Wandering with my eyes and heart open, searching for pieces to add to my own personal big picture.

Tag: john somerville

Can This Cardinal Rule of Politics Apply To Any Discussion?

What exactly is a “cardinal rule” anyway?

It’s a fundamental rule that acts as hinge to other interactions. Breaking a cardinal rule is something that can make a big mess of things, end discussions and relationships, and burn bridges.

“International politics is indeed a little like the mad tea party where Alice had to learn that you can mean what you say without saying it, as well as say what you mean without meaning it. The cardinal rule is this: Never reason from labels.”

The Philosophy of Peace by John Somerville

I read this and was floored, mostly because I’ve come to that conclusion myself and here it is again, in a 70-year-old book. This book was about politics, so the cardinal rule was related to that, but the rule applies everywhere and in every sphere.

What does it mean to “reason from labels?” I’m considering a scene where I’ve done this very thing…

I’m sitting in the grassy shade beneath a tree at the local park with my young “school age” children. They’re up on the monkey bars, swinging from the feet and hands, doing the crazy things young boys do. Another mom is in the park doing the same thing. It’s noon on a Tuesday during the public-school year, so I assume she’s probably like me, a homeschooler.

I approach and ask if she’d like company. She’d love it, she says. Being at home with kids all day, it’s nice to talk with another adult, especially another homeschooler. We can skip the usually why, how, and what about socialization questions.

We sit in the shade, sipping our iced tea, sharing stories about the kids. Her stories are filled with getting the kids to events, meeting with teachers, and testing. She has a been having trouble getting the kids to sit and stay focused on their assignments. One isn’t going to pass a class. And the other is below grade level. She asks how I deal with these things and I’m at a loss for words. I have no problems like these.

In my mind, I’m beginning to grumble. “This is not homeschooling!” is my main concern. I feel like she’s used the wrong label. I’ve bought a product and begun to use it, yet the contents of the package are not what’s on the label. What am I supposed to do with this?!

We’re at an impasse, unable to honestly communicate.

She could say the same about me. I used the label “homeschooler” and describe an entirely different (and probably shocking) life with my children. We have no teachers, curriculum, or tests. There is no grade-level, no assignments to complete. We simply read books together and go places. We read, talk, listen, and experience the world around us. That is our “school.”

When you put labels on people, you assume what’s inside based on your preconceived definition, instead of discovering the specific person you are talking to. I can create a profile and put a slew of labels on myself, and when you read it, you’ll think you know the kind of person I am. But you’d be wrong.

Time and time again, I’ve found a label for something I do or feel, discover a group with that label, and jump in. “These are my people!” I think, only to find that the people inside that label aren’t at all like me. “I must be a freak. I belong to no group at all.”

We do the same to others every time we label them and put them in groups. “You’re not a real (insert label here), because you don’t do this like me!” Then we all isolate each other.

What if we stopped? What if there were no other labels than your name? And when we talked to each other, we simply listened to the other person describe their feelings and experiences, their reasoning and the way they live, and we accept it as valid and correct for them?

What if we had conversations with people without labeling them or ourselves? Instead of thinking, “That person is a (label) and I’m not (label), so I can use none of that information.” We can instead think, “This person has an interesting way of living or thinking, maybe some of it will work in my life.” We may actually get somewhere, adopt some new and exciting behaviors, and make new connections in ways we didn’t know possible.

Labeling is the same as name calling. It pushes everyone not exactly like you outside of your circle. It make everything “us vs them” and ends any productive discussion.

I posted about The Philosophy of Peace by John Somerville when I started reading it. Click that link to read the post! I also found a great article about the ideology of peace and war called “Peace, War, and Philosophy” at Encyclopedia.com It was a nice summary of some ideas and led me, once again, down a rabbit warren of new things to read.


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” The Philosophy of Peace”

Philosophy of Peace book cover at a fireplace.

I picked up “The Philosophy of Peace” by John Somerville to read next. I wanted to end the month on a non-fiction note and decided this title had a nice positive ring to it. Since this book was picked up out of the pile of books I adopted from a friend, I really have nothing else to go on other than the title, so I did a quick search of the “interwebs” before I started to read it and found very little other than the book for sale across the web. Strange.

From the book itself, I see it has a copywrite of 1949. The dedication says,

Philosophy of Peace dedication.

So far so good, I suppose. We haven’t had another thing called a World War since, but we have been constantly at war all over the world, so there’s that.

There’s an inscription inside as well, and you know how much I love that.

Philosophy of Peace inscription by someone who gave the book as a gift.

I love this. Where are Mr. & Mrs. Martin Haisler and Edward W. Gray now? Why did he give this book to them? The book was published in 1949. What was it like in Hollywood, Florida then? What did they do for a living? How old were they?

If I could make a law, I’d say you have to write something in any book you read about who you are and why you are reading it or why you’re giving it. In fact, I’ve been giving books as gifts for years and from now on, instead of ordering them sent, I’m going to buy them, write a note inside and then send it personally. Time traveling again!

In search of more information about the book and author, I went directly to Wikipedia and they don’t have a page on this author. Amazon has the book listed under a used book seller with no details. The only thing I found was an obituary from the LA Times from 1994.

I’m sitting down with this, the day my youngest baby leaves the nest, with a cup of coffee and finding out what I can. Maybe it’s simply no longer relevant? That happens.

You can find “The Philosophy of Peace,” a revised edition with introductory letters from Einstein and Mann, at Thriftbooks. I’d love to see that book and compare it to my original version. If you decide to read it, let me know in the comments!

I’ve written a few posts about quotes and ideas that I found interesting as I read. Please go over and give them a read. You may find yourself wanting to read the book too…or just come argue with me.
Open and Honest Discussion of Any Ideology is the Best Cure
Can This Cardinal Rule Apply to Any Discussion?


“Four Reasons a Newsletter is Better Than a Social Media Feed”
Bypass the social media algorithms and sign up for my weekly newsletter. Each week will give you a rundown of my favorites posts, podcasts, and few funnies. Read what you want, when you want, without getting sucked into the endless scroll mode!

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