I've been quiet recently because I'm finishing up writing a short business workbook called Polite Politics: Succeed Without Selling Your Soul
(we're using soul figuratively and alliteratively so don't twist yer knickers over it
). It will be part of a one-day course taking students through Lessons in polite politics - lessons that include various principles to guide your thinking and behaviour and practices (techniques to use at work and also things to practice to up your game). In one lesson, called "Play the Long Game" we discuss a Principle that I'm calling "Ends Can Make You Mean"
"Ends and Means"
. In practice, most of our social systems embed "the ends justify the means" in there pretty rigorously, with a sliding scale of justification.
I have a basic understanding of the philosophical ideas of consequentialism, and recognize that the ends cannot be the sole
justification for any given means. I'm struggling a bit to figure out how to get my students to internalize the idea that there is an ethical continuum. This idea applies to all sorts of things at home and a work. For example,
- white lies - ends: social cohesion; means: lies by omission, minor fabrications
- "...he sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake... - ends: behaviour modification of children; means: a global, mass conspiracy to conceal the truth from children.
- spinning bad news - ends: stop messenger from being shot; means: biased presentation of the situation.
- allowing a preventable failure to happen - ends: permanently fix a chronic problem; means: enable a crisis to gather attention and galvanize action.
Do these examples make sense to you folks? I want the class to pick up the discussion, working their way toward a point where they will share a story - a time when they chose a means to an end and it left them feeling dirty.
Edited to alter the principle to a catchier name.