Means&Ends

Means&Ends
"Where would my dignity reside if I didn't have to try so damned hard?"

Ends never justify means. Means usually, if not justify, then certainly serve to validate whatever ends eventually emerge. Those who cut corners on their way to the top inherit a legacy of continuing paranoia. Sure, they achieved the top, but their top can never actually belong to them and they understand that they do not quite belong up there, either. Their imposter syndrome isn't delusional, but well-deserved. But, you might ask, how might one compete if the world contains plenty of cheats who don't seem to carry remorse about their underhanded techniques? Everyone else is speeding. Why shouldn't I? Discarding the decorum erodes something significant, yet subtle. One refrains from ignoring the law not because of the associated penalties, but because respecting the law serves as a means for preserving one's self respect.

If preserving this self respect seems like a shallow payoff in a venial world, you've encountered the dilemma.
Few if any accolades will accrue should you attend to respecting means. Further, the very foundation of our modern society seems to stand upon the deliberate shaving of means. Efficiency relies upon eliminating wasted effort, defined as any action not directly related to producing an observable end. Dignity in production, under this accounting regime, might be completely eliminated as long as the end product appears identical to what dignity might have produced. Cheaper purchase price might seem to justify any shaving of means. We must stay focused away from significant elements to fully justify such ends. The inability of shoemakers to afford the purchase price of the shoes they manufactured remains one of the less-well known aspects of the explosion of the application of the principles of scientific management. Your Walmart greeter qualifies for food stamps. Means might matter more than we imagine.

This seems like so much nattering when the Republican Congress so clearly demonstrates endless animosity toward means. They have demonstrated a continued preference for breaking long-standing rules of comportment if those rules stand in the way of their desired ends. They quite willingly attempt to extend their mandate beyond a traditional consent of the governed to coerce the more begrudging acquiescence of the co-opted. Their resulting rules stand shaky and prone being undermined by any of a multitude of decencies. Compromised means produce tenuous ends.

I question my desire to compete when the playing field's canted against me. I can often see that the line judges won't treat me fairly, and I simply must question the validity of the resulting contest. I suspect that some variant of this perception fuels voter apathy. If my district's been actively gerrymandered, what could my participation matter? Democracy seems overly abundant with opportunities to compromise for the purpose of achieving an end, but where does this practice end? Unchecked, it seems capable of producing nothing more or less than what it initially purported to stand against. Our Republican friends have been undermining our system of government.

And what of the ends their tactics
have achieved. The always ingenuous balanced budget objective? Nope. A once and for all end to Roe vs. Wade? Not even close! Closure on our self-inflicted health care mess? Another nope? A workable immigration policy? Nein. Respect across the free world? Nyet. They have employed unscrupulous means to, all evidence suggests, not achieve their ends. They saw their objective as a simple matter of caring ever less about the means employed and thereby produced nothing like the ends they sought to produce.

Means matter in the same way that morality matters, in the same way that ethical engagement matters, not because they encumber achieving ends, but because ends achieved absent these regulators won't much matter, and will most certainly fall below desired standards. So much winning producing endlessly losing hands. It amounts to a genuine paradox, one the Efficiency Movement still fails to address. Every worthwhile end seems to need a portion of the effort invested in achieving that end to be comprised of more meaningful work. Workers have to live, too. No economy thrives for the sole purpose of maintaining the have's lifestyles. Decency counts, even when (perhaps especially when) it seems to stand in the way of achieving some otherwise desirable end. I suppose I could aspire to out-source all my worrisome and tedious writing work to some more efficient AI application programmed to produce what might well appear to be my own work product. But I find my daily dignity in pecking out my ideas with my three functional typing fingers. Where would my dignity reside if I didn't have to try so damned hard?

©2019 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved








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