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Prime Directive


"No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else's draft." - H. G. Wells

Some people seem addicted to telling others how they ought to live. "If it were me, I'd do it this way..." They want to change the world not through influence, but through coercion.

Strength, I believe, is in allowing others to run their own affairs, make their own mistakes, find their own way to do things. There was a lot of wisdom in Star Trek's Prime Directive of "Non-interference." It originated from Westphalian Sovereignty, which was responsible for bringing peace to much of Europe in the mid-1600's.

International relations theorists have identified the Peace of Westphalia as having several key principles, which explain the Peace's significance and its impact on the world today:
  • The principle of the sovereignty of states and the fundamental right of self-determination
  • The principle of (legal) equality between states
  • The principle of non-intervention of one state in the internal affairs of another state
These principles are common to the way the "realist" international relations paradigm views the international system today, which explains why the system of states is referred to as "The Westphalian System".
Now substitute the word "state" in that list of principles with the word "individual."

Want peace? Leave people alone to determine for themselves the direction of their lives. Adopt a policy of non-intervention into the affairs of others. Let them be who they are as they choose. Let them earn their own way, be responsible for their own state, succeed, fail - live.

On the flip side of this wisdom that brought over 200 years of peace to Europe, there is the Gladys Kravitz theory of relations, where you think it is absolutely your business to know what's going on in the lives of others, and that you have every right to tell them how to live, and that you might even force them to do as you think is best.

That is the surest way to bring conflict - meddling in the affairs of others. If you do that or have the instinct to do that, you're a lousy neighbor.


by Brett Rogers, 3/23/2009 9:24:59 AM


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