Skip to content

When decency is too extreme

When I was growing up, the single most valuable lesson my mother imparted on me was the importance of considering others.

“Treat people how you want to be treated,” she reminded me when my younger sister and I bickered, when my group of friends started bullying another girl in my class, when I lost my patience with the office politics at the travel agency where I used to work.

And while it’s sometimes hard for me, with my neurodivergent brain, to put myself in someone else’s shoes, I always make an effort to evaluate how my actions might impact those around me – and I try to show them the respect I’d hope they would likewise show me.

Honestly, I just assumed everyone did that.

I believed we all placed the same value on equity, on fairness. On making sure the way we conduct ourselves is with compassion, with empathy, with generosity. On protecting the rights of every other human being, because no one is superior to anyone else – we’re all in this together.

Treating each other how we want to be treated, right?

But it seems I was wrong. At some point, the things I thought were just basic human decency have become a radicalized political view, some leftist extremism I had no idea even existed. And it scares me to think the growing division between groups of people who should all want the same things – justice, security, sustainability – has made it “radical” to believe that we all deserve them.

I want to do my part to support the people around me. I want everyone else to have the same things I have, because I believe there’s more than enough for all of us. It’s not a competition. The entire idea of valuing the individual at the expense of the whole seems, to me, to go against the very thing that makes for a successful society – working together for a mutual benefit.

Maybe it’s extremist of me to think so. Maybe my mom’s lesson in morality and ethics is outdated and the Golden Rule just isn’t something people care about anymore, because refugees are "stealing jobs" and renewable energy is "going to destroy the economy," or something. But I like knowing that I’m doing what I can to be a good citizen of my city, my country and my planet.

And I’m probably just going to keep being radical.

Jessi Gowan

About the Author: Jessi Gowan

Assistant Editor
Read more