Inspection- When Does the Ends Justify the Means End?
As a teen, before I moved, I lived near New York City and went to a very crowded high school. Because it was during Nam we frequently had discussions during and after school. My favorite place to go was where the revolutionaries sat, smoked dope, I smoked my Raleighs, and we would argue Nam and politics in general. I remember Susan; the activist of the group, telling them I was “OK.” “He’s not like those jock conservatives.”
I think the most heated arguments were about methods of reaction and protest, and some of the excuses were the same today… even though I am now far more on their side than I was back then. I remember when we talked about breaking into defense contractor’s offices and pouring blood over files, or riots, or bombs, some of them felt the ends justified the means, and “we must hit them back because they_____.” (Fill in blank.)
Not much has changed, except what flavor partisan argues “the ends justifies the means” more.
I have written a lot about election fraud. Some of that is caused by claims of voter fraud. It’s the basic “they’re doing it to us, so…” that I argued with those on the left about in the 60s after school. Seems to be a basic human reaction, at least among those who don’t understand or care where this mindset leads. And it doesn’t matter whether the claim is true, or not. It could be argued election fraud tactics were justified by Kennedy’s people throwing votes into a great lake in 60: a apocryphal tale that many people believe but has never been proven. Besides, no matter how close that election, do you know how many votes they would have had to have access to to do that effectively? Today it’s a breeze: just have control over programming of a lot of voting machines. Certainly more effective than convincing illegal immigrants on a one by one basis to take a chance getting caught voting.
Still, where does it end? I remember a lot of my father’s generation complaining about my generation: the baby boomers. And maybe they’re right. I sure remember my generation: many I argued with, having an ends justifies philosophy. It was one of the reasons in my early columns I vented about my own generation.
It’s so hard to look back and see beyond your own generation. All you have, really, is what you’re told, and history was rarely taught assessing such things. I was 4 or 5: at best, but I suspect Joseph McCarthy and the House Committee on Unamerican Activities qualified as “the ends justify…” Having opinions, stopping by a meeting once, having friends, shouldn’t destroy one’s career, one’s life, unless it can be shown you are plotting to commit an act of terror, or bring down the government, assassinate someone.
Then we have false accusations, planting of evidence v. those willing to do anything to distract and deflect. It’s all so “ends justify”-ish. And, I must admit, I have argued for “the ends justifies” from time to time, because where do we go from here? Just put down our weapons? Will those see us lay down our ‘arms’ see that for what it is and also start behaving in a civil fashion?
More than highly unlikely, as I have argued many times before.
I find it useful to hover above topics like this and ask big questions. Questions like, “Can any free society survive and still be free when the ends justifies the means becomes acceptable?” How about, “Doesn’t ‘the ends justify the means’ perpetuate itself and only teach those who oppose you to be even more ‘ends justifies the means’ than you are? Where does it end?”
Certainly not anything resembling a free society.
Inspection is a column that has been written by Ken Carman for over 40 years. Inspection is dedicated to looking at odd angles, under all the rocks, and into the unseen cracks and crevasses, that constitute the issues and philosophical constructs of our day: places few think, or even dare, to venture.
Ken Carman and Cartenual Productions
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