessed the doglike devotion of the duped and ignorant to help foster and buttress institutionalized injustice, racism and exploitation of the many weak for the benefit of an amoral, and often immoral few.
plus ca change...
'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty
from Iraq to immigration!
I never read the book and I think I had never heard Leviticus quoted until 43 came to office. (o:
Our knowledge has surpassed our wisdom. -Charu Saxena.
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