Gaian Ethics


Carrot and Stick

Like the horses in the graphic, we each are driven by the lure of pleasure and avoidance of pain. We go through life as hedonists, whether we condemn hedonism or seek to understand it. Wise employers apply it to increase production by offering achievable incentives to their employees. Politicians seek a carrot to offer voters as an incentive to argue for their side and help them win elections. Priests and preachers dangle Heaven and Hell before their congregants to incite them to adhere to church doctrines. In such covert practices, hedonism works well enough to become a standard tactic. Just don’t call it ‘hedonism’ before any of these people.

In fact, don’t give it a name or you’ll incite images of drunken orgies and seas of naked bodies covered in slimy drool, with your head bobbing in their midst. “That’s disgusting,” your audience tells you on their way out. “Absolutely atrocious.” Humbled, you fail to catch the gleam of admiration in their eyes.

“Honey gets more results than vinegar.” Carrot and Stick describes hedonism used as a lure to control others. The hedonist is interested in self-control, and may use a set of rules to guide him- or her- self toward the best possible life, such as:

  • Find a goal that best fits your inclinations, and build your life around that.
  • Learn the rewards (pleasures) and penalties (pains) associated with that goal.
  • Learn how to apply them to yourself to get results.
  • The pleasure (reward) of achievement, the pain (penalty) of failures, gaining life lessons from both, track your progress, never stop learning, your backup plan, etc, on and on a lifetime’s worth.

That bespeaks hedonism working for you as a four-dimensional approach to self-management. Keeping wants/needs/rewards/penalties in balance makes for a full-time occupation with or without a goal to keep yourself oriented. A goal adds direction and the hope for achievement into the mix. If you have a firm destination in mind, you just may get there.



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