Read up on the “monkeyverse”. It’s perfectly possible, indeed quite typically human, to be nice to the hundred or so people in your immediate circle while utterly indifferent to (if not happily accepting the deaths of) the billions who are outside that circle.
“Sure, his policies sent millions to an agonizing death, but he sure loved his dog.”
Ah. Depends on the features and traits in question, then. If you have the trait of collecting ceramic bunnies, no biggie. If you have the trait of sneaking out and murdering people in their sleep, that’s somewhat worse.
Well, in that case, character is important to the extent that you get credit for the good things you do and don’t get blamed for the bad things others do, i.e. your individual characteristics are sufficiently distinct that you don’t get lumped in with others (i.e. considered just another faceless interchangable member of some racial, ethnic or national group) when it’s to your personal disadvantage.
Well, it’s important to me that good stuff comes my way and bad stuff doesn’t, but I have no illusions. I’m sure that people who don’t know me couldn’t care less, selfishly absorbed in their own lives and all.
Um, I don’t know anybody who cheated on his wife, at least not to speak to. As for remote similarities…my brother has an ex-wife who screwed him over in a divorce, and I don’t really speak to her. Is that enough to make me worth responding to?
Seriously, what are you asking here? The degree of empathy that I have for complete strangers? The level of empathy that I should have for complete strangers? The degree to which humanity would be improved if everybody had empathy for complete strangers? (And what the heck does any of that have to do with “character”?)
Personally I and everyone else have a marked tendency towards that monkeyverse thing. We assess all events based on the effects they have, multiplied by the amount we care about the people they happen to. This facilitates various bad things - the war in Iraq is barely a blip on the radar for me and many americans - and a lot of them that do care, care a lot more about the americans getting hurt than the locals that go down. This is a decidedly non-global way of thinking that favors isolationism. However it also serves to limit the scope of one’s worries to the level that they can manage - if a person sympathised with every person in pain everywhere, they’d probably drown in their tears of sympathy. So this selfish tendency to only care about those we care about would seem to serve some small purpose, by my thinking.
The whole point of the Golden rule is to point out the inconsistency of humanity. We tend to forgive ourselves for things that we would not forgive other people for. We have an excuse, they don’t. The idea is that you should treat other people how you’d want to be treated in that same situation. Do you think that, if you and they were swapped, that you would feel that the other person was being fair?
Viewed like that, I think the Golden Rule is optimal, and problems come from us not being able to reach it. I think Spock would agree, even before he started embracing his emotions. He was always an optimist when it came to evaluating other life forms.
Do you have a theory on why he would? Are you presuming Hitler to be so personally charismatic that people would vote for him because they think he would be fun to have a beer with, knowing everything he did?