Glad I could finally post this, my next one will be on propaganda and its use in contemporary media, that should be out before the end of the month.
“The Ends Justify the Means”
The idea of morality is that it is a constant that continues throughout all of our actions; inconsistencies in our actions not only show problems with our thought pattern but our basic principles. Contrary to this idea is the dubious notion that somehow the “ends justify the means”, or, that as long as the ends are good the means will be as well despite them sometimes being morally questionable. People who agree with this premise might say that those who want the means and the ends to both be good are just “moral purists” and want to see a fantasy land. However this objection misses what happens when we actually object to this notion of “the ends justify the means”. Not only do we think the means can only match the ends but I believe as Gandhi said, “Pure goals can never justify impure or violent action…They say the means are after all just means. I would say means are after all everything. As the means, so the end….If we take care of the means we are bound of reach the end sooner or later.” And so when we say that the ends never justify the means we simply say that the means help allow the good ends take care of themselves. And conversely if you’re using bad means only negative ends will eventually follow.
To exemplify this principle let’s take the rampant imperialism that started spreading around in the United States at the same time that big industries were constantly being monopolized to put down labor’s power. Of course it’s no surprise that the state aided capitalist markets needed to expand in other foreign countries and used politicians as mouth pieces to justify the expansion based on asinine notions of “owning spheres of the world”. These “spheres of influence” somehow made the land of others belong more to the people who wanted them and were willing to use violence and thievery to get them then the people who actually lived there and labored on the land. One of the biggest examples of this imperialism was the taking of several islands near Japan that would serve as crucial parts to World War 2 and fighting the Japanese. Even some who would not accept that the action was not justifiable based on it being a good tactical move forgets that the event of Pearl Harbor was set into motion by events in trade that happened prior to the 1940s. These trade decisions (made by the US government) forced the western culture and goods on the Japanese and boiled up a resentment among the Japanese. Imperialism naturally needs more enemies to make itself thrive more and more and so war becomes (if it was not already) the health of the state and the expander of market places for exploiting capitalists.
However the question still remains unanswered, was the act justifiable? According to the theory laid out by Gandhi there’s no way it could be morally supported, but what about practically? Perhaps, then acts can be immoral just for a brief time for the sake of practicality and realism, after all we don’t want to enter the fantasy land of “moral purism” do we? But again this criticism misses some vital points about morality and practicality, namely that both are interlocked and that neither can be used just for the sake of time preference. The act was made with no reference to the later Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor nor would they have been necessary at all if imperialism wasn’t happening to begin with. Even if it had been done in reference to that, the act of stealing thousands of people’s land for the purpose of better defending an empire only makes you more enemies and eventually more and more land is needed. And so this “ends justify the means” idea not only can justify imperialism, but a mass land grab of other people’s property and freedoms. This was done during the Manifest Destiny campaign where God was the slogan and the gun a spokesperson against the Native Americans. It’s not a big surprise then when the Natives started trying to fight back and attacking people and so it should not be a surprise that “the ends justify the means” lead to Pearl Harbor and many other horrific events. The idea that “the ends justify the means” leaves not only practicality but morality itself in a temporary and convenient place that makes both concepts strained and able for use whenever it suits the individual.