The Attitude Lounge: The Net Effect

“The tsetse-fly is perched on the tortoise’s back in vain.” – Akan proverb

If I told you that the football team I support scored two goals over the weekend, you would presumably want to know how many goals the other team scored. If they scored more goals than my team did, you would steer the conversation around how my team has to work harder on winning. This is the mathematics we usually do in our everyday interactions, whether we are talking about national economics or personal development. We are more interested in the net effect, rather than what the right actions and activities should be.

It is generally accepted that a positive net effect is the object of any strategy, to the point that whatever is outputted should be more than the inputs. This helps to justify whatever measures that were taken to achieve the goal. This consequentialist philosophy commonly encapsulated in the adage “the end justifies the means” has become the argument politicians employ to stave-off criticism. It has become commonplace for them to ask that their term should be judged only by results, especially results of the activities they engage in. To many, this sounds like a brilliant idea because, realistically, if the medicine you prescribe does not make the pain any better, no patient is going to be happy.

Sadly, this understanding has swayed many individuals and groups from putting the morality of their leaders under the microscope. They would rather wait patiently until the administration’s term is nearly over for them to determine whether they have fulfilled their promises or not. Thus, whether leaders cheat, steal or lie in the process of implementing their goals, as long as those goals have been accomplished it is alright. Crazy as it sounds, that is the general attitude of the electorate in our society. We would rather ignore the fundamental morality in favour of the end big-picture.

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The challenge with this attitude is that the big-picture is almost always never achieved.

The reason is simple: a surprising majority of individuals who aspire for leadership positions are geniuses when it comes to justifying their behaviour. They can rationalise any of their corrupt actions if the general public’s motivation for achieving the end is strong enough.

All they have to do is to devise a quantification that adds up all the benefits of the goal, subtract all the bad parts of the process, and give you a positive number to deem their action morally justified. After all, when one has the might what one makes is right. It is like making hay while the sun shines, except this time round the sun only shines in their backyards.

The icing on the cake is that, in the end, they use the moral justification of their actions as the reason they have to stay in power even though they could not accomplish their proposed ‘end’. This attitude of shifting goal-posts is why the end cannot justify the means. Its logical outcome is that the leaders decide what is moral or immoral – based on how they good they are at sweet-talking the people into sleep-walking. When we cannot point out the crookedness of the path they are carving, the probability is that we know no better. As our fathers always said: “The ruin of a nation begins in our homes”. If we are so preoccupied with defending the actions of our leaders in the belief that the end justifies the means, how can we develop?

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The sadder part is when supporters express the belief that it is better for some to be used as sacrifices/scapegoats in order to make our society better. What is wrong with this mentality is that once a society is made better through evil means, the evil becomes a part of its culture – and it will keep rearing its head every now and then. Moreover, the evil ingredient defeats the ‘better’ agenda, for we cannot have better where evil exists. It is also true that no leader is capable of always doing what is right; but where we justify their wrongs as right, we prevent them from become better leaders. Sadly, too many among us are sycophants. We have no sense of integrity, and so have adopted “the end justifies the means” as the light that guides our ships into the port.

If you are one of such individuals, you need to understand that this is also the view of some Fascists and Communists – who believe that the interests of society are above those of the individuals who composed it. To this effect some had to be sacrifices, which certainly were the leaders. They were always those whom the society had vowed to protect. Some of them actually defended the morality of the leaders’ wrongs, but when sacrifices had to be made they were not spared. As our fathers say, “it is only a fool whose own tomatoes are sold to him or her”.

Kodwo Brumpon inspires individuals and groups to aspire to think that which is true, positively respond to that which is beautiful, and nudges them to let goodness govern their actions. Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at kodwobrumpon@gmail.com

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