Fandango’s Provocative Question this week is about the choices we make and the actions we take.
“What is more important to you,
doing the right thing or
doing things right?”
Ideally doing the right thing and doing things right are the same thing. For example following the Golden Rule of doing unto others as you would have them do unto you, or the reverse, Confucius’, don’t do unto others what you don’t want done to you.
Reality isn’t ideal as anyone alive will tell you. Nor is it fair. Expecting life to be fair sets a person up for all kinds of disappointment.
I’m really trying to sort out the difference between the two statements before deciding which one is more important.
Doing the right thing is a very subjective phrase, as my definition of right thing and yours may very well be different. You could go by the modern, “do the right thing” as in if you see someone being slandered, abused, harmed, etc. take appropriate action. I’m totally on board with that definition, but again we get back to is my definition of slander, harassment, abuse, harm, etc. the same as everyone else’s?
Doing things right suggests the end justifies the means, or by any means necessary to achieve your end goal. This pretty much is a carte blanche you give yourself to make whatever it is you want to happen happen. As an example, in my old job I had to write reports and make recommendations a lot. These reports and recommendations often became part of the permanent record and/or court orders. Say there was a particular parent I wanted the child to be released to from the youth home rather than the other parent as there was something I just didn’t like about one of the parents, nothing unsafe, just a personal bias. Well when it came down to writing the report and making recommendations, one parent would be bragged up, anything negative omitted from the report; while the report would include any minute negative thing and extra investigation to dig up even more. Then at recommendation time I could get the preferred outcome at the hearing. So… because of my personal bias, without solid grounds, justice was perverted to it. Is that ok?
Something I like to think about before doing anything is Kant’s categorical imperative, which I learned in a symbolic logic class probably 40 years ago, which “denotes an absolute, unconditional requirement that must be obeyed in all circumstances and is justified as an end in itself.” (wikipedia) It is best known in its first formulation:
Act only according to that maxim
whereby you can, at the same time,
will that it should become a universal law.
What this says is, before you act, consider what the outcome would be if everyone on the planet decided to the same thing RIGHT NOW. My teacher used the example of throwing a cigarette butt on the ground after smoking the cigarette (40 years ago everybody smoked, including me). Think about what would it be like if everyone smoked and everyone threw their butts on the ground. Not a very appetizing thought is it.
Bottom line for me is that I try to live by a code based upon the Golden Rule and Confucius Rule, but also doing the right thing and doing things right, based upon my personal assessment of a situation and counting on my integrity to help sway it one way or another with it could go either way. As much as possible I consider the categorical imperative, but to live only by it would be to live in a very small bubble so often it falls by the wayside.
For some reason, The Time’s song, “Release It” came to mind. “Release It” is on Prince’s, “Graffiti Bridge” album, released in August 1990. In the film of the same name, this was a battle song between Prince and his crew and Morris Day and his crew, The Time.