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A Western Liberal and 'The Good Man in Africa'

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Preconceived ideas of what is best for someone else leads to all sorts of problems, especially when the "best intentioned" doer really knows very little about the other person. This is because only each person hirself (I use "hir" for a gender neutral 3rd person) knows what is in hir own best interest.. Others can only assume, each doing so based on hir own values, what someone else desires or dislikes. These others are assuming how someone else assesses each choice that presents itself and decides what will or will not add to the maximization of that person's lifetime happiness, the goal of each person's life (whether or not s/he recognizes it). That is truly assuming a great deal!

The "Golden Rule" - "do unto others as you would have done unto you" - is a maxim used by many without, I think, sufficient thought. Each individual is unique in hir values and therefore what one would like to have for hirself is very often not what another would choose. The "Golden Rule" instead assumes that all humans are the same. If a person is going to think of "doing unto others" at all, then at least a rephrasing of this old maxim is necessary - "do unto others as each would want to be done unto". This, however, would require that each person know another very well as to what s/he values before any "doing unto" takes place, or be ready to accept the consequences of dislike (and even negative social preferencing) as a result of doing the wrong thing (no matter how "well-meaning" it was).

When this "Golden Rule" approach is taken in regard to many people at the same time it is using generalization - one of the worst forms of thinking that exists and a major (if not the primary) reason for so much misunderstanding between many individuals, and often down-right hatred by some for still some others.

Along this line I came across a very interesting Viewpoint article at BBCNewsonline by a Felix Riley who is described as a private investor and considers himself a "Western Liberal". He went to Zambia to buy a copper mine.

No imperialistic exploitation for this 21st Century capitalist.

Partnership was my byword and "putting something back" was my mission.

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Riley's briefly given experience was very interesting, and definitely eye-opening to him, after some exposure to real people in Zambia.

So, to do business in Zambia, I resolved to set aside my Western Liberalism. I put away my preconceptions of what The Good Man in Africa does and how he behaves and how he does business.

After his last venture out into the bush, he concluded his article,

Hmm... Back to square one for my experiment in Western Liberalism.

I'm not sure if Felix Riley has now come to realize that even in Africa, people are all individuals and cannot be lumped into groups by country, language, tribe or even family. I'd sure like to know that he's doing some thinking about what his experience really means before jumping into a variation on his last business venture attempt. This same thought applies to a great many other people everywhere out trying to "do good", whether in their family, neighborhood, town, country or the entire world.

Riley's entire Viewpoint at BBCNews Online

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I am a professional life-extensionist and liberty promoter who practices what I and husband, Paul Wakfer, encourage. More detail about both of us - philosophically and physically - at http://morelife.org/personal/ When the comment time period has closed at OpEdNews.com, readers are welcome (more...)

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"Hir" is purposely used in this article ... by Kitty Antonik Wakfer on Saturday, Dec 6, 2008 at 7:40:53 PM