The Golden Rules

by Nic Olson

One hundred years ago the Titanic sank in the Atlantic. Undoubtedly amazing stories have come from the wreck from the few survivors and from imaginative writers; several movies have been made about it since, several books have been written describing the pain and wreckage of such a catastrophe. The wreck still lays on the ocean floor, decaying and eroding, somewhat preserved by the saline water that surrounds it. When the 1997 blockbuster movie came out I was nine years of age, and as all the girls of grade four and five swooned over a young Leo, I, without seeing the movie, decided of my dislike for it solely because of how the girls spent more time talking of a fictional girlish-looking boy that drowned in the ocean instead of spending time talking about me. I likely, as I did with the Backstreet Boys, claimed that Leo secretly came out to the newspapers to affirm that he was actually a woman. Most kids talked about the boob scene, or about the small orchestral group that played their instruments all the way into the freezing water and the drama of it all. In grade four or five, one of our class units was about the Titanic. Mrs. Buchanan fashioned the bottom of a ship out of paper that stuck out from the ceiling and the students all made different sea creatures that hung beside the boat. We were underwater. One project with this unit was to write a journal-style short story as if you were a passenger of the Titanic. Indirectly everyone had to make the choice as to whether their character would be one of the few survivors, or if their character would drown in a painful fit, gargling salt water in their lungs. My character was named Wayne Fleming, Second Captain or First Mate or something along those lines. Like Leo, he fell in love, but tragically, if I remember correctly, he jumped off of the rising stern of the boat to save his lover, reaching terminal velocity once he hit the water, dying on impact. In grade four I was sadistic bastard.

Twenty years ago the movie Aladdin was released. Of equal significance to the crashing of the unsinkable boat, at least in movie production quality. Aladdin taught me that even if you are a homely, poor kid, you can trick a princess into liking you, a lesson I have taken seriously. It taught me that if you steal loaves of bread from the rich, the Sultan will reward you. That if you get tricked by an old man to go into the Cave of Wonders, that a genie will give you three wishes and become your best friend. It also taught me Jafar‘s Golden Rule:

“You’ve heard of the golden rule, haven’t you? Whoever has the gold makes the rules.”

If you frequent a church or have a knowledge of the Bible, you may have heard of a different version of the Golden Rule–to love others more than yourself. This rule is not solely a Christian tenet, but a human one. To claim it as Christian is like claiming gravity as a Canadian phenomenon and that all others are just borrowing it, or to claim water as a drink for only those who can afford it. Whether it is from living in a city where people aren’t as friendly as they should be, or whether my cynicisms just blind me from human decency, it seems that Jafar’s Golden Rule is taking over from the natural human action of the original Golden Rule. His Golden Rule seems to ring true with my vision of politicians, especially the ones in power where I currently live. This is not to say that I believe all human decency is gone, my cynicisms have receded slightly since I believed that, but as is evident in the economic breakdowns of the recent past, which I have just recently accepted as true, the system of capitalism has not worked, and will not work. It embraces Jafar’s Golden Rule and ignores the other. If we laud this system as unbreakable, good for all, unsinkable, we shift the Golden Rule’s focus from people to money. We are doomed to crack in half, sink, fall and begin to decay and rust at the bottom of a salty ocean, preserved for generations to see how foolish we were. Pieces of our money-loving present will be held in museums and travel around the world for people to gawk at, astonished that we could be so short-sighted to the health of our planet and the people that live on it. We will be underwater. We will be spectacles.

It has become common place that the wealthy become the lawmakers, either directly, as in Mitt Romney, or indirectly, as politicians jump from the private sector to the government using their newly found power to help out their buddies making investments. It has become so common that wealth has been deified. That our Golden Rule, the rule that overrides all others, and the one that we use to gauge ourselves as human beings, is in the process of changing.

If someday the only way to save our loved ones from this sinking ship is to jump off of the high and rising stern to prove our absolute love and devotion to them, and to enforce to the real Golden Rule, then I hope someday I will be able to act on this. But until then I can demonstrate that my love for others is greater than my love for wealth, this is easy. What may be difficult is to demonstrate that my love for others is greater my love for self. I’m working on it.