I think it’s key to do the work to craft and calibrate your own personal set of ethics. Read and borrow widely from many fields from philosophy to business to science to politics, but do not take any store-bought ideology from off the shelf. Customize it at the very least — lest you yoke your mind to someone else’s fallible vision of reality.
The commonality to all conflict is getting too attached to our labels and our identities and our ideas — to the point of aggression and violence. Rarely is nature so rigid — even the strongest trees are actually very supple and fluid inside. Strength doesn’t come from rigidity — strength comes from resilience, and ability to perform over time.
Totalitarian and fundamentalist thinking is a kind of mental narrowing process, where people deaden themselves to numerous pathways of possibility that others gleefully ride upon. It’s a mind reduction process that hastens mental decline, self-destructive, and destructive behavior. It also promotes a vicious cycle in which the dogmatic mind is eager to proliferate itself through indoctrinating others to the seductive lure of special knowledge and easy answers.
I believe in the words of Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence: “All men are created equal.” To me, this is core to the definition of America — the ideals of equality before the law, and of equal opportunity.
I believe we should judge people by the content of their character, not the content of their bank account. I don’t believe it’s all that useful to file and rank people in too many — or certainly in every — arenas of life; it’s more useful to hone in on individuals’ strengths and weaknesses versus their context and their environment.